IBNS: Tollywood superstar Prosenjit Chatterjee returns as ill-tempered and foul-mouthed cop Prabir Roychowdhury in Srijit Mukherji’s Dawshom Awbotaar, a prequel to the filmmaker’s Baishe Srabon and Vinci Da produced by Jio Studios and SVF. On a rainy Wednesday morning, IBNS correspondent Souvik Ghosh catches up with Prosenjit, who recently turned 61, at his South Kolkata residence ahead of the film’s mega Durga Puja release…
Q. Your last film with Rituparno Ghosh, who reshaped your career, was Noukadubi in 2011. In similar years, you started working with Srijit Mukherji. Do you feel filmmakers like Srijit started contributing to your body of works at the right time?
A. I acted in around 300 commercial films for about 20-25 years with a bunch of directors. But amid my success in commercial films, Rituparno was a person who made me realise a different side of me. He literally gave birth to this Prosenjit, who has been nurtured by the today’s generation of directors like Srijit, Kaushik (Kaushik Ganguly). But among all, Srijit played a big role as we have worked together in nine films where I have played some important characters. So the Srijit-Prosenjit combo is more like the Rituparno-Prosenjit duo. People expect something special out of the Srijit-Prosenjit duo.
Srijit, I believe, has played a big role in reinventing Prosenjit as an actor. Maybe this is why we went on collaborating together in a number of films like Autograph, Baishe Srabon, Jaatishwar. Now people are waiting for Dawshom Awbotaar. Even in Mumbai, I have worked with directors like Dibakar Banerjee, Hansal Mehta, Vikramaditya Motwane, who are different kinds of directors.
Q. Since Dawshom Awbotaar is a prequel to Baishe Srabon and Vinci Da, your characters date back to almost 20 years from now. Along with maintaining physique, how did you match up to the mental make up of a younger Prabir Roychowdhury?
A. Yes, it’s about the energy level. If I calculate, my character dates back to almost 20 years (laughs). In Dawshom Awbotaar, I featured alongside an actor (Anirban Bhattacharya), who is half my age. The audience is struck by the match of the two cops’ energy level in the trailer. Of course, I had to maintain and keep my physique toned, but I tried to capture the difference of energies of Prabir of two different age brackets (one in Baishe Srabon and the other in Dawshom Awbotaar). Though Anirban and I looked almost the same age onscreen, the latter is half my age in reality. So I had to match up.
Q. How did you and Anirban Bhattacharya feed off each other’s energy?
A. I consider Anirban, Ritwick (Ritwick Chakraborty) as very special actors, not just in the Bengali film circuit but in the country. I had to contemporise my acting skill with these new age actors because I come from a different era. I felt the same, a kind of teacher-student onscreen relationship, while working with Soumitra Chatterjee. These new age actors are great, very special. So I always need to match up to them while featuring in a single frame considering I come from a completely different era. It’s always a teamwork when we actors are featured together in a film.
Both Prabir and Inspector Poddar (Inspector Bijoy Poddar, Anirban’s character in Dawshom Awbotaar) are very real but dynamic characters. Dawshom Awbotaar is our mode of commercial films where cops are shown with much pragmatism. I’m sure the audience will crave for the Prabir-Poddar duo after this film. I’m sure they will come back on big screens.
Q. Our perception towards almost everything changes with time and age. Did your perception towards Prabir Roychowdhury change over the years?
A. Definitely, it has changed. First of all, I never thought Prabir would be back onscreen, obviously because he died in Baishe Srabon. I had asked Srijit to craft a character like Prabir because I know the audience wants to see me in such roles, which have an aura. But I never asked him to bring back Prabir Roychowdhury (laughs). Sometimes, a character becomes a cult. I won’t be able to play Lalon (Lalon Fakir in Moner Manush), Kushal Hajra (in Jaatishwar), Balmiki (Balmiki Sengupta in Shesh Pata) ever. These characters happen only once. But Prabir is a heroic character. Since this film dates back to almost 20 years, I had to remodel Prabir keeping his essence intact.
Q. Did you watch Baishe Srabon while working for this film?
A. Trust me, I didn’t watch even once because I don’t need anything to play Prabir. I know everything about him. But the real challenge was of course going back almost 20 years. But every time I play a character, I become aloof and slip into my zone and start working on the character.
I went aloof from everything for about three months and directly appeared for the look test, where I was applauded by my team. For all those months (when the film was being made), my energy level was no less than Anirban’s. Not just acting, it requires a lot of discipline, sacrifice to create that magic. Like Uttam Kumar used to follow, one needs to remain aloof from the public gaze to create that effect.
Q. Prabir Roychowdhury’s nature is not all revealing. Do you find a similarity between him and people attached to the film industry?
A. I don’t think there is a connection as such. Of course Prabir is secretive about his actions. The same is actually followed by all of us, be it in any profession. Now personally, I am a kind of person who believes in action, more than words. I have only one similarity with Prabir and that is both of us are dedicated to our job.
Q. There is a scene in the Dawshom Awbotaar trailer where you are opting for Biryani instead of a regular meal to break monotony. Was there any moment in your illustrious career where you wanted to break a certain pattern?
A. I never felt it. I enjoy facing the camera and the morning call time. It drives me. I feel like giving my first shot every time I enter the shooting floor.
Q. What made you decide to opt for filmmaking again?
A. An actor feels like a student of cinema after working for 40 years. I have worked and learnt from all filmmakers and actors who have been parts of the industry for about four decades. As I transform myself after every 10-12 years, now I am trying to utilise my knowledge in cinema in a new form. I neither understand nor have any interest to understand anything except cinema.
The process will become monotonous if I don’t challenge myself creatively. In acting, I do not have a challenge neither in Kolkata nor in Mumbai. Some 20 years ago, I would have thought of becoming someone like Shah Rukh Khan, but not anymore. In Mumbai, now people show respect towards me. I just want to do good work. I want to utilise my spare time in a year after two or three releases with something.
Q. In which medium would you opt for, film or OTT?
A. Film, of course. Back then, my directorial Purushottam was the only film to be made on that scale. I always did something ahead of time. People talk about Prabir Roychowdhury but I have produced a film like Teen Yari Katha years ago. I had felt our industry wouldn’t grow up if such films were not made.
Q. How much is your son Mishuk involved in your work? Does he give opinions and feedback?
A. He is very excited. He is well connected with everyone including journalists. He follows everything and reacts to films. His first question on Dawshom Awbotaar was where was the poster being made, Kolkata or Mumbai? It’s good that a Bengali film poster, which is made in Kolkata, has created such an impression in the mind of the present generation.
Q. How would you predict the box office run of four films which are releasing this puja as people tend to face a cash crunch this month?
A. People have enough cash during puja. Just a few months ago, people were talking about box office collections of four-five national films including Shah Rukh Khan’s Jawan, Rajinikanth’s Jailer, Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani, OMG 2 with most of them featuring actors in age brackets of 60-70. Bengali films will create a history this year. All four films, which have their own places, will register historic box office numbers in 50 years. Whoever earns, the industry will be benefited from it. People have money and they will watch all four films.
(Images by Avishek Mitra/IBNS)