Born/Date of Birth: 25 November 1966
Place of Birth: Kalyani, West Bengal, India
Height: 1.52 m
Birth Sign: Sagittarius
Occupation: Politician, Actress
Spouse: Dhruba Mukherjee (m. 1992–2006)
Political Party: Bharatiya Janata Party
Children: Aakash Mukherjee
Roopa Ganguly (born 25 November 1966) is an Indian actress, playback singer and politician. She is best known for her rendition of Draupadi in B R Chopra's hit television series Mahabharat (1988). Often promoted as the Bengali Film Industry's answer to Bollywood's Shabana Azmi, she is known for her versatility and accent adaptation. She has worked with directors such as Mrinal Sen, Aparna Sen, Goutam Ghose and Rituparno Ghosh. She is a trained Rabindra Sangeet vocalist and a classical dancer. She received several awards including a National Award and two BFJA Awards. In October 2015, she was nominated as a Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha, by the President of India. She served as the President of BJP Mahila Morcha in West Bengal. She served as the General Secretary and the Vice President for the West Bengal Motion Picture Artistes' Forum, a body representing cine artistes.
Ganguly rose to renown for her performance in the Bengali television series Muktabandha (1985). She got her first national break in the Hindi TV series Ganadevta (1986) and shot to wider fame and popularity after played Draupadi in Baldev Raj Chopra's Mahabharat (1988 TV series). Her performance in this TV series earned her several awards including Smita Patil Memorial Award. She reprised the role of Draupadi in Baldev Raj Chopra's Mahabharat Katha. She acted in popular Hindi TV series such as Chandrakanta, Sukanya (1998), Karam Apnaa Apnaa (2007), Kasturi (2009), Agle Janam Mohe Bitiya Hi Kijo (2009). Popular Bengali TV series, she acted in, include Streer Patra (1986), Janmabhoomi (1997), Ingeet (2001), Tithir Atithi to name a few.
She made her big screen debut with Prabhat Roy's Bengali film Prateek (1988). In early nineties, she acted in a number of commercial films, but most of them flopped at the box office. She achieved critical acclaim for her performance in National Award winning Bengali films such as Padma Nadir Majhi (1993) by Goutam Ghose, Janani (1993) by Sanat Dasgupta and Yugant (1995) by Aparna Sen. She received BFJA Award for Best Supporting Actress twice for her roles in Amal Ray Ghatak's Ujan (1995) and Rituparno Ghosh's Antarmahal (2005). In the same year, she acted in the role of a conceited actress in Anjan Dutt's Tarpor Bhalobasa, which once again earned her critical acclaim. She was awarded in the Best Actress in a Leading Role category for her role in Sekhar Das's National Award winning Bengali film Krantikaal (2005) at the 9th Dhaka International Film Festival. In January 2006, she was named by The Indian Express in the list of the five most powerful actresses of 2005. She was further acclaimed for her roles in films such as Kaaler Rakhal (2009), Chowrasta - The Crossroads of Love (2009), Chaurahen (2012), Na Hannyate (2012), Dutta Vs Dutta (2012) and Punascha (2014). In 2011, she received the National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer for rendering her voice in Aditi Roy's Bengali film Abosheshey (2012). In 2012, she played the role of Ileana D'cruz' mother in the movie Barfi(starring Ranbir Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra).
Ganguly has mostly been approached to play tameless determined characters, rather than usual submissive helpless ones, and has always been identified with characters of strong resolution and free will. She has been applauded for her unwavering roles in films such as Antarmahal (2005), Ek Mutho Chabi (2005) and Dutta Vs Dutta (2012), to name a few. Goutam Ghose said that "she has that skill to transform herself into any character she plays." Rituparno Ghosh described her as "a roisterer of pathos and exuberance through the portrayal of her characters." Mira Nair described her as "one of those most confident and powerful actresses around."
Ganguly was born in Kalyani near Kolkata, West Bengal, India. She grew up in a joint family. She was a student of Beltala Girls' High School, from which she finished her secondary examination (Madhyamik Pariksha). Later, she obtained a bachelor's degree from the Jogamaya Devi College, an affiliated undergraduate women's college of University of Calcutta, in Kolkata.
