KAKABABU calling

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By Kakababu Prosenjit and director Srijit Mukherji chat — and crack up — with us at the t2 office. The topic? Mishawr Rawhoshyo!
  • Published 31.10.13
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Off to egypt

Abhinanda Datta (Jadavpur University): What was your reaction when you first got the offer to play Kakababu?

Prosenjit: (Smiles) Srijit, you want to tell them?

Srijit Mukherji: The first offer came from Bumbada. Kakababu was his idea.

Prosenjit: It wasn’t my idea! See, I have done a lot of films but I felt that there was this one space where I had not done anything — for children... play a character that has been written by an author here, like Tenida or Feluda or Bomkesh. And I thought Kakababu was the right age and right thing for me to do and I can, maybe, if I try. While talking to Sunilda [Gangopadhyay, the author of the Kakababu series], I just asked him ‘Will you give us the permission to do this?’ And he said ‘If you do it, it will be great’.

Of course, for me, Kakababu meant Samit Bhanja and Shobuj Dweeper Raja. Bubuda was fantastic! But after that no one worked with Kakababu in a big way. When Srijit took this up we were very sure that if the first Kakababu film clicked, we would carry it forward. Now, people have accepted me as Kakababu, they want to know when the next Kakababu will happen. But it wasn’t easy.

Samhita Chakraborty (Team t2): So, what were the challenges you faced when playing this role?

Prosenjit: If today we talk about a character like Arun Chatterjee (Autograph), it is our creation. We both [he and Srijit] made the character. We had ownership of the character. But Kakababu is not only Sunilda’s ownership but every Bengali has ownership over him. That’s why it was so difficult.

Srijit: And every ownership is different.

Prosenjit: If you think of Kakababu in a certain way, your father will think of him in a different way and when we are making a film we have to keep in mind that we have to show the film to you, to your father and the generation that comes after you as well. Or else we won’t have a hit film.

I had this problem while playing Lalan too [in Moner Manush]. I had to really handle this [carefully] because, firstly, he was a person from a different time period and there are no pictures of him.

Antarleena Sikdar (St. Xavier’s College): Why Mishawr Rawhoshyo? Why not any other Kakababu story?

Srijit: There are better stories in the Kakababu series that appealed to me more than Mishawr but the answer lies in the name of the story. It’s not Uluberia Rawhoshyo, or Chunchura Rawhoshyo, not even Lucknow Rawhoshyo or Kashmir Rawhoshyo. It’s ‘Mishawr’ Rawhoshyo, a country which has a civilisation that is 5,000 years old. We’ve been brought up with this whole exotica about Egypt and I wanted to start Kakababu with a BANG! Also, Egypt was going through a period of political turmoil. If I had to reinterpret or re-present a story which was written in the 1980s, as a director I needed something that would enable me to add another layer to the story.

Malancha Dasgupta (Team t2): What was the experience of shooting in Egypt like, especially given all the unrest?

Srijit: Oh, it was an adventure by itself actually. There was curfew, people were dying in police firing… we used to hear all this when we were back in the hotel. There used to be a lot of agitation in the hotel because of that. There was a constant presence of the tourism police and the military while the shoot was going on, it was very closely monitored. Shooting was stalled on a couple of occasions….

Then we went to Catania Desert, where we shot the camel chase sequence, that was like 26km inside Sahara Desert. There was no one, it was absolutely barren, no communication, no civilisation. We got surrounded by the Bedouin mafia there, who were carrying light machine guns… we just escaped, barely.

the new kakababu

Samhita: A lot of popular franchises are being upgraded, a prime example being BBC’s Sherlock, but there the stories too have been reinterpreted. So, when you brought Kakababu to 2012, did you consider upgrading the story as well?

Srijit: No, because unfortunately my surname is Mukherji and I belong to Bengal, where there’s this kind of a holy cow syndrome, which forbids you to reinterpret or take a re-look at classic characters in contemporary times. So, one step at a time. I have started with upgrading or re-packaging the character. Later, if the number of brickbats that I have received for Mishawr Rawhoshyo goes down exponentially, and people understand that every person has the right to interpret his or her childhood icon and people become more open to the idea of non-canonical work without threatening with guillotine or public execution, we shall get into that area (smiles).

Ritwik Sen (Techno India College): What did you feel about playing a modern Kakababu? Someone who uses a tab and an iPhone and is pretty active on Twitter...

Prosenjit: I think that was very normal. If Kakababu existed today he would use an iPad, he would google, he would not go to a library. And he is so modern mentally, he would try to use all modern technology. He would not like to waste time, especially because he’s someone who has travelled the world. If I saw a Kakababu of today making a phone call from a booth it would seem absurd!

Srijit: Kakababu has always been ahead of his time. So, if time has moved forward and Kakababu stays where he was then he falls behind.

Chandreyee Chatterjee (Team t2): Mishawr’s Kakababu is quite different from the Kakababu of the books. Is there anyone that you studied for inspiration?

Prosenjit: I think the Kakababu Sunilda had originally created, he had gravitas, but the way my father talks to me, even today, I don’t talk to my son like that. And vice versa. Times have changed. Today’s Kakababu’s relation with Santu will be different, just like my relation with somebody younger will be different than what my relation with my seniors is. Kakababu and Santu’s relation is almost like father and son. It is a very sweet relation.

Also Srijit has his own style of storytelling, which as a director, he has tried to put into Kakababu and I think it has worked. Somewhere, I had to bring together Kakababu and Prosenjit. Some people also went to see Prosenjit, right? You have to understand, Srijit as a director is handling two brands. Kakababu is of course a brand but I too have a brand of 30 years. My audience will also want something — humour, action. After a long time people have seen me do some action.

