|Picture by Pabitra Das
Are you still high on the hug Amitabh Bachchan gave you at the film festival inauguration?
He was very sweet. When I touched his feet, he said, ‘Arrey, nahin nahin beta... do well, stay well’. A lot of friends have been calling and telling me things like they want to buy the Prince coat I was wearing [he was the host of the evening along with June] because Mr Bachchan gave me a hug! (Laughs) They want to keep it as a collector’s item! Up close, Amitabh Bachchan is like any other flesh-and-blood human being. Ektu oshustho, ektu boyoshko ekjon manush (A bit unwell and ageing).
Did Amitabh say anything about Kahaani?
He had told Sujoy (Ghosh, director of Kahaani) that he liked the film. So did Shah Rukh (Khan). In fact Sujoy called me on the night of the festival inauguration and asked, ‘Ki? Boroshaheb (Bachchan) ki bollo?
Well, you’ve signed two films with Sujoy, isn’t it?
No! (Smiles) I haven’t signed yet. One is called Kerala, which he is producing, so whenever that happens I will be a part of it. It’s a thriller in Hindi. I am not sure which part I’m playing... there are quite a few major roles, so I will be playing one of those. The entire story is set in Kerala.
And the second film?
Of course, Kahaani 2 is happening, which will roll on the floors mid-next year.
You play a cop again in Kahaani 2?
|Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya
Yes, yes, same character. Kahaani is a franchise, so can’t do much about it. It’s like Bomkesh (Bakshi) and Ajit. Vidya is Bomkesh and I am Ajit! (Laughs) I am not sure if there will be a series of Kahaani films like Bomkesh Bakshi, but Kahaani 2 is certainly happening.
You are travelling a lot to Mumbai these days. Have you met any Bolly actors?
No. But Bipasha Basu and Dia Mirza have been tweeting me a lot. We have been talking on Twitter only, unfortunately! (Laughs) Whenever I go to Bombay I end up spending time only with Sujoy at his Bandra office or his house in Santa Cruz. Besides, I have been in talks with Endemol for Traffic, a Hindi remake of a fantastic Malayalam film. It’s a multiple-narrative film like Amores Perros or Babel (both directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu). A lot of stories criss-cross each other. I just know that Ajay Devgn is also supposed to be a part of it.
So a lot of attention from Bollywood after Kahaani. It’s the biggest thing that has happened to you...
Yes, undoubtedly... in terms of scale. But I would also like to mention Hemlock Society. The question is of perception. After Srijit’s (Mukherji, director) 22shey Srabon, which was a blockbuster, everybody thought Hemlock would be another blockbuster. But it was meant to be a niche film which would do well in cities and it did. First three weeks were brilliant. Then the sales dropped because it wasn’t a film for everybody. That I knew from day one. Hits are basically perceptions....
How conscious are you about choosing roles post-Kahaani?
Very conscious. I definitely don’t want to do films like Ekla Akash! If there’s one film I regret doing — and I don’t want to hurt Sandy (Sandipan Roy, director) — it is Ekla Akash. I knew it while the film was being shot. Sandipan is a good friend and I don’t want him to suffer in any way but it proves that a bad film is always a bad film. Unless you do publicity like 3 Kanya to turn it into a blockbuster! Sandipan knows that I do regret doing the film. I also told him that he can make much better films. It was a wrong choice for a first film.
Whether it does well or not is secondary, what matters is the perception you get of the filmmaker from the film. Maybe only 10 people would see a film and they would criticise it but they shouldn’t say, F***, what have you made? Jiyo Kaka!! (Param’s directorial debut) didn’t do well at all but nobody came out of the theatres and told me, F*** man, are you mad that you made this film? I don’t want to do films like this (Ekla Akash) anymore. I have always been driven by intellect. Always. I am trying to do films which I either find intellectually stimulating, like Chhayamanush (to be directed by Arindam De, co-starring Raima Sen), or the kind of films I think are a lot of fun. Not only for the audience but also for the people making them. Like Sayantan Mukherjee’s untitled film, which I am doing with Nusrat Jahan. I play an IT guy who works in Sector V and lives with his family in north Calcutta. So there’s a strange anomaly. It’s a rom com. Paddanava Dasgupta has written the script.
But how does an actor know a good film from a bad film while signing?
He will never know. That’s the hardest part because no matter how much creative control you want to have as an actor, there’s only that much you can do. After that things are not in your hand. It’s not the job of an actor. So there’s a limitation, and that’s what makes it so scary. You have to be a little careful.
What about films like Balukabela.Com (directed by Partha Sen and yet to release)? Do these movies pay well?
No, I do them out of obligation. As long as I get to have some nice whisky now and then, I am happy. I don’t charge a fat sum.
You’ve also bagged Jeffrey D. Brown’s Sold that he is shooting in Calcutta...