Debut and Breakthrough (1985 – 1989)
Ganguly rose to renown for her performance in the hit Bengali television series Muktabandha. She was featured in the much acclaimed Bengali TV series Streer Patra (1985), which won her accolades from viewers as well as critics. She got her first national break in Ganadevta (1986), a Hindi television series. She shot to wider popularity after essaying the pivotal role of Draupadi, in B.R. Chopra's mythological TV series, Mahabharat (1988), which immediately got her huge mass attention. In this TV series, she appeared for the first time on the thirty-fourth episode, but it was the forty-seventh episode where the Vastraharan sequence was aired and her performance in it turned her into an exemplification of Draupadi for a long time. The dignity and vigour she displayed as Draupadi, especially in the Vastraharan sequence is something that has been and will be a hard challenge to be replicated ever. The way she threw those invigorated words: "Aankhen jhukana kisi samasya ka samadhan nahi hai" captivated the hearts of millions and through the generations onward she has been impersonated as Draupadi.
She was consecutively paired with Chiranjeet Chakraborty in Prabhat Roy's Bengali films such as Pratik (1988), Tufan (1989) and Agnitrishna (1989). She acted in Mrinal Sen's much acclaimed Hindi Film Ek Din Achanak (1989) and Basu Chatterjee's Hindi film Kamla Ki Maut (1989).
Flaccid Career (1990 - 2004)
In 1990, she appeared in Tariq Shah's Hindi film Baahar Aane Tak, which was a box office debacle. Onwards, she appeared in films such as Kovelamudi Bapayya's Pyar Ka Devta (1991), Raj Sippy's Saugandh (1991) and Rajkumar Kohli's Virodhi (1992) to name a few. In 1991, she acted in the blockbuster Kannada film Police Matthu Dada, directed by Tulsi Ramsay and Shyam Ramsay. In the same year, she appeared in its Hindi remake titled Inspector Dhanush. The film flopped at the box office. In 1992, she acted in A. V. Seshagiri Rao's Telegu film Inspector Bhavani, where she played the character of a sincere police officer whose object is to bring an end to those who assassinated her fiancée. In the same year, she acted in Sukanta Roy's Bengali film Pitrireen, where she played the character of Sathi, a photographer who inquires about her father's assassin.
In 1993, she appeared in Goutam Ghose's award-winning Bengali film Padma Nadir Majhi, where she played the character of Kapila, a woman from the fishermen community who falls for her sister's husband and finally leaves her family to settle with him on Moynadeep island. Her performance in this film was highly appreciated by the critics and media personalities. Utpal Dutt, who was also a part of this venture, was recorded to comment on her performance: "Roopa has really lived the life of Kapila with those flawless body languages of a woman from the fisherman community." In 1995, she appeared in Amal Roy Ghatak's Bengali film Ujan, which won her the BFJA Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1996. In 1996, she appeared in Aparna Sen's award-winning Bengali film Yugant, where she played the character of an obsessed dancer. Her performance in the film won favourable reviews. Apart from acting in feature films, she went on appearing in numerous telefilms and television series, both in Bengali and Hindi, including Sukanya (1998).
In 2000, she appeared in Rituparno Ghosh's award-winning Bengali film Bariwali, where she played the character of Sudeshna Mitra, an actress playing the character of Binodini, in a film Chokher Bali directed, alongside the male protagonist. In 2001, she appeared in a cameo role in Goutam Ghose's award-winning Bengali film Dekha. Though she made a cameo appearance in it, she garnered huge mass attention as the film was widely advertised on her enthralling dialogue; "Sagar dekhben naa, shudhu amake dekhun." In the film, she rendered her character with a fine, seductive approach, especially in the Eki Labonyo Purna Prate song sequence, where the character played by Soumitra Chatterjee recalls an earlier moment of Ganguly gazing back at him. In 2003, she appeared in Gautam Ghose's Bengali film Abar Aranye, where she played the character of Shimul, a buoyant woman who is grief-stricken at the deepest core of her heart for the probable loss of her husband. She appeared in a cameo role in Bow Barracks forever (2004) by Anjan Dutt.
