Man on a mission

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By Jeet on being army-fit and fearless for Friday film Game, and his road map for Tollywood
  • Published 29.05.14

Both Akshay Kumar’s Holiday and your Game are based on the Tamil film Thuppakki. What is the backstory?

Reliance Entertainment, one of the producers of Holiday (with Vipul Shah and Aruna Bhatia), had immense faith in the Tamil film since it had worked big time. The rights were with Akshay. They (Reliance Entertainment) spoke to Akshay, convinced him and managed to get the Bengali rights from him, and then they approached us. We were excited, and we felt this is something we should do for our audience. And we can now release Game a week before Holiday, which releases on June 6.

You are playing an army man...

I have never played an army guy before. So I was really kicked about it. And this film has so much to offer. The film tells the story [of Abhimanyu (Jeet), an army man and a secret DIA agent, who takes on the terror network and sets out to destroy sleeper cells in Calcutta] in a sleek way.

Did you work out a lot to look the part?

Yes, I worked out a bit, to make it look convincing. I toned myself a little more for the film, trained for one-and-a-half months before shooting began and I continued with my diet (less of carbs and more of proteins) during the shoot. I do maintenance workout on a regular basis, and for Game the workouts were more intense. I had to look lean, toned… I had to look army-fit. I did whatever was necessary to achieve that.

What’s your workout regimen?

I usually workout in the morning for an hour. For Game, I had a target in mind and worked out in a concentrated way for 90 minutes. I would do regular weight training, stretching, cardio…

Was it tough at first?

No, it’s part of my profession, part of my life. Even if I don’t enjoy something, I have to do it since I know my profession demands it. If you are lean, you look fit and sharp.

Did you have a reference point to play Abhimanyu?

This time my reference was Vijay (the hero in Thuppakki). Incidentally, my debut film Saathi was a remake of a Vijay film (Thulladha Manamum Thullum) (grins)! Game is looking sleek and smart.

You shot for the songs Manwa re and Bum chiki in Dubai. For Manwa re, we see you playing the guitar on the roof of a skyscraper!

Yeah, we were shooting on the roof of a 45-storey building…

But you were very close to the edge...

Yes, I was sitting on the edge. People ask me if I had used any cable, rope, or harness… but no, we didn’t use anything. I was just sitting there. Thankfully, I don’t have vertigo, so I could manage to sit there. And then the mood of the song… if you listen to the lines closely, is about what happens when you are lost in love… and when you are lost in love you don’t care for anything (smiles).

Didn’t you feel scared?

No… and even for fight scenes, I have always done my own stunts. I never use a dummy. Fear of failure leads to failure, and I don’t let that fear come into me.

With each release, how do you deal with expectations?

I know that people expect a lot from me, so I am extra careful. It gives me a reality check. I know that I can’t take things easy. One has to be cautious about each and every thing. That’s why I’m so involved. But then you also know that after a certain point nothing is in your control. Every film has its own fate irrespective of how well it’s been produced, how well it’s been made, how well it’s been marketed. And also, I believe a lot in destiny.

These days, you are breathing cinema...

For me, it’s all about cinema. I understand only this. From selecting content, working on the script to the release, I’m involved in every department of cinema. I enjoy the whole process of filmmaking. I enjoy challenges ’cause if there’s no challenge, there’s no fun!

Subhashree recently told t2 that she borrows DVDs from you. Tell us about your collection…

It’s all work-related (smiles). But I would like to watch more movies and read more books. You know, it’s not that big a collection. I know people from the industry who have 20 times more DVDs than I do. I pick up stuff or I buy DVDs online, it’s an ongoing process. There are all kinds of films.

How challenging was it to shoot the action sequences of Game?

We shot the climax on a barge. And initially in that scene I get beaten up since I was in handcuffs. We were shooting the climax for seven days, and for two days I was handcuffed. We usually don’t practise falling on our sides when we are in handcuffs, and I hurt my elbow. But then it’s okay, we carried on.

How important was shooting Game in Calcutta?

I have not done something so challenging in terms of shooting in my last 12 years. We have shot in so many different places in the city… crowded places. It was so difficult to manage sometimes. There is a sequence where 12 killings happen simultaneously and they were scattered all over the city. We shot in Mullickbazar and I reached the place around noon. It was difficult but we managed it. You put a camera anywhere and you see people coming. We planned the shoot in such a way that before people realised what was happening we would finish our shoot and leave the place.

Did anything interesting happen during the shoot?

For the shoot of the title song in Bolpur, we had converted a few regular trucks to army trucks. The idea was to first capture the passing of the trucks in the morning, and then I would be called on the sets an hour later. So when I arrived I saw the trucks passing, and for a moment I thought, ‘Where are these military trucks going?’ and then I realised it’s for our film shoot only (laughs).

How are you viewing the Tolly film market?

Certain corrections are needed. Otherwise, it’s doing well. We have to work on how to expand the market. We have to think outside Bengal, and the country. We have to find out how to open more markets for our films. Game is releasing on the same day in Singapore. Today the productions from Bengal have reached a certain standard. Keeping budget restraints in mind, production quality of Bengali films has gone up. Now we have to tap new markets. You have to keep experimenting and make a habit of it. Tomorrow it could be the US, the UK or Malaysia. Bengalis are everywhere.

What’s the road map?

Boss achieved a certain benchmark. Now a lot depends on how Game performs. If we have more players, more studios coming here, then more avenues for Bengali cinema will open up. We need more ideas, more people, more investors, national and regional. Only then will the industry grow. See today if Reliance Entertainment hadn’t been there, I don’t think Game would have been possible. They (Reliance Entertainment) got the rights from Akshay Kumar… because they are the producers, so they could crack it. Otherwise it would have been difficult. If I had to approach Akshay Kumar for this then it would have taken a longer time. For them, it was easy. Also, since Reliance Entertainment has the distribution set-up, the Singapore release is also possible.

Arindam Chatterjee

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