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Role play
Pic by Rashbehari Das

He’s a director’s actor who is just as focused on each shot that he delivers as he is about the junior artistes with whom he shares screen space. So, if a celebratory cake is cut on the sets, Rudranil Ghosh will ensure that the usually neglected actors get their share.

Actor and script-writer, Rudranil Ghosh is on a roll. He’s had a rich harvest of films between January and August this year — eight releases to be exact — of which his latest, Bomkesh Bakshi, Anjan Dutt’s period thriller, is still running to packed theatres.

And he’s not done just yet. Coming up by the year-end is another deluge of movies including the much-awaited Necklace, Uro Chithi, Jiyo Kaka!, Bye Bye Bangkok and Ektu Onyorokom. He’ll also be making his debut in Hindi movies with Spaghetti 24x7, Mithun Chakraborty’s first Hindi production.

Those days are history when Ghosh was ignored by producers for not possessing the conventional good looks expected of an actor. Today he’s ruling as Tollywood’s busiest — and much acclaimed — character actor who shoots some 12 to 14 hours a day, seven days a week.

From the stage, to television and finally to films — the ultimate bastion for an actor — it’s been a long haul for Ghosh. And the versatile actor is juggling many hats today. Ghosh has been writing stories for years and now plans to direct a film based on one of them. And even as two of his stories are already being made into films (Jiyo Kaka! and Ektu Onyorokom), he’s putting plans in position to launch his own production house in the next six months.

“Today, I’m combining acting and writing and strategising to set up my production house,” Ghosh says.

Rudranil with actor Abir Chatterjee in a scene from Bomkesh Bakshi; (below) on the sets of Michael with Naseeruddin Shah; Pic by Aranya Sen

He’s also on a high since sharing screen space with Naseeruddin Shah in Ribhu Dasgupta’s Hindi thriller, Michael, shooting for which has begun. This will be his second Hindi release. “I was very nervous while shooting with Naseer saab who plays the lead role of Michael and it was awkward hurling abuses at him on the sets. I had to keep reminding myself that I was a gangster abusing Michael and not Naseer saab himself,” Ghosh grins.

He’s also poised to play the protagonist in Anindya Banerjee’s film, Chaplin, which will go on the floors after the Pujas, in which he’ll play an ardent Charlie Chaplin fan. “I’ll have to lose weight and also study Chaplin’s body language and acting techniques,” says the 38-year-old actor.

Ghosh’s versatility has made him a favourite with both commercial and art house filmmakers ever since he stepped into the industry some six years ago. He has some memorable performances behind him and he’s even won a nomination for the National Award for best supporting actor for Kaaler Rakhal. His other power-packed performances include the revolutionary poet in Kaalbela and the weatherman in Kantataar. “I love roles that are challenging,” he says.

Says director Gautam Ghose: “Rudranil is very competent and emotes very well. I was very happy working with him in Kaalbela.”

Ghosh has been lauded for his comic timing in films like Chalo Let’s Go and is loved by his fans in negative roles as well. “I’m different and that’s my brand. It doesn’t matter whether I’m portraying a funny man or a villain — the audience should be able to identify with my emotions,” he says.

Says filmmaker Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury: “Rudranil is an extremely talented actor and has a spark about him.” Actor Parambrata Chattopadhyay agrees: “He’s an actor with rare sensitivity. In Jiyo Kaka! which I have directed, he brought dimensions to the character which I’d never dreamt of.”

From stage to celluloid has been a long journey for Ghosh, who as a child growing up in Howrah was more into painting than acting. “Perhaps it was my interest in human expressions and body language that found an outlet in painting and later in acting,” he says.

His interest in acting was kindled when as a student of Class IX he started a theatre group called Padakkhep with his friends and ran it for 10 years. “I discovered the power of an actor. I found that I could move people and control their emotions. And that scared me,” he says.

Ghosh got his break on television in 1998 in the soap, Roopkatha, on Doordarshan that involved delivering just one line. “I was on the verge of refusing it but changed my mind. I believed that I could leave my mark even with that one line,” he says.

The next offer came with Ek Nombor Mess Bari on ETV, in which he portrayed a popular comic character called Jhantu. Ek Aakasher Niche on Alpha Bangla was another turning point for him and made him a familiar face on television. The soap Panchu Mistry Lane, came next which he scripted for ETV in 2004. He also went on to act in 40 telefilms. “I love doing telefilms as they offer challenging roles that I can experiment with,” he says.

His first break on the big screen came with Bengali films Champion (2004) followed by Kantataar and Refugee (2006). Ghosh won the Bengal Film Journalists’ Association award for best supporting actor for both Kantataar and Refugee. “The roles were completely different from each other and to be appreciated for both felt great,” Ghosh reminisces. He has worked in 21 films since.

Today, he barely gets any free time and when he does, he writes. And of course enjoys adda sessions with his friends. But that’s till the cameras start rolling again and he slips into the skin of his character.

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