Prime Flow in Career (2005 - 2015)
In 2005, she appeared in Rituparno Ghosh's award-winning Bengali film Antarmahal, where she played the character of Mahamaya, a docile wife to an arrogant zamindar. Her performance in the film was hugely appreciated by film critics. Indian film critic Piyush Roy wrote on her performance in the film, "Ganguly rekindles memories of her fiery act of Draupadi in B R Chopra’s Mahabharat through her blow hot, blow cold performance."
— Piyush Roy (Indian film critic)
She herself considered this role as a big challenge as it was inherently contrary to her personality. The film won her the BFJA Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2006. In the same year, she appeared in Sekhar Das's award-winning Bengali film Krantikaal (2005), where she played the character of Subarna, who befriends a terrorist who broke into her house. She appeared in Raj Mukherjee's Bengali film Nagordola (2005), where she portrayed the character of an arrogant and rude woman who gets diagnosed as having throat cancer and realises that life is not like it has conventionally been and gives her full consent to her own unmarried daughter to give birth of her baby and to bring it up. The film was a major hit at the box office for its contemporary social issue. Her performance in the film earn her an Anandalok Award nomination in the Best Actress in the Leading Role category in 2006. She acted in the much acclaimed Bengali film Ek Mutho Chabi (2005), produced by herself, where she played the character of an established actress who has a car accident, consequently losing her career. In December 2005, Ganguly was named by The Telegraph in the list of Five Crowning Queens of 2005 alongside Rani Mukerji, Preity Zinta, Konkona Sen Sharma and Vidya Balan.
In 2007, she again shifted her base to Mumbai and started working in Hindi TV series, with Karam Apnaa Apnaa (2007), moving on to Love Story (SAB TV series) (2007), and more recently in Agle Janam Mohe Bitiya Hi Kijo (2009).
In 2009, she appeared in Sekhar Das's Bengali film Kaaler Rakhal. She appeared in Anjan Dutt's film Chowrasta the Crossroads of love (2009).
In 2011, she won the National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer for rendering her voice in Aditi Roy's Bengali film Abosheshey (2012) where she also acted. In the film, she portrayed the character of Suchismita. She appeared in Birsa Dasgupta's Jaani Dyakha Hawbe (2011), which after much commercial expectation proved to be a failure at the box office. She acted in Anurag Basu's blockbuster film Barfi! (2012). She acted in Anjan Dutt's Dutta Vs Dutta, (2012) where she played the character of "Runu mashi", who lives her life on her own terms and inspires the protagonist to live the life he desires. She appeared in Riingo's Bengali film Na Hannyate (2012), where she played the character of Jui, who is caught in a situation where she could save only one of her kids and leave the other to die. In 2013, she appeared in Utsav Mukherjee's hilarious social-satirical film Half Serious. She played the role of goddess Durga in the film. She appeared in Rana Basu's Bengali film Namte Namte (2013). She also appeared in Shekhar Das's Bengali film Nayanchampar Dinratri (2013). In 2014, she appeared alongside Soumitra Chatterjee in Souvik Mitra's Bengali film Punascha, where she played the muse of an award-winning author, played by Chatterjee. The film earned her rave reviews including the statement made by The Times of India that the film belongs to her only. In 2015, she acted in Debesh Chottopadhyay's Bengali film Natoker Moto and Aparna Sen's Bengali film Arshinagar. She will be seen in the role of a foul mouthed politician in an upcoming Hindi film Babumoshai Bandookbaaz, directed by Kushan Nandy.
In 2015, Ganguly joined Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of 2016 West Bengal Legislative Assembly election.
In West Bengal Assembly elections 2016, Ganguly lost from Howrah North to Trinamool Congress counterpart and cricketer Laxmi Ratan Shukla.
She was nominated to the Rajya Sabha in October 2016 in place of cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu, who resigned earlier.
Ganguly was married to Dhrubo Mukerjee from 1992 until 2006. They had one child in 1997, Akash Mukherjee. She was also in a live-in relationship with her singer companion, Dibyendu. The couple lived in Ganguly's Mumbai flat until the end of their relationship.