It’s close to a year since Kahaani released. Are you still living in the shadow of Bob Biswas?
No, no, no! I forgot Bob Biswas long ago. Ekta character-e aatke thakle hobey? There is so much work that I don’t even have time to breathe. Where’s the time to think of Bob?
But you just did an ad as Bob Biswas for Quikr.Com.
That’s because people remember me as Bob Biswas. The character in the ad is like Bob but he isn’t Bob. It’s harmful for an actor to get too attached to a character. If you don’t come out from a character, you cannot slip into another. See, I will never ever forget Bob. But I have to consciously avoid Bob. A lot of people think that Bob Biswas is the best thing that has happened to me... maybe because it’s a Hindi film and it was very popular... now non-Bengalis recognise me too. Yes, Bob Biswas is one of the landmark characters in my life. I think I understood his attitude very well, which is very important to make a character work.
Are you a part of Kahaani 2?
Sujoy (Ghosh) has not yet told me anything about Kahaani 2. He said he might need me for a film but he hasn’t told me which film. If he approaches me, I will definitely work with him again.... Sujoy has become very cautious post-Kahaani because this film has changed his life. And there’s no question of ever saying no to Sujoy because if a 10-minute role in his film can give me so much.... I hope he offers me a bigger role next time! Though for me the length of my role never matters. What I am doing in the film is what matters to me. Otherwise why would I do three scenes in Madly Bangalee (he played an alcoholic)? Those who remember the film will also remember the character. Even my role in Bhooter Bhobishyot (Haath Kata Kartik). It comes at the end of the film but it’s tremendous!
But Kahaani has changed your life...
Yes, definitely. A lot of people are now considering me for various roles. I am getting a lot of different kinds of offers.... Recently the ministry of information and broadcasting took me to IFFI Goa. There I saw Jackie Shroff at one of the parties. I am a huge fan of his! So I went up to him and said, ‘Namastey sir, I’m Saswata Chatterjee. I just did a film called Kahaani.’ He stared at me for a while and said, ‘As if I don’t know Saswata. You were excellent!’ Then I met Arbaaz Khan and when he saw me he called Sujoy over phone and said, ‘Make Kahaani 2, I will produce it.’ I am really enjoying all this!
We hear you’ve rejected three Bollywood films!
Not rejected. I couldn’t do them because of date problems. Whenever there’s a Bolly offer they want me to start shooting immediately. Now that’s a problem because I have films lined up one after the other. My dates are blocked till end-2013. Besides, now there are expectations from Saswata Chatterjee and if I can’t do a little more than people’s expectations I won’t be at peace. I don’t want to say yes hurriedly just because it’s a Hindi film and the money is good. Madhur (Bhandarkar) had offered me Heroine. Nowadays whenever there’s a call from Bombay, before anything else I ask them — when do you want me to start shooting? I don’t want to say no after listening to the script. If it’s good then it’s even more difficult to say no. I can say yes only if someone is making a film in 2014!
Amar ashol jaygata Banglay and I have already committed and my dates cannot be adjusted. I have got a lot from the Bengali audience. I definitely want to expand my audience base but not at the cost of Bengali films. Honestly, when I went to shoot the ad in Bombay I was bowled over by the facilities there. Everyone was going ‘sir, sir’! Every 10 minutes they would offer me fruit juice! They put me up in a sea-facing room on the 19th floor at Taj, Bandra. But Bengali films are very important to me. I had a desire to achieve this place. I can’t leave it and go.
Well, you are one of the busiest actors in Tollywood now...
Yes, my wife (Mohua) tells me so. Sometimes she asks for my dates! Sometimes my daughter (Hiya) asks too: ‘Half bela paowa jabe?!’
Despite being so busy, how do you manage without a cell phone?
I am getting by! I feel people who use cell phones are not disciplined enough. I am very disciplined. If I have to go somewhere I find out about the time and venue a day in advance. But nowadays people have a tendency to find out everything at the last minute. Why? Because they think it’s just a call away. Yes, sometimes during an emergency I do feel that it would have been good if I had a cell phone.... Otherwise I don’t have a problem. People keep in touch with me on my landline or call on my wife’s phone. If there’s an emergency, I call my wife from an STD booth. In fact, I did that once and the boothowner was so happy to see me that he didn’t take money!
See, my family knows about my whereabouts and I always make sure to give them someone’s number from the sets for an emergency. I have a cell phone which I use only when I shoot with unknown people. Like I took the phone to Bombay when I shot the ad because I knew nobody from the unit. But nobody knew about it!
There’s also another reason for not using a cell phone. I might fall in love with someone and if I have a cell phone it will only add to the trouble! How much can you check your emotions? She might just shoot an SMS at night and then all hell will break loose! (Laughs) I prefer it face to face with my heroines on the sets!
You play the protagonist in Bhoot Bhobishyot, one of the three stories in Sandip Ray’s Jekhane Bhooter Bhoy...
Yes, I play a writer and length-wise it’s a big role (laughs)! I play Pratap, who writes cheap love stories. He goes to a village and meets someone there and his life changes completely. That’s what Bhoot Bhobishyot (produced by Shree Venkatesh Films and Surinder Films) is all about.
What does working with Sandip Ray mean to you?
My first major work was with Babuda (Sandip)... as Topshe in Baksho Rahasya (aired on Doordarshan). My problem is that I began my career with Sandip Ray and after working in his unit, it is difficult to adjust to any other unit. They are a fun unit, despite the fact that there are never any women in his films!
The supernatural genre is making a comeback in Bengali films. Is it here to stay?
See, the supernatural films that are being made now aren’t intended to scare the audience. That a ghost film can also make you laugh is something that Bengali films are exploring now and that is a good thing. Like Bhooter Bhobishyot, people will enjoy Bhoot Bhobishyot too. A ghost film need not necessarily be like The Exorcist. I believe a film has repeat value only when you don’t have the time to think about anything else while watching it. Despite revealing the villain in the beginning, Feluda films work. How? Because they are interesting. The supernatural films are back after a gap. I think after Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne or Khudito Pashan, ghost films didn’t work. Now they have made a comeback riding on Bhooter Bhobishyot.
Is there a dream role that’s yet to come your way?
No. I don’t dream much. Honestly. I am happy with chicken roll, mutton roll, egg roll! (Laughs) Well, I want to do a film which will not have any dialogue, sort of a silent film like Pushpak. That’s my dream role. No dialogue, only expression.
Any plans to direct a film some day?
Yes. I want to make that silent film!