Fact and fantasy - Prosenjit escapes into the world of bolly heroines

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  • Published 9.03.09
Prosenjit as Biplab in Subhadro Chowdhury’s untitled film. Pictures by Aranya Sen

Shabby vests, crumpled fatuas, worn-out trousers and a living room that looks more like a junkyard. For two weeks in February, Prosenjit gladly put up with a spartan life for Subhadro Chowdhury’s untitled film.

Subhadro is the one whose directorial debut Prohor, starring Debasree Roy, had won him the National Award for best first film in 2003. The untitled film, his second, is about the timid and insecure Biplab, a government clerk.

“Biplab leads a boring life by day but lives in a colourful fantasy world at night. The movement of the character becomes the story and you don’t know what happens till the last shot,” says Subhadro.

The posters of Kareena Kapoor and Rani Mukerji gracing the walls of Biplab’s room — in a set in Bharatlakshmi Studio — provide the cue.

“Yes, Biplab talks to Bollywood heroines in his fantasy. He tells them stories. It’s like an obsession for him. It is how he escapes from his boring life.... But all of us at some point have such fantasies,” he adds.

Subhadro Chowdhury

There are about 42 other characters but none of them is a known face. “Biplab does have a love interest but she doesn’t have any dialogue,” clarifies Subhadro, who knocked on Prosenjit’s door with his story one fine day. “I couldn’t think of anyone else who had the capacity to pull off a 100-minute character-driven film,” he says.

Prosenjit hadn’t taken more than a minute to say yes to the film. “I am doing this film because such a script doesn’t come my way everyday. And because the character passes through very real-life situations, acting becomes so much more difficult. Here is a character who becomes the story. I am taking this film as a mono act. If I fail, the film fails. Biplab during the day is so different from Biplab at night that this is like a double role for me,” says Tollywood’s leading hero.

The visual story

To shoot the documentary-style film, cinematographer Shirsha Roy took a break from Bollywood, where he has finished Sujoy Ghosh’s Rs 60-crore blockbuster Aladdin, starring Amitabh Bachchan.

“While shooting for Aladdin, I had everything at my disposal. And here, it is the other extreme. Doing something unique with limited resources is very challenging,” says Shirsha, who has worked in Anjan Das’s Iti Srikanta and Jara Brishtite Bhijechhilo among others. “There’s a hint of magic realism in Subhadro’s film. So I had to break out of my style. I couldn’t go to the floors with any preconceived notion. There’s a parallel storytelling in the cinematography,” he adds.

Director’s cut

For Subhadro, his first film has been like one step forward and two steps back. Prohor earned him critical appreciation, while also making sure that producers stayed a mile away.

“Actually, I had to reshoot the whole of Prohor because of a technical problem. And after that no producer wanted to work with me,” says the film graduate from FTII Pune. But the incident hasn’t shaken his confidence. “This new film isn’t a box office film either. If it works, it will stay. I have no target audience in mind,” says Subhadro, matter-of-factly. In the past five years, he has made telefilms, corporate films and documentaries.

So, it was a pleasant surprise when Nitesh Sharma of Bangla Talkies came on board without wasting a moment after hearing the script. “I believe this film will be something different from Calcutta. I am not worried about losing money and I know we will recover the costs. We will take this film to the festivals and we will enter the competition section,” says a confident Nitesh.