Prosenjit Chatterjee, fondly known as ‘Bumba Da’ to his Bengali audience, has ruled the Bangla film industry for over three decades. He has featured in more than 300 films, and now he’s all set with his next commercial outing, One, produced by SVF Entertainment. Chatterjee has seen it all and done it all, from commercial cinema to parallel films, and from being a child actor to becoming the quintessential hero. Here’s the talented actor in a tête-à-tête with Rohini Nag Madnani
What was it about the character that appealed to you?
After being part of the industry for so long and always experimenting with roles, I wanted to play a character that had shades of evil. I have never played a villain and this character is pure evil. The film is a Tamil remake and the part I play was originally played by Arvind Swamy. His portrayal of the part really impressed me. The character is not a villain but he has an evil mind. For the last seven to eight years, I have been doing both kinds of roles – commercial and edgy films. The character should excite me. When I look at Mr Amitabh Bachchan doing different types of roles, I feel greedy as an actor because he does all sorts of films. And as an actor, one should be open to all kinds of cinema, not only the kind that’s working. But, with each film, I know my target. After a certain point in their careers, many actors like to experiment with roles, whether Salman Khan or Shah Rukh (Khan) or Aamir (Khan). Each one of these actors now picks subjects which are not out-an-out commercial but that challenge them as actors.
The film is a remake and is already a success in Tamil as Thani Oruvan, and in Telugu as Dhruva. Has the story been reconstructed for the Bengali audience?
The subject of a film is always universal but it is altered to cater to a certain region and audience. The basic story line remains; there are only little alterations for it to connect with the Bengali audience. You have made more than 10 films with SVF Entertainment. What has the collaboration been like over the years?
I was the first actor they signed for their film Bhai Amar Bhai. I still remember those two young boys Shrikant (Mohta) and Moni (Mahendra Soni). Their zest for creating good content which would also be commercially viable made them different from the others. Our first collaboration Bhai Amar Bhai went on to become a big hit and ran in cinemas for more than 50 weeks. We have made many films together and I have seen them grow from young boys to men with undisputed conviction. Not only as producers or distributors, SVF Entertainment has emerged as a gamechanger with the kind of content they make for television and films alike.
How would you map the changes in the Bengali cinema over the years? Our industry has gone through its best days, and bad days, even worst days, and Bangla cinema is once again standing on its own feet. Today, filmmakers are concentrating on quality; the number of releases is increasing as is the quality of films. We are back to experimenting and, at the same time, we are also making good commercial films. It’s become far more structured and methodical; there are different departments and specialists at work. It’s getting far more professional. Earlier, it was more like a family affair, and passion ruled over profits. I think even the Hindi film industry has seen changes like these over the years. Even the number of films made every year has increased substantially. Thanks to the expansion in the number of multiplexes, Bengali cinema is getting the right distribution too. The box-office collections of Bangla films have also grown substantially. I guess the audience is now ready to watch a variety of films. And thanks to multiplexes, Bengali cinema has many more takers. In fact, I can say that Hindi films, which have always posed tough competition to regional films, is no longer a threat.
Why don’t we see you in more Hindi films?
My commitments in Kolkata are my first priority. As an actor, I am always working, and now that I am planning my directorial, I am even busier. So, really, there is just no way I can consider options in Mumbai. There is too much on my plate to look elsewhere. Having said that, if a subject appeals to me or a role appeals to me, I would be more than glad to be a part of that film.
I would love to direct a Hindi film and am currently working on it. The film will have a social message and is based on a real incident that I had seen. I want to be attached to projects that are meaningful. When I am directing, the content has to be very close to my heart. I might not make a lot of money but I should support that content because even if it doesn’t work immediately, with my support, content like that can find a place. I will start working on the film soon and we will probably go on floors by the end of this year or early next year.