Tanaji Dasgupta got in touch with me.... Jeffrey Brown (who won an Academy Award for a short film in 1986) had apparently seen Kahaani. I was in Bombay and we spoke on Skype. My role is of an NGO staff, a very important man. I start shooting from the end of this month. It’s a brief role but it has a lot of impact.
You have a box-office pull in the non-commercial films being made in Tollywood. Is that the space you want to be in?
Very critical question. I am a man of varied interests. Sometimes it becomes a challenge to balance my interests. But since my acting career is going quite well, I have to balance it with my directorial intentions. So I will probably be there in the films I will direct next year, which I had never planned before but now I do. See, after spending about eight to 10 years in the industry, I do feel that the sensibility with which I watch a film is the kind of films I want to direct.
I like to watch simple films that make me laugh, cry and go back home feeling good or feeling low. Even at film school, what I studied was making films for a larger audience. I am not a person who thinks (Andrei) Tarkovsky is the only filmmaker in the world and the rest are all bullshit! No. I like films which try to connect with people. So from that point, the scripts I feel are able to connect with an audience and the audience can connect with it... obviously not in a Rowdy Rathore way, that is not my forte. On the one hand, I am trying to stay away from films that are overtly experimental. On the other, I am trying to stay away from films that overtly try to please the audience.
Why do you want to act in all the films you will direct? Is it because you can cast yourself in the best roles?
No. Because I am quite greedy that way. I don’t want to take myself off acting just because I am directing. (Smiles) Since I am being accepted as an actor, people are coming in to watch my work and they are liking me, I don’t want to lose the opportunity. At the same time, I don’t want to stop directing either.
But why do you want to direct more films now that your career as an actor is looking bright?
Because I can’t help it. It is a strange bug inside. I can’t explain it.
Coming to matters more personal, you are known for your wild side. Like you get drunk at parties...
|Parambrata tries on
a wig for his role in Chhayamanush.
I don’t party too much but I get drunk, yes! (Laughs) I have sobered down. After a couple of instances, I have become very careful about drinking in public! See, there’s no hiding that I like to drink. I don’t drink like a litre of alcohol every day. I don’t even drink every day. But I do enjoy it in limited quantities. Now I prefer doing that at home. It’s safer. I tend to lose myself at parties. I am not a party animal. Even at the filmi parties, I just stay for an hour.
Your Dutch girlfriend Ike is here. What’s your relationship status?
Well, yes, we’ve been seeing each other for two years. But there are no plans to settle down now because it’s not feasible logistically (Ike lives in the Netherlands). The day it is, we will.
Are you okay with a long-distance relationship? How easy is it?
Hmm... honestly, I wouldn’t think about it that much... am too busy with work and so is she. Sometimes it does pose some challenges but we don’t think too much. We meet twice every year. Those are very happy moments and we try to concentrate on the happiness quotient than pondering on the negative side of it. It’s been feasible for the past two years. It’s not like that if we have affairs with other people we wouldn’t mind, of course we would. It’s not a very open relationship. But for us it’s never been like you wouldn’t look at anyone else. I mean not encroaching has been the watchword from the very first day. It is there in the European sensibility... not encroaching another person’s space even if he is your partner and I am like that. We feel that only when we give each other that much of space, we won’t even feel the need to waver. Atotai hawa batas somporko-tar modhye je (There is so much breathing space in the relationship that) not even for a second do we feel claustrophobic. That’s a great thing.
How easy is it for you to be an actor and not waver?
You mean affairs, flings, one-night stands? Of course and it’s quite tempting sometimes. But that is there in any field, not only in acting. Yes, as actors you portray certain things on screen which might project you in a different light. But I have spent 10-11 years. Earlier I used to get excited when there used to be a pretty heroine on the sets.... You know, you are kind of attracted to her. Now it has become much more work-driven. The work is more important than getting attracted to pretty heroines! (Laughs) Doesn’t really make sense now. Everybody is a friend, so...
Among the heroines, you’ve worked with Raima Sen, Koel Mallick, Swastika Mukherjee, Parno Mittra. Who are you most compatible with?
Raima is a dear friend. It’s very easy to work with Raima, very easy. She is bohemian and very chilled out. But I will never say that she is the best co-actor I’ve ever had! And if I say that, she will faint! (Laughs) I think of all these people, the best actress I have worked with, the most meticulous, the most professional is Koel, definitely. Very methodical. And I do think that of all the people mentioned, Swastika is the most spontaneous and impulsive actress. Raima can be very good if she wants to, but I am not even sure if she wants to. In certain situations, she can be very, very good. I have directed her (in Hawa Badal), so I know. I feel Parno has a lot of promise but I think she is yet to come out in full bloom. I think she has got hell of a lot of potential but as an actor she hasn’t explored herself completely.
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