They are one of the most successful actor-director duos in Bengali cinema. They have not only garnered acclaim for their clutter-breaking films but have also elevated the art of storytelling. The success of their first film, Autograph propelled them into the list of hitmakers, and Prosenjit and Srijit Mukherji have delivered one blockbuster after another. Srijit’s upcoming Puja release Dawshom Awbotaar, starring Prosenjit, Anirban Bhattacharya, Jisshu Sengupta and Jaya Ahsan, is a double prequel of Srijit’s 22shey Srabon and Vinci Da. Srijit had directed Prosenjit in a cop avatar and created history with the cult classic 22shey Srabon, and then had gone on to create the character of a no-nonsense police officer in his film, Vinci Da. This time, he has expanded it into a cop universe where the ruthless cop Probir Roy Chowdhury meets Anirban’s Bijoy Poddar, and together they solve a case. A t2 chat with Prosenjit and Srijit.
Bumbada, could you ever imagine that you would make a comeback as Probir Roy Chowdhury?
Prosenjit: I always had this wish... and when Srijit announced his Dwitiyo Purush, a sequel to 22shey Srabon, I called him up on that day itself. I asked him: ‘Where is Probir?’ He replied: ‘But Probir died at the end of 22shey Srabon. How can I bring him back?’ Srijit took 12 years to bring back Probir. Of course, it was beyond my expectations. Bengal cinema finally got a double prequel. I am really excited. Srijit had created a character which left a deep impact on the audience.
What was your reaction when he told you about it?
Prosenjit: I was like: ‘But how will it happen?’ Then he explained it to me. Srijit has brought back two characters from his films, and that is something really unique.
Srijit, the sequel to 22shey Srabon, happened after nine years. You came up with the idea for Dawshom Awbotaar comparatively quickly. Was there any commercial consideration behind making Dawshom Awbotaar or did it happen organically?
Srijit: I have never made a single film keeping commercial considerations in mind. I have written a sequel or a prequel whenever I felt the desire to interact with a character. I have always tried out different genres. I made a film like Sherdil on the environment. I always try to reinvent myself. One thing is true: I like to constantly come back to thrillers. That is my comfort zone. That is valid for Dawshom Awbotaar. Also, I had made a promise to this man. I loved his hunger. Also, the iconic character has a following. It was a challenge to bring Probir back... it was nostalgic as well. We started missing the man. I owe a lot to Probir.
Now Bangla cinema hasn’t seen a cop universe. Yet we have had some fantastic cops in movies since the time of Shotru. Now, from my films, (the cop) Bijoy Poddar was a rage. Though the film was primarily about Vinci Da and Adi Bose, the maximum memes made were of Poddar and his dialogues. Probir works best when he has an assistant. He needs someone else to play off and that’s where Bijoy Poddar comes in. That’s how I got a cop universe and a double prequel.
Now, I have had a couple of ideas since Dwitiyo Purush. The stories from mythology have always fascinated me. I was collaborating with Arnab for Mahabharat Murders. I first floated the idea of Dawshom Awbotaar for the second season of Mahabharat Murders. The germ of the idea was there. But then it didn’t pan out. The idea stayed with me. When these two iconic characters returned, I knew I could connect the idea and make a thriller.
The trailer has been designed in a mass-y way, with these slo-mo shots, the style and the emphasis on scintillating dialogues. Has the film been designed in a different way from its predecessors which were more gritty, and realistic?
Srijit: Yes. This is a genre which we have not explored. And the moment we are talking about a cop universe, featuring cops with swagger, you need a treatment like this. This treatment is building on the charisma which has already been set in the previous films. We are playing on the charisma and the swag. It’s a howdunit and a whydunit but we are following the classic structure. We have added a bit of spice to the presentation. But again, my cops follow the principles of physics. My cop universe has swag but it is still in the realistic zone. People actually chase; they sweat, and pant while chasing. It is mass-y swag but grounded in realism. This is my cop universe.
Bumbada, how did you become Probir Roy Chowdhury once again? How did you get into his headspace?
Prosenjit: We had to go back 10 years from the timeline of 22shey Srabon. See, Probir is inside me. I had already done the work. In 22shey..., Probir is seen resigned to his home, spending a lot of time drinking. Probir in Dawshom Awbotaar is not like that. He is very active.
Srijit: In this film, he is in the middle of action. He is carrying out an investigation; he is chasing people, and ambushing a suspect. Whereas in 22shey... there was this lethargy about Probir.
Prosenjit: And then I had to deliver those cuss words.
Srijit: In Probir’s head, he does not use cuss words. I have friends in Delhi who use cuss words like they say ‘good morning’. And they don’t even realise that they are using cuss words. That’s the moja; the sweetness. It is part of the linguistic culture of that region. It is the same for Probir.
Bumbada, how was Srijit on the sets of 22shey Srabon and Dawshom Awbotaar? What was the difference?
Prosenjit: He was slimmer, had long hair (smiles)... since 22shey..., he had developed a habit of sitting at the monitor and giving instructions. On the sets of Dawshom... I saw a different Srijit. He was more mobile. I had seen him like this on the sets of Autograph. On the sets of Dawshom Awbotaar, he would come and talk to the actors, he would walk up to the cinematographer and talk to him; if there was a problem on the set, he would solve it. He was more physically active.
Srijit: I have done crowd control on the sets of Raajkahini. But Dawshom Awbotaar was a physically demanding film.
Srijit, how has Bumbada changed over the years?
Srijit: He is kind of like a time machine. Time stands still for Bumbada, from his approach to the craft to his kindness... his kindness towards his co-actors. He is so down to earth. This kindness makes Bumbada, Bumbada. Love helps you to do a lot of things which nothing else can. Bumbada is that love; is that kindness. What remains after everything is what you remember of that man. My whole unit swears by Bumbada.
Bumbada, how was it like working with Anirban?
Prosenjit: We’ll do five more films together! The young generation will really enjoy their chemistry... they are from different ends of the spectrum, and then they come together. They fight, they bond... there are all kinds of shades.
Srijit: They were constantly improvising during a chase sequence. I just couldn’t cut anything in the edit. Every dialogue is so hilarious. When you put two good actors together, they play off each other. It was such an enjoyable chase sequence.
What are your thoughts on the Puja releases?
Srijit: Our trailer reaction is outstanding. Every year there is one slightly weaker film among the Puja releases. There is no weak film this Puja. At the end of the day, Bangla cinema will be the winner. It is necessary and very important. Watch all the films but start with Dawshom Awbotaar (smiles)!
Prosenjit: The audience waits eagerly for a Prosenjit-Srijit film. All the films that are released during Puja should work wonders at the box office. The collection from all four films should make history at the Bengali box office.