Decking up as Ma Durga for a special photo shoot for CT made her feel a “divine shakti from within”. In an interview, actress Puja Banerjee – who recently came to Kolkata to shoot for an ad film – spoke about her Durga Puja memories, the significance of Ma Durga in her life, her son and a lot more. Excerpts:
How does it feel to be in Kolkata during the festive season?
This time of the year is great in Kolkata. The entire city is high on the festive spirit, everyone looks so happy and all the places look beautiful. People are shopping, there are queues outside restaurants, the artisans are busy giving finishing touches to the pandals, every corner is lit up, sculptors at Kumartuli are burning the midnight oil to ensure timely delivery of idols – there is a festive buzz all over. After suffering from the pandemic for one and a half years, seeing all this around gives me hope that things will go back to normal with Ma’s homecoming.
Will you be spending Puja in Kolkata?
Unfortunately, I won’t. Although I would have loved to since this will be my first Durga Puja as a mother. But I need to be in Mumbai on Saturday for my son Krishiv’s (Verma) first birthday celebration. On Ashtami, we will be having his mundan too. Krishiv is having a gala time seeing the pandals and lights put up all over the city. He is too young to understand what Durga Puja is all about, but I plan to bring him here next year to enjoy the festival. A couple of years back, my husband Kunal was here with me in Kolkata for Puja, and he simply loved it.
Did you do any Puja shopping from here?
Of course! I bought a few saris for myself and a kurta-pyjama, dhoti for my son. I also got a few ethnic clothes for my husband for our pandal-hopping spree in Mumbai. For me, Durga Puja is incomplete without wearing new saris, spending quality time with family and friends, long addas at the pandal, eating guilt-free, pandal-hopping, having bhog, offering Asthamir anjali, sandhya aarti, dhunuchi naach and of course, sindoor khela followed by bhasan er naach.
What is that one Kolkata specialty that you can’t do without when you are here?
Biryani and more biryani! I just love the Kolkata biryani with aloo. Another weakness of mine is phuchka. I still remember during Durga Puja, we used to have unlimited phuchkas from a dadu who sat just outside the Babubagan Puja pandal.
Is there anything specific you will be praying for this Durga Puja?
I pray for the world to heal and live in peace with Ma Durga’s homecoming. I always wanted to be a mother and she has gifted me with a beautiful son, who is my world now. I don’t want anything apart from his well-being and good health.
Tell us more about your fond Durga Puja memories.
During my childhood days, we would visit several pandals wearing brand new clothes and shoes. Sometimes they would cause shoe bites too ( laughs). Right before Puja, all my friends would have a sort of competition to determine who got the maximum number of new clothes, but I was never a part of that. I used to be content with whatever I got. But I loved the smell of new clothes. On Ashtami, Ma used to help me wear the best sari while offering anjali. All my friends would discuss and compare the number of idols each one saw. Those were fun-filled days. We used to fight over where the best pandal was – south or north Kolkata. I never used to miss the Babubagan Puja and the pandals in Sealdah, especially Lebutola Puja. Other than that, I used to attend our parar Puja (Banerjee para in Dhakuria) with my parents and take part in the evening cultural events. Ice cream, phuchka and cotton candies were absolutely mandatory during pandal-hopping.
What significance does Ma Durga hold in your life?
It signifies the epitome of strength, wisdom and power. It also symbolises the triumph of good over evil. Ma Durga protects her devotees from evil forces and safeguards them. I have been staying alone from the age of 18 due to work commitments and it is Ma Durga from whom I derive the inner strength to face the world. Even Govinda ji once told me that whenever there are challenges, I should seek Ma Durga’s help and blessings. It has always worked for me.
Are you currently working in any Bengali films?
Well, talks are on here but I haven’t signed anything yet. I am doing more projects on OTT now – both in Hindi and Bengali. That demands less days of shooting, so I get to spend more time with my son. Krishiv is my priority now.