24-year-old Plabita Borthakur has made waves in the industry with her performance in Lipstick Under My Burkha. Playing a burkha-clad teenager in Bhopal leading a dual life, Plabita does complete justice to her character, Rehana Abidi. An aspiring singer in the film, Plabita is as passionate about singing in real life too and is also part of a band named Manu and Chow. She comes from a liberal background where her father is an Indian classical singer and teacher and mother, a writer and poet, inspiring her to always follow her dreams.

Riding high on the success of the film and her performance, Plabita tells Pandolin about how this bold story was received in her hometown, composing her own songs in the film and her next project.

Plabita Borthakur

Plabita Borthakur

Lipstick Under My Burkha is a bold, female-centric film, do you think you took a risk by featuring in it?

No such thought came to my mind at all. When I first auditioned for the role, I didn’t really know what it was. I found the character very fascinating, somebody who faces restrictions in the family but wants to be a singer in college. This script was one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. I am not a reader, it was the first thing I picked up and finished it at one go.

On what level were you able to relate to your character in the film?

I share similarities and differences with Rehana, the character I play in the film. We all go through peer pressure at some point in our lives whether it is in schools, colleges or social places, where we want to be like the popular people. Other than that, unlike Rehana, I have had a very liberal upbringing and didn’t have any restrictions. I was never made to feel like I am a girl and supposed to do things differently.

However, when I started working on the character, I realized that I am not as liberal as I had thought. As women, we get conditioned intrinsically even if it’s not directly through the family but through society, and we create our own restrictions.

How was the experience of performing alongside heavyweights like Ratna Pathak Shah and Konkana Sensharma and still being able to stand out and get noticed?

When I first got to know about the cast, I did get intimidated as I was working alongside seasoned actors like Ratna Pathak Shah and Konkana Sensharma; I was worried about performing besides them. We (Aahana Kumra, Ratna Ma’am, Konkona and myself) met for the first time at a reading at Ratna Ma’am’s house with Alankrita (Shrivastava), our director. They all made me feel so comfortable that it became easy for me to focus on my work.

I feel very lucky to have gotten this opportunity but unfortunately I didn’t have a lot of scenes with them. So when we were shooting in Bhopal, I would go on the set even on the days when I was not shooting to see how they work and function. I learnt a lot from them.

How have people in your hometown (Assam) received the film?

I have got a lot of congratulatory messages from people in Assam. They have loved the film. Honestly, I did wonder how they would receive it. In Guwahati, there is only one show of Lipstick Under My Burkha at around 9.30 am in the morning. The people who have been going to watch the film have told me the shows are housefull, so I am very excited about that.

What did your parents feel about this film and your role?

My parents loved the film and feel that we should have more films like these. I was not expecting my dad to be so comfortable while watching the film but he was. The only good thing I did was not watching it with him (smiles). My dad felt that he had never seen the life of a woman through Rehana’s eyes, which is something that is felt by everyone who watches this film, especially me, when I saw this film I felt like I lived those four women’s lives through the film.

Two of your compositions are part of the film. How does it feel? What role does music play in your life?

I am very glad that Alankrita let me sing my own songs. In fact, one of the songs that I am singing in my initial scenes is from my band Manu and Chow while the other one has been composed specially for that scene. I was very happy that Alankrita gave me the freedom, she told me to compose a song that I thought the character would sing in that particular scene.

As far as the role of music in my life is concerned, I cannot think of life without music. I am as passionate about music as acting so I was very happy to play this character where I could do both.

Plabita Borthakur

Plabita with her band Manu and Chow

As an actor, is there any particular genre you would like to ace or are you willing to experiment?

No, I would like to experiment. Actors seldom get to experiment in our industry, they tend to get typecast into brackets of a bubbly girl-next-door or a serious tomboy. I don’t want to get into a box, I want to do different kind of cinema where I can explore different emotions inside me.

What are you working on next?

Currently, I am shooting for another film in Gujarat. It’s a new production house and the director Dinesh Yadav is from FTII. I was hooked on to the script when I read it and thought that I must do the film. My co-actors are Naveen Kasturia, Sanjay Mishra and Vijay Raaz; I am very happy about the cast. I am playing the role of a simple, small town Rajasthani girl. It’s a coming-of-age drama with situational comedy.