Parno Mittra and Goutam Ghose at The Conclave. Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya
I offered a cigarette to Parno on the first day of the Ekla Akash shoot to make her relax. I do it all the time with my co-actors because unless you become friends, you cannot act!” laughed Goutam Ghose at a media interaction in The Conclave on Tuesday. In debutant director Sandipan Roy’s Ekla Akash (releases on October 5 and produced by Morning Fresh Media), he plays a professor-turned-filmmaker; Parno Mittra plays an actress and his student. Does something cook between prof and student? You bet! A t2 chat with the filmmaker-actor.
You had acted in Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s Grihajuddha in 1982 and then Srijit Mukherji’s 22shey Srabon in 2011. What prompted you to take up Ekla Akash?
See, acting isn’t my profession; getting people to act is my profession. I had acted in Buddha’s (Buddhadeb Dasgupta) film long ago. I had to say yes to that for various reasons. Dhritiman (Chaterji) was supposed to play the character I portrayed in Grihajuddha. But he had date problems and Mamata Shankar told Buddha to request me to do the part. Buddha and Mamata came over to my place and I had to do the film.
After that a lot of directors wanted me to act in their films but I didn’t. And after a long time, Bumba (Prosenjit) and Srijit requested me to act in 22shey Srabon.
Sandipan told me, ‘Goutamda this is my debut film and you have to do it’. I said I would try. I felt that I must do it because this is a director’s first film and I must help and encourage him and that’s how Ekla Akash happened. And then I really enjoyed the process of shooting. I am fond of Sandipan and also Parno, who is my chhotto baby! And what should I say about Baban (Parambrata Chattopadhyay, who plays Parno’s husband)? He has also worked in my film Kalbela and he is a fine actor. I like working with young actors.
So what did you love about your role in Ekla Akash?
I play Satyabrata Ray, who’s known as SR in the film. Satyabrata belongs to an aristocratic family. He wanted to do a lot in life but could do very little. He can sing, he writes poems and wants to make a film. I have come across people like SR in life. People who do everything but are not very ambitious... a lot like me! I am not ambitious. So many people have asked me to do photography but I declined because I am not ambitious enough. I also say no to acting most of the time for the same reason.... So I could partly identify with the character. I only do things I like.... What happens in Ekla Akash is that SR develops a beautiful relationship with his student Nisha (Parno). He is attracted to her, which happens in life too... a minor infatuation or liking develops even though there’s an age gap.
Is there any sexual tension between them?
It’s very sweet, a little romantic, not really promiscuous. There’s an emotional attachment and they are dependent on each other. Sometimes Satyabrata is like a godfather to Nisha. She worships him like a mentor. There’s a lot of affection and maybe she gets a little infatuated.
Do you suppress your directorial instincts while acting in someone else’s film?
No, I become an actor while acting in someone else’s film. When I worked with Srijit in 22shey Srabon, I was very curious to see the camera angles. I roamed around on the sets, checking the lights. See, it’s a little difficult for a director to just be an actor. But since I am a trained theatre actor and I was taught alienation, I know how to alienate myself from everything. Alienation is something you can apply in all spheres of life. While acting I make myself conscious of the fact that I am playing a character and I am on the sets to do my job as an actor and that’s what I did, whether it was 22shey Srabon or Ekla Akash. But see, I am an experienced director and so I have given my suggestions in a few places. And the directors have accepted those happily.
Will we get to see actor Goutam Ghose more often?
(Laughs) No, not at all! Now whenever someone approaches me with a role, I say I’m busy with my own film!
Do you enjoy acting?
When I do act, I do it seriously. I enjoy it. Unless you enjoy it you can’t do anything. Actually, when Sandipan offered me the role I was a little worried about how I would find time. I tried my best.... It’s fun to act with the younger generation. Like the period that I captured in Kalbela is when we were young. One day Param (who played the protagonist in Kalbela) asked me about a particular scene which we were supposed to shoot in Job Charnock’s cemetery... Param and Paoli (Dam, who played Madhabilata) were supposed to go for a date. I told them that when I was young, I had taken several of my girlfriends there! It was a different kind of high in our times... to date in Job Charnock’s cemetery, the founder of Calcutta! Nobody goes there now. It’s a very romantic place! (Smiles).... So I enjoy working with young actors.
What’s the upside and downside of a director acting in someone else’s film?
Well, the advantage is that because I’m a director I have no problems with the technicalities. For instance, a lot of actors have problems walking with the trolley. I am very comfortable because I know the number of steps I have to take. The only disadvantage is that sometimes during a shot delivery, we may tend to think that had we been the director, we would have done it differently. That plays on the mind, but as I said you have to alienate yourself.
When I worked with Aparna (Sen) as the cinematographer for Mr. and Mrs. Iyer, I had the habit of instructing while checking the camera angles. Initially I started instructing Rahul (Bose) and Konkona (Sensharma), and Aparna is very sweet and very sweetly she told me, ‘Goutam, I’m the director!’ (Laughs)
What do you think of directors like Rituparno Ghosh, Anjan Dutt and Kaushik Ganguly who also act?
Well, all of them are very good. Ritu (Rituparno) is playing characters in his own way. For him it’s very personalised. Kaushik is a very competent actor. I have heard he has great comic timing and he has been acting for a long time. He has already done a lot of work in television. And Anjan, of course, started off as an actor. Why can’t directors act? In European films, the greatest examples are Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles.
So now that you’ve started acting again, do you have a dream role?
No, not really... because you know, I think I do things that come my way. I think all kinds of characters are interesting for an actor. Many actors dream to be a part of a biopic. An actor must take up all kinds of characters. Most importantly, whether I can play the character well is the first question I ask myself.
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