Gulf News


The Ben­gali mati­nee idol gets can­did about grow­ing up as an ac­tor dur­ing a re­cent trip to Dubai

- By San­jib Ku­mar Das, Se­nior Pages Ed­i­tor

The ‘Sharp E’ (a stage-light­ing tech­ni­cal­ity) was ev­i­dently keep­ing the floor co­or­di­na­tor on ten­ter­hooks at Shaikh Rashid Au­di­to­rium in In­dian High School, Dubai, on Fri­day af­ter­noon. The crew was be­ing re­peat­edly told to get the strobe-light­ing beam right, even as the ju­nior artists tried hard to synch their steps dur­ing re­hearsal with this fit-asa-fid­dle bearded gen­tle­man in jet-black train­ers and track suits.

When Satya­jit Ray came up with his epochal Nayak, it marked a wa­ter­shed for an icon­o­clast called Ut­tam Ku­mar. That was 1966.

In 2010, when debu­tant di­rec­tor Sri­jit Mukher­jee came up with his Au­to­graph, apart from be­ing a tribute to Ray’s Nayak, the film marked a re­boot of sorts for an­other icon­o­clast: Prosenjit Chat­ter­jee.

As the brand am­bas­sador for Bongo Probashi Mi­lap 2018, an ini­tia­tive by the Dubai Chap­ter of St Xavier’s Col­lege Cal­cutta Alumni As­so­ci­a­tion, to cel­e­brate the cen­te­nary of Ben­gali cin­ema, Prosenjit was in town last week.

While he took a cof­fee break in-be­tween re­hears­ing for the open­ing cer­e­mony, tabloid! caught up with him. As ‘Bum­bada’ got ready for the salvo one won­dered whether it’s ‘life imitates art’ or ‘art imitates life’ for this 56-year-‘old’, sorry, ‘young’ ac­tor…

Start­ing as a child ac­tor in Hr­ishikesh Mukher­jee’s Ch­hoto Ji­gyasa in 1968 and right up to this Dubai trip, it’s been a long jour­ney. How does it feel?

Be­ing the son of Biswa­jit Chat­ter­jee, an ac­claimed ac­tor, my fight ini­tially was with my­self. I had to bring my­self out of this ‘he-look­slike-Biswa­jit, he-talk­slike-Biswa­jit, he-walk­slike-Biswa­jit’ chat­ter and build an iden­tity of my own in the in­dus­try. To­day, peo­ple talk about the ‘Prosenjit-kind-ofwalk’, the ‘Prosenjit-kindof-talk’ ... I had to cre­ate that brand.

From be­ing a cool hero to play­ing his age, Prosenjit Chat­ter­jee has meta­mor­phosed. How did this hap­pen?

I had to cut the whis­tles and claps — that typ­i­fied my roles in the early part of my ca­reer — out and give my­self a makeover. And it was Ritu [di­rec­tor Ri­tu­parno Ghosh] who made that pos­si­ble. Ritu lit that fire in­side me. He gave ‘birth’ to a new Prosenjit.

When I did Shoshur­bari Zind­abad [2002], Ben­gali cin­ema hadn’t seen that kind of a mass-re­sponse in decades. But in the last 10-15 years, au­di­ence pro­file has changed, tastes have changed

— all over the world. And I am happy to stay in-tune with the trends. I have never chal­lenged time. I can never think about do­ing an­other Amar Sangi [1986] to­day be­cause I’m not get­ting any younger. Rather, we tried some­thing dif­fer­ent with Au­to­graph and it worked. There­after, with Moner Manush [2010], Baishey Srabon [2011], Jatish­war [2014] [and] Prak­tan [2016]… I kept on ex­per­i­ment­ing.

You and Ri­tu­parna Sen­gupta make a for­mi­da­ble on-screen pair, but you parted ways for a while…

Along with Ut­tamSu­chi­tra [Sen], Biswa­jit-Mad­habi [Mukher­jee], Soumi­tra [Chat­ter­jee]-Aparna Sen, even af­ter an­other 100 years when peo­ple talk about on-screen pairs in Ben­gali cin­ema, Prosenjit-Ri­tu­parna will be talked about in the same breath. Yes, we had parted ways… it can hap­pen. But just con­sider how ea­gerly an­tic­i­pated was the re­lease of Prak­tan, where we made a come­back. Even af­ter see­ing us to­gether for 14 years, peo­ple wanted us back.

Your for­ays into Bol­ly­wood were a bit of a non-starter.

That’s be­cause I never fo­cused on Bom­bay [Mum­bai]. At the peak of my ca­reer, had I shifted base, it would have been a gross in­jus­tice to all those pro­duc­ers and di­rec­tors in Ben­gal who had in­vested in me and given me so much suc­cess. More­over, once in Bom­bay, un­less you can be­come a Shah Rukh Khan, there’s no point. I cer­tainly didn’t want to be a B-Grade hero there.

So far as over­seas mar­ket­ing is con­cerned, Ben­gali cin­ema never seemed to have got its act to­gether.

As a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the in­dus­try, that’s the rea­son why I am in Dubai to­day: To help Ben­gali cin­ema grab more eye­balls. Also, I think the reach of our films would have in­creased man­i­fold had Kolkata and Bangladesh been able to pro­duce and mar­ket films to­gether.

When shall we see you as a di­rec­tor?

I have been con­stantly de­fer­ring this ven­ture be­cause I am fully oc­cu­pied un­til 2020. But this idea has been tug­ging at me for some time.

 ?? Pho­tos by An­tonin Kélian Kal­louche/Gulf News, IANS and sup­plied ?? Prosenjit Chat­ter­jee in Dubai.
Pho­tos by An­tonin Kélian Kal­louche/Gulf News, IANS and sup­plied Prosenjit Chat­ter­jee in Dubai.
 ??  ?? In ‘Prak­tan’ (2016).
In ‘Prak­tan’ (2016).
 ??  ?? Ri­tu­parna Sen­gupta and Prosenjit Chat­ter­jee.
Ri­tu­parna Sen­gupta and Prosenjit Chat­ter­jee.
 ??  ?? Chat­ter­jee in ‘Au­to­graph’ (2010).
Chat­ter­jee in ‘Au­to­graph’ (2010).

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