Parambrata and Vidya Balan in Kahaani
You were in London for film studies when Kahaani (releases on March 9) came your way. Tell us how it happened...
I had spoken to Sujoy (Ghosh, director) only once back in 2007 at the MAMI film festival in Mumbai where The Bong Connection was being screened. Post-screening, he walked up to me and said heavy legechhey! I was taken aback.... Coming to the offer, I was travelling to Paris from England when I got a mail from Arindam Sil (executive producer of Kahaani) asking me when I was planning to return. A couple of days later, I got a call from a Bombay number. The voice on the other side screamed, Eijey beraler bachcha! I was like, Ke re? The voice said, Whos this ki? Amar naam Sujoy Ghosh. Tumi England e theke amay cheno na! He told me to return soon. They wanted a couple of photographs of mine. The next day I had a Skype chat with Sujoy where he briefly narrated the story idea of Kahaani. But I was still in two minds!
Actually I was supposed to travel to Rome with Ike (his girlfriend who lives in the Netherlands). Sujoy called the next day and said, If we do make a good film in the end, then its my responsibility to send you to Rome! I discussed it with Ike and she told me this might be something important. Rome will be there for another 2,000 years! I came back and had a meeting in the evening. We started shooting in three days.... Oh, when I returned I had long hair and a beard, and Sujoy said, Shon eita amar chai, and I was like, really, for a cop!? He said, No for another film!
So theres another film in the pipeline?
Well, lets see! Let Kahaani release first.
From the promos of the film, Vidya Balan seems to be the hero of Kahaani. How important is your role?
According to Sujoy, there are two heroes in Kahaani — Vidya and Calcutta. And if there is a heroine, then thats me. (Laughs.) Just kidding! I play Satyaki Sinha, a cop who helps Vidya Bagchi (Vidya Balan) in her search for her missing husband, Arnab. Satyaki feels kind of compelled to guide and help her, and becomes her closest aide.
The friendship starts when Vidya comes to a police station and Kharajda (Mukherjee), the borobabu of the police station, asks Satyaki to drop her home.... Vidya is clueless about the city. For any help, she rushes to Satyaki and he is this young cadet in the police force. He is still not aware of the ways of the administration but he does everything he can to help her. After a point, a close friendship develops between the two. But its not romantic. For Satyaki, Vidya turns out to be a unique blend of a mother and an elder sister. Besides, she is beautiful, so Satyaki obviously likes that too!
Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya
So, Kahaani is your ticket to Bollywood?
I am very happy working in Bengal right now. I think, at the moment, Bengal is in the thick of things.... Bollywood gives you exposure on a wider platform. My Bengali fans in Bangalore or Delhi rue that their non-Bong friends dont know who Parambrata is. The promos of Kahaani have excited them. Sujoy messaged me that you are spreading here in Bombay. Its a fantastic industry in Bombay and I would love to grab any opportunity there but not forsaking what is going on for me here.
What are your expectations from Kahaani?
Well, I am expecting a lot of interest in the film, which is actually happening. I think its primarily because of Vidya after The Dirty Picture. For the Bombay people, everything in the movie is new... the narrow alleys, chhau naach, Durga Puja. I will be happy if people like my work because my work was to make my presence felt yet be invisible.
Was being invisible the brief from Sujoy?
Yes, because the film is guided by Vidya. Satyaki is there in a pivotal role but he never tries to overpower Vidya Bagchi. I should never try to show my acting prowess in any way. That was the brief from Sujoy and thats the brief I gave myself too.
Youve worked with Vidya in Bhalo Theko; what is her style of working?
She is an impulsive actress. The one thing I noticed about her is that whenever there was an intense scene, she did something that I used to do a lot before and I thought, oh my god, even she does it! That is she would get away from the rest of the world, put her iPod on and quietly listen to music. So this kind of brought back the habit in me.
Being a filmmaker yourself, what did you think of Sujoy as a director?
I think Sujoy belongs to the hardcore American school of filmmakers who believe that the narrative and the performances guide the rest of the format. He loves fantasies and human tales. I have seen all his films. I loved Jhankaar Beats and Home Delivery. I didnt like Aladin... it became a little too big for the cuteness of the subject. I think Kahaani is Sujoys best film till date. Not only in terms of script but also the way it is made. The whole film has handheld shots in a very candid way, the camera doesnt stay in one place for a single second.
Also, the combination of Sujoy and Setu (cinematographer) is very good. Setu shot the film like a Fernando Meirelles film, where there are no pre-planned shots. It was a very organic process. We also had a lot of fun. We used to play pranks on Sujoy. He would roam around the sets in half-pants! If we would play a very raw prank on him, he would say, Bhansali (Sanjay Leela) hole korte partish!?
What have you learnt from Sujoy as a director?
He is not somebody who would come up and tell you, do this or do that. Sujoy, as a director, is very panicky. He believes in a little hustle-bustle. But he can go to any extent for a shot that he thinks is necessary. At Kumartuli, we got into a lot of trouble....
Theres one sequence with Vidya and me inside a car. Its in the very early stages of the film and Sujoy was looking to shoot it at a particular time of the day. We shot that scene about 15-16 times. At different times of the day, which I would never do. I would do three takes max and say, okay we will do the DI (Digital Intermediate). I think I as a director would be more kicked about the form, while Sujoy is focused on whether the script is being followed. The script is god for him. He tends to leave the form of the shooting to the director of photography. I personally would like to instruct the DoP how to take a shot because I am way too much in love with shots.
You have some Tolly releases lined up...
Yes. (Anik Dattas) Bhooter Bhabishyat, (Mainak Bhaumiks) Maach Mishti More, (Sandipan Rays) Ekla Akash, (Srijit Mukherjis) Hemlock Society. Im expecting a lot from Hemlock Society. Its a very unique film not only for me as an actor but also for Srijit as a filmmaker. The idea has come out of a real-life, very personal experience. After watching the first cut, I am quite hopeful about Maach Mishti. Its turned out to be a fun, freaky film where I basically play a kelaney dhyarosh (an idiot)! As far as Bhooter Bhabishyat is concerned, well, I am there throughout the film but its not my film. I really liked my performance in Ekla Akash.
Your plans as a producer?
We are about to start another film in April with a new director. If I do the film that I am planning to, Workshop will have a role to play then.
What films have you signed?
I am doing Anjan Dass film which starts in end-March. Its about an architect who realises certain truths about his job and starts going mad. Tanusree plays the wife.