Sabyasachi Chakrabarty leads the jungle trail in RBR

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  • Published 20.12.11

What was the high point of shooting for Royal Bengal Rahasya as compared to the previous Feluda films?

Most of Royal Bengal was shot in the forest, which happens to be one of my favourite places. Any nature spot is something I prefer to the studios, and Royal Bengal Rahasya deals with a hunting lodge and the forest. We shot in Dhenkanal, surrounded by the Borabada forest, the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary near Siliguri and the Ballabhpur Wildlife Sanctuary in Bolpur. So this is probably the Feluda film I enjoyed the most.

Being a wildlife enthusiast, you also had to help out the crew for the shoot...

Yes. Since I was a part of the state wildlife advisory board, I knew most of the people from the forest department. Sandip Ray and I had a meeting with the principal chief conservator of forests in West Bengal to whom we explained the Royal Bengal story and what we needed, and he allowed us to shoot in the wildlife sanctuaries. There were a few directives we had to follow and I had to advise the unit on how and where we should work.

What was your role as the leader of the pack?

I advised everyone not to stray around. It was important to stick to the area where the shots were being taken. We were allowed to shoot between sunrise and sunset. We could not use lights and generator at Mahananda. We had to take armed guards with us because of the presence of wild animals. We weren’t supposed to make a noise or shout out the instructions. We had to carry walkie-talkies and walk up to the person and talk. The movement of vehicles was restricted too and we weren’t supposed to litter. I had to constantly monitor all that. I was usually the last one to leave the forest at the end of the day because I had to take care of any garbage that might have been left unattended. I had assured the principal chief conservator that I would be there throughout the shoot and he would have no complaints. So that was a responsibility I had to take. There’s also a message of conservation that we’ve tried to convey through this film.

Is it true that you had a face-off with a real tiger and a snake for this film?

There is a real tiger but you can’t tussle with a tiger! We used a snake provided by a registered supplier. It was a monocled cobra and with all its venom and fangs. I have handled snakes before but those were non-poisonous. Snake expert Dipak Mitra was there. He showed me how to hold the snake without hurting it. It was a technique I had to learn and then do it. It’s a myth that when a cobra strikes someone, he is instantly dead... not unless he’s weak at heart. For a man like me who is 80kg, a small snake with a little bit of venom cannot kill me. Usually, one dies of the fright. Stuntmen do it all the time and actors too should train themselves to not get scared.

How would you rank Royal Bengal Rahasya on your list of Feluda favourites?

Among the first few. Royal Bengal Rahasya is one of the best Feluda stories, even making-wise. Sandip Ray too is a more experienced director today, having made so many films. You might find a resemblance with a fairy-tale or an adventure thriller with a riddle that needs to be solved.

Any anecdotes of Bibhu Bhattacharya (Jatayu) that you’d like to share...

I had told Bibhuda that I was growing old. Jatayu can age, people won’t mind, but Feluda can’t become Felukaku. So he had told me, ‘If you stop playing Feluda, I will stop playing Jatayu too’. He died before the film could be released. As a tribute to Bibhuda, I think I shouldn’t be playing Feluda anymore but at the same time a performer has to overcome his emotions and his first job is to entertain the audience, no matter what. If the audience accepts and feels I’m fit enough to match the role of Prodosh Mitter, then I’ll have to be back.

Has being Feluda for so many years influenced you in any way?

I’ve been idolising Feluda ever since I was a youngster. I could never become him but I tried! I started smoking Charminar because I wanted to be like him. Since Feluda doesn’t have any girlfriends, I didn’t have any girlfriends when I was young. I had a lot of friends who would take girls out for movies but I never did that. I was always very serious in front of them. I used to think that having a girlfriend would make a man a pansy. All involuntary attitudes that I had developed... like playing cricket, watching only action and detective films, learning martial arts and also developing a taste for tea. I also wanted to join the police at one point of time, inspired by Feluda! It was my dream to be a man with a personality that other men wouldn’t dare to cross paths with and women would stay away from! (Laughs.) But I never imagined I’d get an opportunity to play Feluda one day. It was a dream come true.

Who do you think would be the next best fit for Feluda?

I have thought of Tota Roy Chowdhury, Abir (Chatterjee), Parambrata (Chattopadhyay) and Indraneil Sengupta, but it is entirely up to the director. And if the audience wants me, I am there for one more story.

What other films are you working on?

There are some that are awaiting release. Presently, I’m shooting for Jay Shankar for his film Tor Naam and Sujit Mondal’s Bawaali Unlimited. I have just done a cameo for Srijit’s (Mukherji) new film. I’m also doing a Hindi film directed by Pradip Chakraborty, the grandson of Pramod Chakraborty. It’s being shot in Bombay and Australia, and a large part will be shot in Bolpur in January. But when it comes to Bombay, I have to turn down a lot of offers because their dates depend on the stars and a 10-day notice doesn’t work for me because I’m already committed to Bengali films. I’ve done five and rejected 15. I couldn’t do Anurag Basu’s Barfee. I was supposed to do a negative role in a film for Sunny Deol too but Shilpa (Shetty) was taken ill, got involved with the IPL and Sunny had to undergo a surgery. He had even paid me an advance but it’s been two years that the film has been shelved. I’m doing very few movies now. I don’t want to spend my entire life under the lights. Also, I’ve got a paunch now! (Laughs.)

And your platter is quite full!

Yes, but I don’t think I should do every film that comes my way anymore. People will get tired of me. In every second film, I’m there. After all these years, I think it’s time for me to slow down. I’d like to spend a little more time in the forests. I have a dream to make a few documentaries on nature and wildlife, and publish a few books on eco-tourism.

Mohua Das
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