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History With A Twist

A decade after Abir Chatterjee made his debut in the Bangla film industry, he has proved himself to be a versatile and one of the most bankable stars. His last few films were not only money spinners, but they also opened to rave reviews. As Durgeshgorer Guptodhon hits screens this Friday, the actor talks to Titas Chowdhury about his character in the film, his journey in the industry so far, trolls and female fans

On The Film

Durgeshgorer Guptodhon is not a quintessential thriller. You could call it an adventure film or maybe a treasure hunt. But, sure, there is an element of thrill throughout the film. It is mainly about the trail followed by this trio to unearth a treasure when they spend their Durga Pujo holidays at a student’s native place.

I play Subarna Sen aka Sonada, a history professor. On hearing about this trip, my character jumps at the opportunity. He feels like it will be fun to spend the holidays away from the hustle and bustle of Kolkata and he will also get to learn about the history of the festival. The main themes of the film are historical relevance, inheritance and the inherent Bengali-ness that looms large. Much like the first instalment in the franchise, Guptodhoner Sondhane, the second film gives you loads of information without being preachy.

On Mystery-Adventure Films

There aren’t any Bangla films that are completely based on a treasure hunt but we have all heard these stories from our grandparents. When I was young, I was exposed to Jakher Dhan (an old Bengali film) and I have watched other adventure films from the West. However, I can’t really choose a favourite.

On Comparisons With Feluda And Byomkesh

Unlike them, Sonada is not a sleuth; he is a cool and friendly history professor. We cannot compare him to Feluda and Byomkesh. This is not a literature-based film. The characters here are created for the film itself. This is a film that is made for the young generation. We are very possessive about these iconic characters like Feluda and Byomkesh. We get nostalgic when we hear about them. Does that mean that we won’t create anything new for the next generation? With Sonada, we are giving them a character that belongs to their time. But the older generation can also connect to the film because of the nostalgic value attached to it.

On The Character

Sonada is fascinated and intrigued by things and places that bear historical significance. He has sharp observation powers and is very intelligent, which helps him crack riddles and puzzles. He is very adventurous and brave. He is not afraid of taking up challenges. It always helps if history is told in a lucid manner and that is one of Sonada’s qualities. He shares historical anecdotes for people to connect the dots. That always helps people understand history better.

On The Music

We used a rap song in the first instalment of the franchise. When we were promoting the first film, we wanted people to fall in love with history once again. The young audience thought it was going to be a serious film because that is the perception about films like these. But when they heard the rap, they were floored. It embodies the young energy and spirit of the film.

I know of kids who can’t follow all the words but can say ‘Tahole byas’, which went on to become a signature phrase. We have used the same rap that is brilliantly composed by Bickramda (Bickram Ghosh) in this film too. Franchises all over the word have a signature tune. So we thought of using this rap song as a signature tune for this franchise. In this film, there are clues hidden in the hymns and folk songs that we hear during Durga Pujo. Musical riddles are one of the highlights of Durgeshgorer Guptodhon.

On Completing A Decade In The Bangla Film Industry

The journey is more important than the destination. When you say that it has been ten years for me, I feel old (Laughs). But I have learnt a lot. I must admit that it has not been a bed of roses. There have been obstacles which have made the journey more interesting. I believe that I’m still evolving an as actor and as a human being too, which is my big takeaway from the journey.

These past ten years, I’ve been through an emotional roller-coaster. My biggest achievement was the love that I get from my audience. I’m a film actor and I’m here to emotionally connect with my audience. I can make them cry and laugh with my films. This is a rather unique boon. I am cherishing every minute of this process. There have been challenges too but I’m learning from them. I feel extremely thankful. Ten years ago, when I transitioned from television to films, I could not have imagined that we would have the kind of reach that we have today with our films. But as an industry, we have miles to go and a lot more to achieve.

On Appealing To His Audience

Today, audiences here want to watch content-driven films. It can be a mainstream or a niche film but it needs to have strong content. They want to see films and characters that they can relate to. If you see Sonada, you’ll feel like there was a Sonada in our family or surroundings during our childhood who we would look up to and who would be our go-to person.

The kind of films and the roles that I’ve been doing over the last few years resonated with my audience. They had this guy-next-door feel to them. We need to make for films that are entertaining, cerebral and can be watched by families and children. I try to give that to my viewers. These viewers are completely open to new content and characters when they are watching Hindi films, but they need an inherent, serious message in Bangla films. That discrepancy has to be resolved.

On The Landmark Film In His Career

The kind of love I’ve got came from the Byomkesh Bakshi franchise. I feel very privileged and honoured that people associate me with the iconic character. I have done seven Byomkesh films and I’ve grown up with him. I have moulded that character. With every film, I try to add new layers so that my audience finds Byomkesh charismatic and new with every film. Bengalis have a knack for films and characters that are intellectually stimulating. That is both a boon and a bane.

On Social Media

You should use social media, social media shouldn’t use you. I don’t see it as pressure. You should know how to deal with it. You can reach out to larger audience, especially the younger audience. But I am trolled as well. People cuss me for doing franchise films. They believe it is a shortcut but it is not. There are different challenges. Trolling is very easy. There is a sadistic pleasure in abusing someone and then telling your friends that you have roasted a celebrity. How we filter the negativity on social media is solely up to us.

On Female Fans

Let them grow (Laughs). I don’t want their love to end any time soon. Let their love grow exponentially. I want male fans too. I want some love from them too.

On Foraying Into The Web

There are some interesting offers that have come my way. The web is the future. A lot of experimentation is being done there. I am trying to abide by the age-old formula of being slow and steady. I have no web offers right now but I am open to the platform, provided that it gives me the scope to experiment with new content and break some norms. In fact, I’ve done a short film called Maya for Anida (Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury), which is available on YouTube.

Upcoming Films

After Durgeshgorer Guptodhon, there is Bornoporichoy by Mainak Bhowmick. You will get to see a completely new Mainak with that film. It is a proper thriller.


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