(Clockwise from left) Tista, Prosenjit, Mimi and Shalmi at HHI. Directed by Abhijit Guha-Sudeshna Roy and jointly produced by Prosenjit’s Ideas Creations and Shree Venkatesh Films, Bapi Bari Ja releases on December 7. Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya
So, did you girls identify with your characters in Bapi Bari Ja?
Mimi: See, we are the same age as our characters. I play Dola and I am a lot like her. The way she thinks, like Dola is confused about whether she should fall in love or not... I too am confused about love!
Prosenjit: Really? You are confused about falling in love!
Mimi: Obviously! (Laughs)
Shalmi: Don’t underestimate her. Gobhir bhabe bhabe! (She thinks very deep.)
Mimi: Gobhire jao... (Hums the song from the Prosenjit-starrer 22shey Srabon)
Shalmi: Is it very important to relate to characters on screen? I don’t know. I find the characters that I can’t relate to the most interesting. Since it’s a film, there are instances that will strike you as improbable. There are things my character (Shiuli) says which I wouldn’t say but there are also feelings which are common to people. Shiuli is a bit of a firecracker.
Mimi: (To Shalmi) You are also a firecracker!
Prosenjit: Yes, the only girl who can ask me why should she do the role! (Everyone laughs)
Tista: I found my character (Hasna) interesting because she is very bossy.
Shalmi: Yes, all the girls in Bapi Bari Ja are very bossy.
Mimi: Specially me!
Tista: Hasna is a Delhi girl, so she’s the go-getter type. There was girl power on the sets, also because of Sudeshnadi! It was all about girl power.
Prosenjit, what do you think of them as actresses? Their strengths and weaknesses....
Prosenjit: I think all of them are weak! (Laughs) I had asked Shalmi, when she came to my office, if she would do the film. She said she was not interested. Ki bolechhili bol (Say what you had said).
Shalmi: I had said, why should I do the film?
Mimi: Yeah, I mean she went to Bumbada’s office straight from her college (Jadavpur University), put her bag on a chair and asked him, why?! (Laughs)
Prosenjit: I told her that she would have to get a haircut and look sweet in the film.... We were looking for someone like her. Someone who has the courage to ask me, why would I do a film?! She is someone who holds Bapi (played by Arjun Chakrabarty) by his collar, and gives him a piece of her mind. (Turns to Shalmi and says) Bol kal tui amake ki bolechhili (Say what you told me yesterday)
Shalmi: I told Bumbada, eishob nyakami amar bhallage na!
Prosenjit: You see this is what we needed for the character she plays. She is very good. She is like Kajol. Remember Kajol when she did her first film? Fat, but she would wear shorts! Shalmi is like her!
Mimi: Bumbada, Shalmi is embarrassed! She is looking out of the window! (Everyone laughs)
Prosenjit: Mimi is heroine material, she looks good in anything. And when I first saw Tista, I knew she fit the role of a girl who lives in Delhi and comes back to Calcutta and has a certain way of looking at things, the way she walks.... Oh! That reminds me (turns to Mimi), have you worked on your walk? You wouldn’t believe the way Mimi walks, I wanted to hit her with a cane every time she walked in!
Mimi: Yes, I would often meet him in his office and we would chat and at the end of the chat he would tell me ‘You still walk like a boy!’
Okay, what does Prosenjit mean to each of you?
Mimi: See, I started Gaaner Oparey with Bumbada (Prosenjit, who was the producer of the STAR Jalsha serial). He means a lot to me. He was our guide and a pillar of support.
Shalmi: For me, he has been a huge part of the cultural environment in which I have grown up, you know. His posters were everywhere. Since I was a child, I have seen him everywhere and then I met him for the first time about one-and-a-half years ago, I think at the Christmas party for Gaaner Oparey (Shalmi played Mimi’s half-sister in the serial) and I couldn’t say anything because it was like seeing somebody you’ve seen only in photographs. So for me that was a very bizarre moment! (Laughs)
Tista: I got introduced to Rana (Abhijit) and Sudeshnadi and I knew I was doing the movie but I was not aware of who the producer was. Then one day Sudeshnadi called me up and said that ‘You have to meet Bumba one day’. The next moment I opened my wardrobe and took out one dress after the other as I was confused about what to wear when I met him! (Laughs) And then when I landed up at his Ballygunge office I was like this is Prosenjit Chatterjee and I am working in his movie and when I saw him in front of me I realised how big Bapi Bari Ja is!
