‘The Shameless’ stars Omara Shetty and Anasuya Sengupta on representing India at Cannes


Bulgarian director Konstantin Bojanov's Un Certain Regard is set to grace the 2024 Cannes Film Festival's Un Certain Regard section. shameless is making waves for its Indian characters, especially its two leading ladies. As they prepare to represent India at Cannes, both the actors express a heady mix of excitement and humility.

Thane native Omara Shetty, whose roots span from Mangalore to Mumbai, initially worked as a journalist before serendipity led her towards performing arts. Anasuya Sengupta, on the other hand, embodies the literary pulse of Calcutta, where her artistic activities merged with her growing passion for cinema.

Omar Shetty and Anasuya Sengupta in a scene from 'The Shameless'

Omar Shetty and Anasuya Sengupta in a scene from 'The Shameless'

For Omara, the transition to acting was a testament to resilience, inspired by health complications and a chance encounter with a new genre of theatre. Meanwhile, Anasuya's journey took her from the busy streets of Kolkata to the bustling heart of Mumbai and ultimately to the shores of Goa, where her efforts as a creative found fertile ground. His artistic enthusiasm transcended the boundaries of the screen, Anasuya's trysts with production design and parallel work as a painter shaped his approach to acting, and Omara's entry into theater influenced his performance style.

The film, set primarily in Kathmandu, follows Anasuya's Renuka, who escapes from a brothel and takes refuge in a community of sex workers, where she meets Omara's Devika, who condemns a life of prostitution. There is a young girl. Here, the duo tell us about the production and its summer prospects in Cannes.

Excerpts from an interview:

You both got a call from a relatively elite Bulgarian filmmaker asking you to join this project. How difficult was it to take that leap of faith with Constantin and did you ever imagine that his vision would take you to Cannes?

Omara: As an actor, I have a different process for every script that comes my way. And it has been challenging every time, but in a good way. And I strongly believe in K's (Constantin's) vision. The first time I was sent a script, that was it. I wanted to be Devika, whether in Cannes or not, it was all about Devika. I wanted to be a part of this story.

Anasuya: I guess deep down, I obviously wanted great things to happen with it. But I don't think I've actively thought about it too much. I just liked the story. I read the character and I thought, “Oh my God, is someone asking me to play this woman?” Something really called me very, very strongly to it.”

Omara Shetty with director Konstantin Bozanov

Omara Shetty with director Konstantin Bozanov

What does it feel like to be at the center of such a cosmopolitan effort, with cast and crew hailing from all corners of the world?

Anasuya: I think it inspires people to work closer to communicating better, especially when your comfort language is taken away from you. You can no longer be lazy about your communications. And she is beautiful to look at. It's always so fascinating and humbling to go into a small industry, work together and come together. It is very important to be polite there and not to be rude. So test yourself a little, you will do better. By becoming a better professional, you make yourself a better person.

Can you both tell us a little more about your characters and what attracted you to these roles?

Anasuya: I would describe him as a character who is basically on the run. It's unfortunate that there are still more interesting male characters written. Sure, people are writing amazing female characters, but it's still not enough. So I loved reading that, as a woman and even as an actress, having the opportunity to do so many things with a character. It's not just being an actress in a pleasant, pretty role. And that got me really excited. But it felt like something I was familiar with anyway and it also brought me closer to the character… feeling a little more badass and fearless. And basically shameless.

Omara: She is very interesting and has a kind of unspoken power. She is also very flexible and full of heart. He has dreams. Innocent, but conspiratorial. He is very smart. And she keeps hiding and hiding; She has been hidden for so long. Far from molding the world around her into the way they want it to be, she continues to innovate.

Was there an intimacy coordinator on set to help you navigate your on-screen chemistry, or was the process more organic?

Omara: Actually it was a mixture of both. Our intimacy coordinator did a great job of making us feel comfortable and listening and helped us find substance in a very organic way, while also monitoring it. Anasuya and I are very different people. But it works out so well in a way because I truly believe that our chemistry was generated through the bond that we developed while shopping together.

Omar Shetty and Anasuya Sengupta in a scene from 'The Shameless'

Omar Shetty and Anasuya Sengupta in a scene from 'The Shameless'

Can you tell us about the Kathmandu shoot? Does the city itself play an important role in the story?

Anasuya: I've worked as a set decorator on another film once before, and now it feels like I'm coming full circle. Kathmandu is one of the most crowded cities in the world, so a feeling of claustrophobia can be felt here. It's loud, it's busy, it's packed and it's got a charm. Claustrophobia promotes the film as there is tension in the film. You want to know what's going on with this runaway. So it looks like there's a lot going on.

How do you explain the title of the film?

Omara: One day, a production designer on the film said to me, I still remember this, “You are 'The Shameless.' Who does not conform to the society and wants to live her life on her own terms.” What is shame and where does it come from? And she (Devika) is becoming that, that's why I see her as 'The Shameless'. I am the one who has decided to be free and the world calls him shameless.

Anasuya: Shame as an emotion is a huge barrier that is socially embedded, and it comes into everyone's life. And this idea of ​​shame, when you're embarrassed, when you're embarrassed, that's the fear of that, right? Which doesn't let you, like, cross. Once you cross that, there is fearlessness on the other side. I think it is perfect for the film, for the character I play.

How do you think the film will be received in India?

Omara: I've been thinking about it a lot, but I know I have no control over it. I've learned that I have to do what I want to do, otherwise I won't be able to stick with it. The fact that I thought about what others would think, etc. So honestly, it doesn't matter how the audience will interpret it. This is a story we all wanted to be a part of, and it's available for people to see, take or leave.

Director Konstantin Bozanov with Omar Shetty and Anasuya Sengupta behind the scenes of 'The Shameless'

Director Konstantin Bozanov with Omar Shetty and Anasuya Sengupta behind the scenes of 'The Shameless'

Finally, how does it feel to represent India at Cannes? Who or what are you looking forward to at the film festival?

Omara: It's definitely a huge honor to be recognized for the work you do. I feel like I'm heard and seen, and I've never been here center stage. I'm very excited to attend screenings of other films in the lineup and meet other amazing Indian women who have made it to Cannes this year, be it Sahana Goswami, Sandhya Suri or Payal Kapadia. And if I could, I'd be excited to catch up too learner,

Anasuya: I feel like there's a sense of urgency there. I feel very ready to get on that stage and be myself. I feel grateful but also very proud because I have worked very hard. We all did it… I once saw an interview with De Niro in which he said that when big things happen the most important thing is to just stay calm and relax. So I'm trying to keep it together, relax and take it easy but I'm breaking down inside.

The Shameless will premiere with Un Certain Regard at Cannes 2024. The 77th annual Cannes Film Festival will take place from May 14 to 25, 2024.

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