Koel and Parambrata at the Bhowanipore cemetery. (Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya)
Srijit (mukherji, director) told us that you two come from very different worlds and sensibilities, and that this difference is something he exploited for the film. How much did he bully you?
Parambrata Chattopadhyay: The bullying part was mutual…
Koel Mallick: Mutual?
P: I mean three of us bullied each other.
K: Not at all! The two of them were after my life.
P: I can’t believe it…
K: Believe what?
P: That you’d actually say it.
K: Oh! They would constantly whisper and make me feel self-conscious. If I was trying to concentrate on a shot, they’d start whispering and laughing. I would go off-track and the director would say… ‘Zone, zone!’ That means ‘you need to get back to being Meghna’. They would even dance in front of me and I wasn’t supposed to react!
P: When we were shooting for Hemlock Society, this film of hers called 100 % Love had just released. One night after work, we were looking up some YouTube videos at Srijit’s place when the 100 % Love title song came up. We watched the clip and we found some of the dance moves and gesticulations very…
K: Very what?
P: Very world cinema standard! Especially the hand-in-the-shirt step.
K: Some people are so jealous! They would try and copy my steps while I was meant to be expressionless! (Laughs)
P: We were trying to make her believe that we too are capable of pulling off such stunts! (Laughs)
On a hot June afternoon, director Srijit Mukherji led his lead pair Parambrata and Koel to the Bhowanipore Cemetery with t2! Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya|
Parambrata, before starting the shoot you had said you were ‘star-struck’ by Koel...
P: Yes, I was trying to impress her and that’s why I tried to dance! (Laughs) But the fact that we come from two different genres of cinema and sensibilities, as Srijit mentioned, is probably true because I knew Koel from afar. Working on Hemlock helped us kind of discover each other, which worked for our characters and the plot as well.
K: But you still made me feel odd, awkward and out of place!
Koel, you had said you were looking forward to the ‘fun’ and ‘new chemistry’. How did it turn out for you?
K: We had workshops before we started shooting... but the first time we actually met was on the sets of Shubhodrishti. Ebaar Param nijei bolo...
P: During Shubhodrishti I had hardly worked in films, while Koel was already a star. Shubhodrishti was not my kind of film. I was the odd one out on the sets.
K: Yes, that he was. We’d be dancing on one side and he’d be sitting and reading Shakespeare in a corner and hardly talking to anyone!
P: Back then, I was a different person. I was younger, still a television actor and quite awkward on the sets. Hemlock Society, on the other hand, was more my kind of film. So, this time, it was the other way round. Koel was the misfit, giggling and laughing all the time on the sets of a serious film!
K: Arrey, what can one do if one is happy? They had a problem because I was giggling and the director especially had a problem that I was too happy with life! On my first day on the sets, he told me, ‘Tor problem ki janish? Tui ektu beshi khushi.’
P: Srijit almost got her into depression, talking about depressing topics all the time. (Laughs)
How different were your approaches to Hemlock Society? Anything you learnt from each other?
P: The 100 % Love dance step. That’s definitely something I’ve learnt from her.
K: Some people are born with a trait of sarcasm!
P: I also learnt how to do my own hair and make-up. And that if you’re a star you must always carry your own bottle of water.... (Winks)
Koel: Well, I’ve been trying to pick up his sarcasm but I will be more civil and say that I watched Param closely during our dubbing sessions and he was so, so good! Absolutely brilliant.
P: Okay, it’s my turn to be good now! Koel is definitely one of the most accomplished actresses in the industry who knows her job. She comes very prepared, she is methodical and very meticulous. Technically, she’s very sound and that is probably the reason why she doesn’t seem to have a problem juggling two kinds of cinema. Sweet achhey emnitey… also quite tantrum-less.
Koel: (Laughs out loud) Thank you so much!
Hemlock Society dwells on death… did it change how you looked at life and death?
P: My character Ananda is someone who teaches others how to die. He sets out on a journey called death, so he is beyond that sensibility, which has often made me wonder about the state of mind one must reach to not worry about death.
K: Understanding Meghna for me was a journey in itself. I might come across as someone like her but I’m not her. She is not as transparent as I am.
Who from your life would you dedicate the song Amar mawte tor moto keu nei... to?
P: To myself!
K: (Bursts out laughing) There you go! Modesty!
P: I’d rather say, to life itself.
K: For me, it would be to my father (Ranjit Mallick). He’s a man of principles and morals…
P: Super daddy!
K: Yes, he is my super dad!