The audience and the industry have given me a place that’s beyond any number: Prosenjit

Prosenjit Chatterjee

Prosenjit Chatterjee

Tollywod badshah Prosenjit Chatterjee’s energy is contagious. And he proved that again during an exclusive photoshoot with us. The actor travelled the length of Kolkata, but his energy didn’t drop at any point during the sultry day. Ahead of the release of Birsa Dasgupta’s One, the actor spoke to us about playing an antagonist, how the Bengali film industry needs both parallel and mainstream cinema to survive and his undying hunger for good roles. Excerpts:

What prompted you to take up the role of Aditya Sen, the antagonist in One?

I wanted to essay an out-and-out negative character — something I haven’t done in my career. In Baishey Srabon, I wasn’t an evil man (smiles). When Birsa narrated the script to me, I was kicked because the story wasn’t run-of-the-mill and the script was smart. Aditya Sen is unpredictable. He plays mind games and a does a lot of talking through his eyes and body language. He’s evil to the core, but wears the veil of a Padmashree Award-winning scientist. You know why the audience likes detective films? Because when they watch those films, they start participating in the mystery. One is such a movie and I hope the audiences will love it.

Tell us about the film.
The story revolves around a passionate police officer Ronojoy (Yash Dasgupta), who wants to destroy corrupt people. It’s a cat and mouse game between two very powerful people who are devoid of emotions. Aditya is an evil genius, who wants to reach the top of the food chain. Ronojoy, too, wants to be on top but he’s a better person. The film is about their tussle, mind games and a lot more.

One is the remake of Tamil thriller Thani Oruvan. Did you hesitate before taking up on a project that’s not original?
The way Birsa has treated the story — the script, direction and editing — it has the feel of a new story. He’s added a touch of Bangaliana to it. To be honest, I haven’t watched the original film because acting is something you don’t copy from others. Every movie is inspired from something and I don’t think there’s anything wrong in it.

Bikram Singha, your last commercial venture, didn’t fare well at the box office. Does that make you jittery about One?
Bikram Singha was a well-made film but sadly, didn’t do well at the box office. But I’m confident about One because it’s a performance-based film. Every actor has their space to perform. I enjoyed working with a young team. Today’s intelligent youngsters will love this film. It’s high time that we broke the myth that some films are made for the suburbs and some for urban audiences. That’s ridiculous! All films are commercial — whether or not they make money. I hope the film is enjoyed by all.
Rituparno Ghosh, one of the finest directors of all time and a dear friend, used to visit the sets of Swapan Saha and Haranath Chakraborty to meet me. He would tell me, ‘If these films don’t do well at the box office, we artsy directors won’t survive in the industry.’ Commercial films have to sustain to back parallel films. Sosurbari Zindabad, Amar Sangi, Beder Meye Josna are all blockbusters that ran for 50-60 weeks in Kolkata. What the industry needs is good content. Was Praktan an art film? But its content worked in its favour. Whenever a commercial movie fails, we look to blame its failure on someone. What we fail to understand is that cinema is for different target groups. Swapan Saha never cared about critical acclaim while Buddhadeb Dasgupta made films for a niche audience. Does that make either of them any less a director? We need to have both commercial and parallel films to run the industry.

What is the pressure like to be the number one actor in the Bengali film industry?
There’s a lot of pressure. But I know how to live with it — it’s part of my life. The pressure motivates me to do better. But now I feel I’ve crossed the stage of being numbered. The audience and the industry have given me a new place that’s beyond any number. It’s overwhelming.
The audience also expects a lot from you with every film. How difficult is it to live up to their expectations? Do you ever feel like quitting it all?
Never. The day I feel that way, I’ll opt out of the profession myself. I enjoy what I do and with each film that I sign, I feel like a debutant. I’m willing to learn from the newer generation to enrich my art.

