ANINDITA ACHARYA, Kolkata: In Bengal, stories of detectives have always been popular, and we all know the cult following Byomkesh Bakshi, Feluda, Kakababu or Professor Shanku continue to enjoy. But unfortunately, there have been a few women detective characters in Bengali literature, though the Koel Mallick-starrer Mitin Mashi found its loyal audience last year. And then, there was Rituparno Ghosh’s Ranga Pishima in the garb of Miss Marple in Subho Mahurat. But compared to male detectives, we hardly have any such women sleuths in Bengali literature or films. Bengali actress Tuhina Das, who plays the protagonist in Damayanti, Hoichoi’s first female detective franchise, too, feels the same. “It is strange that we have so few women detectives. There’s an American series, Unbelievable, which has two detectives and I enjoyed watching. Women detectives can break the stereotype but I don’t know why they haven’t been explored enough,” says Tuhina, who essayed the character of Brinda in Aparna Sen’s on Ghawre Bairey Aaj (2019).
In fact, Tuhina says it’s sad that many don’t know that the Hoichoi series is based on Manoj Sen’s famous writing Rohoshyo Shondhani Damayanti. “We generally like to stay with Byomkesh, Feluda, Kakababu and don’t want to know beyond. It’s unfortunate,” she says.
Damayanti is not a professional sleuth but a history professor who solves mysteries. Tuhina believes it’s strange that women, who generally tend to have sharp intuition and strong sixth sense aren’t explored much as detectives. “May be, Damayanti will be like a ray of hope,” she smiles.
Tuhina loved portraying Damayanti, who is independent, smart and balances her personal and professional life. She knows how to hack a computer and whenever she tries to solve a crime, she does it from the point of view of a woman. “Also, we tend to think Byomkesh and Feluda as flawless characters. But Damayanti has flaws… she is human. You can relate to her. She is not a professional detective and therefore, she is vulnerable,” says the Break Up Story actress. In Damayanti, she is seen married to Indrasish Ray, who is an IT engineer. In real life, too, Tuhina likes to watch thrillers on OTT platforms.
We ask Tuhina if she sought Aparna Sen’s guidance before signing Damayanti. The actress says the renowned filmmaker is always available for professional guidance and she can ring her up whenever she wants to. But she did not call her up particularly for Damayanti. “Rina di (as Aparna Sen is fondly known as in the film industry) is always there for me. Only the most fortunate get to play Brinda in Ghawre Bairey Aaj. It was such a huge honour for me. But she tells me to do interesting work, which I also try to maintain,” she says.
However, Tuhina also understands that a director needs to think of her in a role and provide her with the opportunity. “Not everything is in the hands of the actor. We don’t always get to do roles that we want to. I have tried to do meaningful roles, and by meaningful I do not mean serious… but something which I can take back home. I might get less work but such work gives me satisfaction. Also, I don’t want to restrict myself. As an actor, I am open to all kinds of roles,” she signs off.