Dutt's my Byomkesh
Anjan Dutt on making a fresh, racy, edgy start with Jisshu as his new Byomkesh
- Published 8.05.15
You have wrapped up the shoot of your fourth Byomkesh film, Byomkesh Bakshi, with a brand new Byomkesh. Take us through exit Abir-enter Jisshu...
When Abir left for Feluda, I was very depressed. But in our profession you cannot cry over spilt milk. The actor is free to leave, I can’t force him to stay back. Sharadindu (Bandyopadhyay) has been testing us over the years, and we have gone through a lot of crises, but we hung on to our faith and belief. Abir left but Saswata (Chatterjee) didn’t. So I went around, and I decided that instead of looking for another fresh face, I would rather take someone established and make him into Byomkesh. This was a completely different exercise. Initially, I thought that I would have to change the whole family, because that’s the rational thing to do. If Goopy goes, then Bagha goes too, right?! I mulled over this for some time and had a long chat with my actors, and both Saswata and Ushasie (Satyabati) felt that they in their own way would adjust to the changes and be a part of the franchise. So I went with them.
Why is Jisshu Sengupta your suitable Byomkesh Bakshi?
I didn’t want somebody to behave like Abir. The Byomkesh that you have seen till now has a lot of weight... he thinks, he is not vulnerable or snappy, he is not weak or edgy. He is a very cool, calm, intelligent, sharp Bengali. That was Abir’s Byomkesh. When I thought of the new Byomkesh, I thought of somebody who is fast, edgy, can make mistakes and then correct his mistakes, can be beaten up and can beat up other people… I was looking for a slightly different Byomkesh and someone who can carry off the dhuti and panjabi. Jisshu was perfect for that. There’s a certain edginess, swiftness, humour, wit and vulnerability in him, which is there in Byomkesh. So I told Jisshu to do his own Byomkesh and not follow Abir.
Did you ever think how the audience would react?
Not at all. See, I took a risk with Abir, who was then a nobody. And it worked.
But there will be comparisons...
Let the comparisons be. But I’m confident that this new Byomkesh will be a surprise. And if we make it well, perhaps it’ll be more exciting. Jisshu is a director’s actor. He is very instinctive, and not a method actor like me. And Byomkesh goes by his instincts. I’m very confident with Jisshu. The only question was, ‘Will the chocolate-faced romantic boy work as Byomkesh?’ We were mulling over it and after a certain point we were convinced that if he listens to us, and believes in us, which he does, then we’ll pull it off.
Did you do a lot of workshops?
No, I don’t believe in that. I hate doing workshops. If somebody’s a method actor, I move him towards the method. And if someone’s instinctive, I let him be... it’ll work out on the sets. I just told Jisshu to speak fast in Bengali, to really rattle off his lines. He practised and delivered.
How has the Jisshu-Saswata chemistry worked out?
They are like Tom and Jerry, constantly having fun with each other. If the family is perfect, the franchise is a success.
What does Byomkesh Bakshi focus on?
The film has lot to do with gambling. Sharadindu’s main philosophy was that money leads to corruption that leads to moral degradation and thereby violence. You are trying to make money by luck with gambling. Kohen Kabi Kalidas happens to be one of the better Byomkesh stories. I started with the simple stories, since somehow I had guessed that Byomkesh would be successful, and I have tried to slowly move towards better stories, which are more complex, tricky, intriguing.
Has Dibakar Banerjee’s Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! in any way influenced your fourth film?
Not at all. I was very convinced of what I was doing. With each film I am maturing, and stylistically this film is an improved version. When we started off we were finding it difficult to create the hard core noir in an Indian reality. So we went back to the classical format, and as we progressed that form became more complex in terms of time, which means if you see the first film there are very few flashbacks. In the second film there aren’t any. In the third there are lots. And in the fourth we are really into time-jumping. This improves on the style. This film will have more action... it’ll be snappy, less vocal, more exteriors. The film has to race, it’ll be very fast-paced.
Are you now only depending on your Byomkesh films for commercial success?
No, I’m taking on far more challenging stuff than Bong Connection or Madly Bangalee or Ranjana. I’ll be doing one Byomkesh every year, but I’ll also be doing far more different films. Rather I would say Byomkesh helps me experiment with my other films more. I have to do different kinds of films. I’ll start shooting Hamlet starring Parambrata Chattopadhyay in October. Saswata plays King Claudius.
At 62, what keeps you ticking?
There are two ways to fade out. One is to take it calm, and be a bit spiritual, and slowly walk towards the door and leave. And the other way is to create a ruckus before leaving… break the stage, break the chair and then leave.... That’s me.
Will Jisshu make a better Byomkesh than Abir?