Despite being the most sought-after actor, you’re one of the most reasonable actors when it comes to the paycheck. A few actors charge a bomb and won’t negotiate on money matters. What’s your take on it?
(Laughs) Perhaps they deserve that kind of money and I don’t? Jokes apart, even after acting in 340 films, I never think about anyone else’s remuneration because that’s unethical. I only charge the amount that I believe I deserve or I’m certain the producers can make from the film. If producers are safe, we are safe too. I know how to assess myself. I remember the time when my film Mayer Anchol was a blockbuster and so was Mithun Chakraborty’s Minister Fatakesto. So many producers came and asked why I was charging half the amount that Mithunda was asking for. I told them Mithun Chakraborty is an actor who’s nationally known and is doing only a handful of Bengali films that he chooses to. I belong to the
industry and hence charge reasonably. I’ve given so many hits over the years but not one producer can say I demand a hefty amount.

The industry, it seems, is not at its best phase…

It’s a phase that’ll pass. In the past 33 years, I’ve heard this almost 8-10 times over. Filmmaking is an unpredictable profession and that’s the charm of it. I believe good content, new faces, small budgets and flexible actors and directors will help the industry grow by leaps and bounds. Indo-Bangladesh projects are encouraged these days. The condition of single screen theatres has to improve as well. Now, with web series and entertainment options right on our smartphones, actors and directors are fighting to bring the audiences to the theatres.

Who do you think will take your place as Tollywood’s badshah?
The young generation is doing good work and everyone possesses some unique creative strength. Yash, Ankush, all are doing good work. Abir (Chatterjee) has matured with age, but people have a pre-conceived notion that he’s apt for parallel films while Yash is for mainstream films. Why don’t we have a role reversal? Srijit Mukherji attempted to do this with Zulfiqar.

Was Yash intimidated by you during the course of the film?
You can ask him that! I try to maintain a friendly atmosphere on sets so that work gets done smoothly. On a film set, I’m not Bumbada but a co-actor to a junior artiste too. I take 10 minutes to do my makeup and get ready. I feel Yash will go a long way — he’s hardworking, dedicated, has a fresh onscreen presence and a good command over Bengali.

But people will compare him with you…
That’s unfair! Just like it wasn’t right when the audience compared me with Soumitra Chatterjee. Every actor grows with experience. Yash has just started his career and I’m sure he will excel with time.

After Ruby Roy, the widow of accident victim Sanjay Roy lodged an FIR against a private hospital, the government is taking stern actions against treatment issues in private hospitals. One, we hear, also deals with such issues?
The film does have a social message. However, it is not a political film. It touches upon illegal rackets in hospitals, bill discrepancies and how the poor fights for their rights. What the government is doing in the state is a great initiative. I hope more people are benefitted from it.

Last year you won many accolades for Gautam Ghose’s Shankachil. How much do awards matter to you?

Before signing any project, I ask myself, ‘Why am I doing this film? What will I add to it?’ If I get a positive answer, only then I give my nod. Praktan is a successful film and I’ve done a pretty good job in it. But when it comes to awards for a performance, Shankachil was more deserving. I’m happy when I get an award for a film that deserves it. But the audience’s appreciation means a lot to me — even more than awards.

Rituparno Ghosh, Goutam Ghose and Srijit Mukherjee are known to extract the best of your acting skills…

Rituparno was a master director and a very dear friend. I was his protege. Goutam Ghose, on the other hand, has always given me offbeat characters to play. Only he can get an urban hero, as good looking as me, to play Lalon Fakir in Moner Manush (laughs)! As for Srijit, he’s sure of what he wants from an actor. He’s like a smart professor — in his debut project, Autograph, he signed up the best student to play a challenging character! When the student delivered a stellar performance, the professor was brimming with pride. All three of these directors have different formulas for a hit movie.

And what about Birsa Dasgupta?

He knows me well. If we work together in few more films, we’ll understand each other’s creative strengths better.

Rumours are abuzz that you are doing a film that’s directed by Churni Ganguly…

(After a pause) Well, I might. It’s too early to talk about it. But yes, talks are on.

Source : http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/entertainment/bengali/movies/news/the-audience-and-the-industry-have-given-me-a-place-thats-beyond-any-number-prosenjit/articleshow/58004381.cms

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