Srijit: And I also have a very small audience, who will look for a certain kind of sense of humour.

signature look

Abhinanda: How long did it take for you to get the Kakababu look right?

Prosenjit: Three to four months.

Srijit: The maximum problem we had was with the hair. Also, the moustache and the sideburns.

Chandreyee: How much input did each of you have in Kakababu’s look?

Srijit: It was a joint effort. What Bumbada does is he gives me three or four options. And I have to give credit to the infrastructure at Bumbada’s end as his office sent me pictures of him in different hairstyles and beards in 10 minutes, so I could make decisions faster. We used illustrations in the Kakababu books as a reference.

Chandreyee: Also, his clothes have the potential to become a signature outfit...

Prosenjit: Absolutely!

Srijit: Well, it might be difficult to explain that Kakababu does take a bath every day (laughs) but yes, we’ll stick to that outfit. In fact, that was one of our dilemmas. How does he get into the outfit? Because he is coming from the airport and he gets kidnapped immediately. That is when we thought of introducing the ‘Uno momento’ scene.

Malancha: How much time did it take to master the walk?

Prosenjit: A lot. But now I can do it instinctively. Just like people don’t forget how to swim, if I am given the crutch now, I can walk the Kakababu walk for as long as you want.

Srijit: We tried out nine or 10 different walks... which is looking better, putting stress on which side will look more authentic.... I had actually expected a lot of people to ask me why we used a single crutch instead of a double crutch but nobody did.

Disha Roychaudhuri (Jadavpur University): What were the best compliments you received for this film?

Prosenjit: That it’s my best performance. Actors have said so.

Srijit: A lot of people have called it my best film. My best compliment was people writing to me saying that children brought up on Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings are asking where they can get the Kakababu series. Game, set, match, championship!

Prosenjit: The movie was bigger in scale than even some of the big Indian films.

Srijit: That’s why we picked Mishawr. Actually, ideally the story should have been named Mishawr Abhijaan not Mishawr Rawhoshyo because the rawhoshyo quotient is slightly lacking, even in the story. It is more like a discovery and adventure. But if I had made Mishawr Rawhoshyo and called it Mishawr Abhijaan then I would have faced more flak.

santu’s love life

Samhita: You said you received a lot of brickbats for upgrading Kakababu?

Srijit: Oh yes. And also for Santu. Santu keno prem korchhe was a major bone of contention.

Ritwik: Yes, I wanted to ask you about the Santu-Rini romance. In the book, they are just friends…

Srijit: I would beg to differ on that. They were not ‘just’ friends, there was this very naughty, backslapping sort of a chemistry between Santu and Rini, which at their age was very natural. I have seen in my own experience and in the experience of my friends that when a guy and girl are at a particular age, they might be great buddies, but later when the realisation of their bodies and their minds come in, those same relationships can turn romantic. And I have extrapolated that on the basis of the clues given by Sunilda himself.

music and pun

Disha: What is the significance of the songs in the film, particularly Balir shohor and Dilli?

Srijit: They are just a part of the narrative. Instead of writing a scene in prose, I depict that scene with poetry, rhythm and tune. That’s all.

Abhinanda: You used a song during a chase sequence, which we don’t usually see in a film...

Srijit: Not only that, I have used a romantic song in a chase, that too of the ’60s and there was a lot of visual punning that I am sure very few people got. The lyrics went like Keno aaj aakash bataash bhoriye diley gaane gaane and you could see the ‘guns’. Or Ichhe gulir porosh laagey praane and you can actually see the ‘guli’ (bullet) being fired on the beat of ichhe guli.

Prosenjit: There are a lot of people who have read or seen Kakababu but there is a large section of people who haven’t. My son [Trishanjit], who is nine years old, has till now seen only one of my films, Bikram Singha. But this film he has already seen twice and, just like when we were young and knew the background scores of films by heart, he knows the music by heart. He’s also playing the Kakababu mobile game.

looking ahead

Samhita: Will there be more Kakababu films?

Srijit: Yes, we’ve planned three. Actually I wanted to make a trilogy — a desert, a mountain and a jungle. The desert is done. Most probably we’re looking at mountain after this, which could be Kakababu Bajra Lama, Paharchuray Aatonko or Bhayankar Sundor. One in Sikkim, one in the basecamp of the Everest, kind of a difficult shoot, and Kashmir, also a difficult shoot.

Malancha: Are there any flaws that you plan to correct in the next film?

Srijit: The level of CG [computer graphics] will improve, which I am actively working on…. Then, a lot of people had issues with the length of Mishawr, including myself. But I thought it was a necessary evil because there were a few tracks in the story that were crucial to the structure of the plot…. Also, this was the beginning of a franchise where I needed to show Kakababu in his habitat of a joint family where all the relationships of the franchise are established…. Next one we are trying to make much more lean.

parting shot

Antarleena: Santu toh Rini peye galo, Kakima kobe hochhe?

Srijit: That is a brilliant question (everybody laughs)! See, I have to make movies, and I have to make movies in Bengal (grins). So, Kakima ta ektu barabari hoye jabey. And I have already explained why. Kakababu says, ‘I have stayed single all my life so that I can lead my life on my own terms.’

Prosenjit: Yes. We have made that clear in the first film itself.

Srijit: Kakababu’s wanderlust will be very difficult to maintain in holy matrimony. But if you put in a petition to end Santu and Rini’s relationship I can do that. I can make him sanitised. Of course, Santu is going to feel bad.

(The room erupts in laughter and it’s time to pack up.)

What do you want or don’t want in the next Kakababu film? Tell t2@abp.in