Tell us what you play in Ley Chakka...
Ley Chakka is basically the story of a south Calcutta boy who goes to live in a north Calcutta para. There are a lot of adjustment problems for my character Abir initially because of the cultural differences between north and south. The film has a lot of the Ghoti-Bangal fight and a clash between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal supporters. In the middle of all of this, Abir organises a cricket match between north and south Calcutta. The north team is passionate but ends up losing every tournament, and then I captain them and mentor them, leading the team to victory. That apart, there are political overtones in the film too as politics is a part of life for every Calcuttan. There is also a love story between Payels character and mine.
Do you relate to the Ghoti-Bangal fight?
Having been brought up outside Calcutta (in Mumbai), I dont really identify with this Ghoti-Bangal thing. I think its a sweet kind of a fight, something that has been going on for more than a hundred years. Its fun.
Do you identify with the cricket-loving Abir?
Absolutely. When I was told that this is a film about cricket, I knew that I had to be a part of it. I strongly believe in the character of Abir because I think he is just what Dev is in real life. Like Abir, I am passionate and believe in the fact that one must fight for what one truly believes in. And though Ley Chakka also has a romantic angle, I needed to do this film to break away from my chocolate boy image. In Ley Chakka, my looks, my height, the way I carry myself are all secondary. It is my performance that is most important. When the viewer comes out after watching the film, I want him to say, This character was made only for Dev.
You have the image of a larger-than-life hero after Challenge and Poran Jai Joliya Re. Will that change with Ley Chakka?
Yes, I have made a conscious effort to make Abir of Ley Chakka as different as possible from Abir of Challenge and Raj of Poran Jai. Those roles were that of a near-superhero, someone who could beat up 10 people at the same time.
In Ley Chakka, I am more a boy next door, a totally identifiable character. In fact, everything you see in Abir is what you have never really seen in Dev before, whether its the way he talks or dresses. From the beginning of the shoot, I was clear about the fact that the audience should not come out saying, Arre Dev toh abar same type-r role korlo.
Does working outside the Shree Venkatesh Films banner make you a little nervous?
After Dujone, this is my second film outside Shree Venkatesh Films and I would be lying if I say that I am not nervous. Anybody who has ever worked with Shree Venkatesh Films will know how well they take care of the people who work with them, whether it is an actor, a director or a technician. Both Raj (Chakraborty, the director of Ley Chakka) and I have made superhit films with Shree Venkatesh and ideally I would like to be in all their films. But I obviously realise that I will have to work with other producers also in the same way that Shree Venkatesh will work with other actors. We share a warm and comfortable relationship and I know that I can always depend on them.
Is your equation with Raj Chakraborty more of friends or more mentor and protege?
I have done four films with Raj so far, including an item song for Chirodini... Tumi Je Aamar and the bond between us has grown stronger with every film. Raj is my friend, philosopher and guide. He is someone I can turn to for any kind of advice. I can be myself with him without any pretension. Both of us have seen each other grow in our careers and we are there for each other every step of the way.
Do you think you have got two new competitors in Jeet and Soham after the success of Wanted and Amanush?
I am actually a very selfish person. I am always busy with myself. Even with Ley Chakka, I was only thinking of how I could better myself than my previous film. I want to constantly reinvent myself. As far as rivalry is concerned, both Jeet and Soham are good friends of mine and I am very happy that their films have worked. All of us do our own work and dont eat into each others space. Moreover, there are 40 films made in Tollywood every year. If I do three films, there have to be other actors to do the rest of the 37 films!
Hows your working chemistry with Payel, compared to that with Koel, Shrabanti and Shubhasree?
Payel and I have had a huge hit like I Love You. Once you have a blockbuster film featuring a certain pair, the chemistry becomes great automatically (laughs)! Although we have never gone out for dinners or parties, Payel and I share a great working relationship. We are both mature actors who want to give our best. I think she has done a great job in the film. As far as the others are concerned, all I can say is that it has been wonderful working with each one of them. But I am not very comfortable with this superhit-pair kind of talk because I think limitations creep in. I want to have a comfortable equation and great chemistry with every actor I work with.
How has success changed you in the past couple of years?
I dont think success has really changed me in anyway. I do go out less and party very rarely because I have become very serious about my work. One major change that has come about is that now I have become interested in the other aspects of filmmaking. I think about how we can make the film better and not only about how I should go about my role. I know that such things are not required of me but I have developed a keen interest in the way our industry works.
What other films are you doing?
I am now shooting in north Bengal for Sujit Mondals untitled film with Shrabanti. Then there is Rajs Dui Prithibi with Jeet and Koel.