The man who would be prince

Tollywood star Prosenjit will be directing a Hindi film, he tells Sharmistha Ghosal. He's looking at Hrithik Roshan and Ranbir Kapoor for the lead role

By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 26.10.14
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The chestnut brown racks are neatly lined with books. A large painting of the mystic folk singer Lalan Fakir adorns one of the walls. The study is spic and span. But then the man who ushers me in is known, in Tollywood at least, as a perfectionist.

Prosenjit Chatterjee is also said to be moody — so one never knows what an interview is going to lead to. But this evening, he seems to be in a mood to talk.

"I am moody," he says with a warm smile. "But it doesn't affect or hurt others. For example, right now I might decide to go somewhere, but you can't be sure I will be there until I am there. I decide on the go," he laughs, sitting back snugly in a brown leather couch and sipping green tea.

But when it comes to his career, he is anything but whimsical. That explains why 31 years after he first acted as a hero, the actor continues to be one of the biggest stars of Bengali cinema. And he's not just a star but has managed to re-invent himself over the years. He won considerable acclaim for Jaatishwar (2013) and for his roles in many of Rituparno Ghosh's films. He has also been making inroads into Bollywood, and had a role in Dibakar Banerjee's 2012 film Shanghai.

So what's next?

"I have nothing to prove as an actor anymore. Now I am planning to direct a movie. It will be a national film in Hindi," the actor discloses, pausing to sip his tea. He elaborates that the film will focus on the gripping courtroom trials that revolved around Bhawal Sanyasi.

Bhawal Sanyasi kicked up a stir across Bengal in the early 1920s. Twelve years after the death of a prince of Bhawal — a zamindari estate in Dhaka — a half-naked, ash-smeared sadhu arrived in the then East Bengal city in 1921. Soon news spread that he was the late prince, who had actually not died. This led to a protracted court case that carried on till 1945, moving from Dhaka to Calcutta to London. The story led to a 1975 film starring Uttam Kumar called Sanyasi Raja and several books, including one by the scholar, Partha Chatterjee.

So who would be his Bhawal Raja? "I have thought of two names, Hrithik Roshan and Ranbir Kapoor. Ranbir for his acting skills and Hrithik for his ability to give it an international look," Chatterjee — known as Bumbada in the industry — adds.

The groundwork has already begun with talks in Mumbai. If everything goes according to schedule, shooting will begin in early 2016.

"A team of experts and I have been busy researching the film's plot, the history and, of course, the nuances of each character and their costumes. It has to be a classic movie in the true sense of the term," he adds.

Chatterjee, who is said to be greatly popular among Tollywood's technicians, has a role for them as well. He says about 90 per cent of the technicians will be from Calcutta, and he would like Soumik Halder to handle the cinematography. Most of the shooting will be done in Calcutta. "Music will play a big role in the film and I have someone like (the composer) Debajyoti Mishra in mind."

For Chatterjee, who's not going to act in the film, this is a mega project. This will not be his directorial debut — way back in 1992 he directed an eminently forgettable film called Purushottam. With this film, he would hope to wipe out that memory of his debut. Sometime later, Chatterjee adds, he plans to direct a Hindi film based on Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay's novel Debi Choudhurani.

He has other plans for 2015, too. He will be busy with two major films — one directed by Goutam Ghose and the other, an epic two-part film based on the Mahabharata, by Kamaleshwar Mukherjee. Mukherjee apparently is still to make up his mind on the other stars, but has locked the part of Bhishma, the main protagonist, for Chatterjee.

"The role is challenging since the movie is a contemporary film based on the epic. So my Bhishma is a modern day bachelor with good looks and a great physique, who, as the film progresses, will turn into a wise old man. He's the storyteller. I will experiment a lot with my looks for this film," he adds.

For the right body, Chatterjee has been working out regularly. Every night, he jogs in his garden for an hour before hitting the gym. "That's the only time I get for myself," he says.

With a busy schedule like his, how does he find time for his wife, actress Arpita, and 10-year-old son, Trishanjit? "I buy all the clothes for my son and try to be with him whenever possible. Such occasions are rare but I am committed to my work, too. That is my oxygen," he says.

With Arpita busy shooting for a film in Mumbai, the couple talk, fight and romance on BBM, the actor says. "In fact, I was texting her from my bedroom in the morning, as she was busy with a photo shoot in the garden," he says with a grin. Is there anything he misses in life?

"Yes, it's a person and not a thing. Rituparno Ghosh," he replies, referring to the director who died last year. "Ritu was the only person with whom I could share my deepest and most personal problems and he was the one whom both Arpita and I used to listen to. Now there is no one — there's just a big void," he says.

His favourite project to date is Ghosh's film Dosar. "That's not because I got a National Award for it, but it was the only film where I had only my eyes to emote and act and make the character loveable in the end," he says.

But now it's time for the man who would be prince. And like the case that lives on more than 90 years after it first broke, Bumbada hopes to makes a film that few would forget.