Today, Prosenjit turns a year older. And busier too, with 16 films in the next 12 months. This Thursday, its an arty film by Buddhadeb Dasgupta vs a potboiler by Raj Mukherjee. Prosenjit tells t2 how he is enjoying every moment and also preparing to be at the crossroads of his 25-year-long career very soon...
Mr Funtoosh and Swapner Din, which release this Thursday, are poles apart...
Yes, Mr Funtoosh is a deadly action film and Swapner Din has been very challenging for me. Even Shibaji and Khela had released on the same day. This will be a common feature from now on. I will be doing both commercial and parallel films on a regular basis. I am happy.
Why are you rating Swapner Din so high?
I dont know how many people will watch Swapner Din but its a very different film for me. I play a lower-middle class character, which I havent played before. I mean I have of course played a poor man but I have worn a Teri Cotton shirt because in a commercial film I have to look good. The characters go through a journey in Swapner Din. Theres a movement in the film. The three characters start bonding. I think Rajesh (Sharma), Rimii (Sen) and I bonded pretty well which is reflected on screen.
Was Swapner Din more difficult than Dosar?
I was restricted as an actor in Dosar because my character was bedridden for most of the time. But in Swapner Din, I played a character (Paresh) who belongs to a particular social milieu and I had never done the things he does. Like having country liquor sitting in a hooch shop... Paresh roams the countryside with a 16mm projector. For one month, I didnt comb my hair. I deliberately remained dirty, unshaved because I wanted that dirty feel to grow on me.
How was Buddhadeb Dasgupta to work with?
People say he works without a script but I had got the scripts before shooting both my films with him, Swapner Din and Ami Yasin Aar Amar Madhubala.
Ritu (Rituparno) and Buddhada have different styles. Buddhada will not show you how to do a scene like Ritu does. You have to tap whats going on in Buddhadas mind during the addas with him. All I can say is that I have been very successful in it. Some actors have difficulty following his instructions on the sets but I have learned that as well. Buddhada is someone who lays great stress on the visual aspect and I share a great comfort level with him because I am a technician at the core.
What are the other parallel films you are doing?
I have around 16 films in the pipeline, both commercial and parallel. I am doing Sir with Kaushik Ganguly, one film with Babuda (Sandip Ray), one with Anjanda (Dutt) and a couple of films with Ritu.... I will do commercial films as long as people want me to. And one fine morning, I will suddenly stop doing them. I will go on doing the other kind of films. I can never quit acting because thats the only thing I know. All mainstream actors, who have been very successful, reach a stage when they go through a strange phase. This phase is very difficult to handle.
How are you preparing for that phase?
I have got my framework ready. I am waiting for that change and I am emotionally prepared. I have studied how my seniors have handled this transition in their career. What Uttam Kumar, Dilip Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan and Soumitra Chatterjee have done. Currently, I am reading a book on Soumitrakaku.... I try to learn from their lives, how they have reacted in certain circumstances. It all depends on how well you handle situations without getting tense. You need to have a certain level of self-confidence; not overconfidence, mind you.
I didnt have pluses all my life. I have gone through highs and lows but I have always tried to make the most of every situation. I have tried to turn a negative into a positive. For instance, I know I am not 6ft tall and that is a drawback but I have tried to turn it into a plus point. That is very important...
So, IIPM is finally coming to Calcutta...
Yes, we are opening a full-fledged IIPM in Calcutta. The Calcutta centre opens in May 2009. We have committed ourselves to bring top-rung private education infrastructure to Bengal. Every year we have 400 students coming to our Delhi IIPM from Calcutta. So the market is very strong in Calcutta. I was a bit wary of opening in Calcutta earlier because I wasn’t sure of placements. But we have got that in place now. We will bring Delhi-Mumbai companies to Calcutta. And despite the Singur fiasco, the job market will grow in Calcutta. We are looking for a building in Calcutta now and we will get a campus in two-three years. We have tied up with Prosenjit; he will be our franchisee.
Why pick Prosenjit?
Actually we have been planning to open IIPM in Calcutta for some time and we were toying with the idea of giving it to a franchisee so that we don’t have to worry about running it. This model is followed by all reputed institutes and Calcutta will be our first such experiment. I like Prosenjit very much and we get along very well. We got talking about a lot of things, including this. He has plans of diversifying beyond films and this project seemed right. We are glad that he was willing to take over the Calcutta branch.
What will Prosenjit’s role be?
His company will manage the Calcutta branch. It will be his responsibility. And we will support Prosenjit with our infrastructure. He is very committed to the idea.
Is the IIPM tie-up the first step in a new direction for Prosenjit at the crossroads?
(Laughs). Well, you can say that. A first step but a small one. I have been thinking of diversifying into some good business for the past couple of years. I wasn’t very sure of the IIPM thing but when Arindam and I started talking about this we both became serious about going ahead. I see this as a learning process about something new. Maybe I will use the expertise I gain for something bigger.
What will be your role in IIPM Calcutta?
I am forming a company which will run the day-to-day affairs at IIPM Calcutta. We are trying to work as a franchisee. I will be their spokesperson. Basically, it is Prosenjit the brand and then there’s my company. I will attend the IIPM functions. The entire operational aspect will be looked after by my company.
What drew you to running a B-School?
I liked the fact that it is not related to TV or films. I was thinking of doing some respectable business, but which is completely different from what I do.... Just as Mithunda is into the hotel business, which has no connection with films. Some people had suggested that I get into real estate but for that you have to like the thing you are doing. My maternal grandfather had left his job with Indian Airlines to float the Air Technical Training Institute which is still there on VIP Road. It was the first of its kind in India. So, it runs in the family.... And Planman is a very good team. I wouldn’t have taken up the offer had it been any other company. It is an opening for me. Besides, it’s a challenge and I thrive on challenges.
What next, a film school?
I am not thinking of film schools right now because there are plenty in Bengal. Maybe something like this.... Why not? If I can get a Film City done in Calcutta I will try and get schools of international standards. That would make sense.