Your last two films — Romeo and Khokababu — didn’t do as well as expected. Do you think the audience now want to see urban stories rather than mindless masala fare?
I agree with you that Romeo didn’t do well. But Khokababu did very well... better than Romeo. I always compare my immediate release with my last film. Khokababu didn’t match up to Paglu, but then Paglu is one of the milestones in my career.... All films can’t do exceptionally well at the box office.
See, the thing is you should move on. If I sit and think about the business of my films, then I will get stuck. I think only Fridays and Saturdays should matter to a star when his film releases. Once it’s Sunday, he should move on to his next. Of course, he should draw up a list of what he did wrong and what he should do right next time. I should be able to keep my audience with me. As long as they don’t run away from me and say Dev is repetitive, it’s fine!
Don’t you think a lot of people already say that? Don’t you want to be a part of the new wave of Tolly films?
I don’t agree with you there. There are good masala films too. People are still keen to watch a good masala film. So many urban intelligent films are releasing, are all those doing well? Maybe one or two are doing good business, the rest nobody sees them. I am hopeful that Awara (starring Jeet-Shayantika, slated to release in July) will do well, then Paglu2 will release and then there’s Challenge2... all hardcore masala films. Intelligent cinema too will do well. I personally loved Bhooter Bhobishyot. I think this is a good balance because the audiences have the option to enjoy both kinds of cinema.
You’ve done 14 masala movies. What new can you offer now?
When we used to watch Amitabh Bachchan’s films in the ’70s, what did we know him as? The angry young man. He too did the same type of films year after year, isn’t it? Whether it’s a Shah Rukh Khan or a Salman Khan, they too did the same kind of films for a long time.... Salman Khan still does masala films. Suddenly I can’t start doing the other kind of films, nah? There’s a possibility that the audience may not accept me. If you go to the villages, you will understand why I do action films... because that’s the language of cinema they understand. See, Le Chakka did very well in the city but didn’t do well in the villages. It’s important to strike a balance. How many people in the city go and watch films everyday? A star must have a target audience. Who am I doing films for? That is important.
So who are you doing films for?
Well, I want my films to do well in the interiors of Bolpur. I also want people in the city to see my films.... See, I am trying to do the other kind of films. There are two-three films which are mainstream but not as you say, masala films! But I’m still not sure if I am doing the right thing. I am sure of films like Paglu, which has a 90 per cent chance to run because there’s masala, action, romance... egulo akhono lokey khaay! But the other kind of films that I am going to do soon, I am not sure if that will run. So I am working extra hard, doing workshops, reading the scripts many times overů. I want to be a part of films like Hemlock Society or a 22shey Srabon, but obviously producers don’t have faith in me. I can’t hold the producers at gunpoint and threaten them to take me in the other kind of films!
Even I have my limitations. I can’t go out of my way to do the other kind of cinema. I don’t have lots of money that I can produce a film and cast myself in it! Besides, no point in disrespecting what I am doing. If I keep calling up directors like Tony (Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury) and Srijit (Mukherji), it would mean I am disrespecting my kind of films, which is not right. If they ever feel that Dev should be a part of their films they will definitely offer me.
I don’t blame them. It’s a cycle... they think the kind of characters they have in their films don’t suit Dev and I think that if I nag them too much it means I am disrespecting my kind of cinema. I don’t have the right to do that, you know. Today I am Dev because of the last 14 ‘masala’ films. I can’t deny that, ever.
Well, you’ve signed Rangan Chakravarty’s next film, which will be different from what you have done till now...
It’s an experiment for me. For the first time I will be working with a different team. See, I’m trying to do the other kind of films. It’s not that I am enjoying my success, watching myself on TV and thinking ‘Wow, I’ve achieved so much!’ No boss, I am working hard. I am sure I wouldn’t like to hear from my kids that their father did only one kind of films. They shouldn’t say, ‘Baba, tomar akta chhobi dekha manei toh shob chhobi dekhe neowa!’ I do only two-three films a year. If I do 10 films a year, I can’t sustain for another 10 years because I won’t have anything new to offer.
Okay, now coming back to the film, yes I play Goopy and I’m not supposed to reveal anything right now. It’s not a remake of Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne. It’s just that there are two boys from north and south Calcutta who are called Goopy and Bagha (played by Rahul). Trust me, it’s playing on my mind that I should now make a bridge between masala and intelligent films.
Paglu, which released last year, was a huge hit. What new can we expect in Paglu2?
Yes, Paglu had a lot of gimmicks... Nanchaku fights, foot-tapping songs, nice dance moves, foreign locales, Dev-Koel chemistry... so luckily we escaped! Honestly, Paglu worked because of the gimmicks, the story wasn’t up to the mark and that’s what we’ve tried to rectify in Paglu2. I can assure you that the story by (NK) Salilda is one of the strongest points of Paglu2. It’s a hilarious comedy film. Totada (Tota Roy Chowdhury), Rimjhim (Mitra) and Ronyda (Rajatava Dutta) have done a superb job.
How is your Paglu2 character different from the one in Paglu?
I am called Dev again in this film. He is a village boy who comes to the city and takes admission in a college, but his aim in life is to get a good girl and settle down. In Calcutta, he gets into one trouble after another. Dev is kidnapped, is packed off to Dubai and then there’s so much confusion that it will be very interesting for the audience. We’ve shot the climax in Dubai, unlike Paglu where we created a set in Hyderabad to match the Dubai ambience for the fight sequences. The producers (Surinder Films) have spent a lot on the climax.
Paglu2 is ready, you are shooting for Challenge2 and then there’s Khoka 420...
(Laughs) I guess we are running short of titles, so we are taking song names from my earlier hits!
Five years down the line, how do you want your career to go?
I want newcomers to come into this industry and say, ‘I want to be like Dev!’ That’s all!