Prosenjit, were you a hands-on producer?
Prosenjit: When Gaaner Oparey stopped all of a sudden, I thought of doing something with them (Mimi, Shalmi and Arjun). Everyone would praise them, so I thought why not do something with them? I thought they had a lot of potential. I told Rana-Sudeshna, let’s do a youth film with these kids. We thought of the character Bapi and how he would talk and behave. Everything has changed, the way they talk, the way they interact with their parents... We had them in mind while writing the script, I mean the film happened because of them. And that’s their achievement because they were so good in Gaaner Oparey. I hardly went to the sets but I was there since the inception, from what their costumes were and what looks they were sporting…. I didn’t go to the sets because I had faith in my directors. Rana-Sudeshna are very competent.
Have you seen the film?
Prosenjit: Of course! Do you know how many sleepless nights I have spent with Shrikant (Mohta of Shree Venkatesh Films)? I was there on the edit bay constantly for seven days on the trot. From chopping to rearranging scenes, I have done it all. We have added a new song with Mimi and Arjun. So I know what the final product is. Now I am confident. I will not watch it any more, not even at the theatre. I know that people will like the film. It’s a very fresh film. Arjun plays Bapi, a rich guy whose life changes all of a sudden. The film is also about Mimi, Shalmi, Tista, Dhruv and Anindya who meet Bapi at various stages of his life. Bapi Bari Ja is like a glass of chilled water. It’s like when you enter your office on a hot, sultry afternoon and reach out for a bottle of chilled water.... The satisfaction that it gives you is what you will get from Bapi Bari Ja too!
Do you think the youth in the suburbs too will connect with Bapi Bari Ja?
Prosenjit: I think yes. Honestly, till today for Bangla films at least, there is a gap between the city and the suburbs. But things have changed in the past 10 years... maybe just 30 per cent. The masses still don’t have the money to watch an urban film in the plexes and that is a huge audience, and in order to cater to them we need to make films keeping them in mind. But of course, now they are more aware. For Bapi Bari Ja, I got so many tweets when we decided to push back its release to December. And most of them were from people in the suburbs! This is a new development. But Bapi Bari Ja isn’t just for the youth, parents should also see the film to understand their kids.
Mimi, Shalmi and Tista, do you have any favourite Prosenjit film?
Prosenjit: Oh, they haven’t seen any!
Shalmi: Ki bolchho (what are you saying?)! Dosar. I was in school when I saw Dosar and I thought it was communicable both to young adults which I was and the older generation.
Tista: Utsab. It was through Utsab that I got acquainted with Prosenjit. It’s a very relatable film. I also liked Autograph.
Prosenjit: I am thankful, grateful! (The girls laugh out loud)
Mimi: Honestly, I was born and brought up in Arunachal Pradesh and then in north Bengal and I had only non-Bengali friends. So I haven’t seen Bangla movies but even then I knew that in the Bengali film industry there’s just one hero and that’s Prosenjit! And the first Bangla film I watched in the theatre was Chokher Bali. Now I watch all Bumbada films and I like them!
Prosenjit: I can assure you one thing that when these girls get married and when they have a daughter, she too will connect with me. She will adore me like them!
Mimi: Of course!
Prosenjit: This is my job. Maybe I will age and have salt-and-pepper hair. Like Rani Mukerji, when she was a child, she would tell my mother that she would marry me. And Ma would say, when you grow up Bumba will be old and she would reply, so what? Kalap laga lega (he will colour his hair)! Rani would stop eating whenever she would see a wedding photograph of my mom and dad. She would mistake my dad for me and would start crying that I have got married! Coincidentally, I was her hero in her first film (Biyer Phool). During the shoot, her father came up to me and said, ‘Arrey yaar there’s a kissing scene, what to do?!’ (Laughs)