Dreams are all we have

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By Arjun Chakraborty talks Tollylights on the eve of his directorial debut KUSHALI NAG
  • Published 28.02.08
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Arjun Chakraborty explains a shot to Sunny Deol

Lights, camera, action.... Here, comes Tollylights! Actor Arjun Chakraborty is ready with his directorial debut decades after assisting mentor Gulzar in Namkeen, Devdas, Angoor and Libas. Arjun tells t2 all about his Friday release...

What is Tollylights all about?

It’s about craving for a new life. It’s about the desire to be something different. It is also about lofty aims, running after dreams that may never come true and shattered emotions. The story revolves around a housewife, played by Sreelekha (Mitra), who becomes a sought-after film actress. It’s about how everything changes in her life.... Her relationship with her husband, her son. She enjoys the perks of being famous but loses her family.

What drew you to this story?

Tollylights is an adaptation of Suchitra Bhattacharya’s novel Rangeen Prithibi. What I liked about the novel were the unwritten lines and unexpressed emotions. Though the novel sheds light on Tollywood, it doesn’t remain just a story of the tinsel world at the end. It becomes everyone’s story. Rangeen Prithibi gave me the possibility to express myself. I took liberties as one had to read between the lines in several places. So I could blend the reel and the real.

How did you plan and design the film?

I designed the film in a way where the story was the focus of all attention and not the stars. Also, while designing the characters, I was very meticulous in exploring the psychological aspect of each character. I chose to have actors whose characteristics match that of the story.

Why did you cast Sreelekha in the lead?

I didn’t want an established star in my film because the character is that of a simple faceless housewife who becomes a star. Sreelekha had the simplicity and innocence to be my protagonist Krishnakali. I could show the gradual change in her.... From a contented housewife to a mother of a six-year-old thrown into the world of stardom.

And not just Sreelekha, I was particular about all the other characters. Barun Chanda, for instance. I wanted a mature once-upon-a-time star and Barunda fitted the bill. His character is in a live-in relationship with Krishnakali. Arindam Sil, who plays Krishnakali’s husband, has the look of a north Calcuttan with extremely rigid values.

Was it easy directing your colleagues? Oh it was wonderful! All my actors and technicians were very patient and obedient. They had complete faith in me. There are lots of actors who are doing cameos in Tollylights. There’s Mithun, Abhishek Chatterjee, Satabdi Roy.... It was important to have some stars as the film revolves around Tollywood. Sunny Deol is the face of hope in the film.... I play an aspiring film-maker.

Were you a dictatorial director?

Not at all. Not just my actors, even the spotboys had their say. Since there’s a film within a film I used a lot of spotboys; while shooting some of them would pitch in with their suggestions which I accepted and shot the scene their way.

The film’s music is special...

Tejendra Narayan Majumdar has composed the music though a lot of people had discouraged me since he is a sarod player. But he has done a fantastic job. There are five songs. One of the tracks is like a Sixties number, while another has the flavour of a 1920s song like the ones Kananbala Debi would sing. Prita, a newcomer, has playbacked for this number.

Arjun with Sreelekha in the film

What kind of audience are you expecting?

I am not targeting any particular section. I want everyone to see Tollylights. It’s both for the masses and the classes.... We are not hyping it up either. Frankly, we don’t want audience expectations to rise. Some hoardings and TV promos, that’s it. Rest will be all word of mouth.

Will Gulzar be there for the Tollylights premiere?

Yes, he will be in Calcutta for the premiere on Thursday. We spoke over phone before I started shooting. He was very happy. He said: “Tum jo bhi banaoge, achha hi hoga.” Let’s see if I can live up to his expectations.

How would you rate yourself — as an actor and a director?

I can’t, because ratings are film-specific. As an actor I have done good, bad and ugly films. Some I did for money, some for fame and others for good directors. But as a director I will take full responsibility if Tollylights flops because I believe actors are just pawns on a chessboard.