SAHEB MEETS BIBI
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- Published 22.07.14
|Anjan, Pratim and Swastika at the t2 chat at Marco Polo. Pictures: B. Halder|
Anjan Dutt and Swastika Mukherjee got together with director Pratim D. Gupta of t2 to chat about Saheb Bibi Golaam — which rolls on the floors in November — over fish fry and mutton kebab....
Is Saheb Bibi Golaam adapted from the original book?
Pratim: No, it has nothing to do with the Bimal Mitra book or its two screen adaptations. It’s based on my original story and screenplay and while it does celebrate Calcutta, it’s today’s Calcutta. We start shoot in November.
You had wanted to cast Swastika in Paanch Adhyay and Anjan Dutt in another film. How does it feel to cast them in your second film Saheb Bibi Golaam?
Pratim: I have been trying to work with AD (Anjan Dutt) for the last five years. He was the reason I wrote my first script. We were chatting in Flurys and I said that I had an idea about a film about a serial killer. He heard it and loved it so much that he said he would get me a producer. That’s how I got into this. And Swastika and I have discussed working together since ages. I really wanted her for Paanch Adhyay but the producer (Kaustuv Ray) had other ideas and you know when you are making your first film, you’re a beggar and not a chooser.
Anjanda, you refuse a lot of acting offers. What made you say yes to Saheb Bibi Golaam?
Anjan: When Pratim read the script out, I felt that he knew what he was doing. He has the knowledge about cinema. I have respect for him as a filmmaker. He’s made a short film recently (8 to 8, yet to release) and I was very impressed with it.
Swastika: I loved it enormously!
Anjan: Also, I personally feel that more film-literate people need to be coming into the industry. I am in the last leg of my career. I am 60 and I think I should make a few more films, act here and there and slowly fizzle out. There’s no career in front of me anymore. I am very happy that Pratim is doing another film.
The second reason of course is the character, which is fantastic. Nobody has given me a character like this. It’s a very interesting plot, interesting theme and an interesting point, which he is trying to make. I am playing a contract killer. I usually don’t act and I have this reputation of letting people down. I didn’t do Kaushik’s (Ganguly) film, I didn’t do Srijit’s (Mukherji) film. I didn’t do a lot of films because it didn’t work for me. Saheb Bibi Golaam would be a very different kind of a Bengali film and I want to be a part of it. And there are very interesting young actors. I have recently become a huge admirer of Swastika. I called her up and told her, ‘You are the most powerful young actress now’. I had thought of casting her in Bow Barracks Forever!, it didn’t happen. But over the years I have been watching her and suddenly in the last few films she has matured into this huge actress. We still lack a certain shamelessness that an actor should have. When I work with actors, I don’t find that I’ll-do-anything attitude in them. This is what I miss, which I found in Swastika in Aami Aar Amaar Girlfriends.
Swastika: When Pratim shared the script with me, I was totally kicked about the project. I haven’t played a middle-class housewife in a long time. There’s a lot more to that housewife and the way she looks at life and that’s what makes Jaya very interesting, and yes, she is shameless too! (Laughs)
Pratim, would you like to reveal a little more about Saheb Bibi Golaam?
Pratim: Yes. We had some very bad titles for the film!
It was written as Jimmy Jaya Javed which sounds like Amar Akbar Anthony! Because those were the three main characters. AD plays Jimmy, a middle-aged Anglo-Indian man, who’s trying to do good by breaking bad. Swastika plays Jaya, a middle-class Bengali housewife, who goes into forbidden territory to challenge the life she has been hurled into. And Ritwick (Chakraborty) plays Javed, a taxi driver who gets into a relationship (with Parno Mittra) he doesn’t fully understand. Somewhere they are all very lonely souls who make certain choices in life and these choices bring them together. Three very different people from three very different worlds collide in an edgy thriller.
Swastika: What was the other name that we were thinking of... Trikaal?
Pratim: Trikaal, yes... But that was always too heavy for our film.
Swastika: When I heard of Saheb Bibi Golaam, I was like, Pratim we have to get it registered!
Pratim: That was the Eureka moment. I think I was watching Marco Pierre White cook scrambled eggs on TV when it struck me how Jimmy Jaya Javed were actually Saheb Bibi Golaam!
The titles of your films are reminders of yesteryear films…
Pratim: That’s a good thing, right? But there is no connection. I think this is a much better title. Paanch Adhyay was a misleading title in the sense that people thought it had five different stories.
Anjanda, since Pratim considers you to be his mentor, how much of a say did you have in the script?
Anjan: No, no, I just don’t do that. I somehow subscribe to the fact that a filmmaker is the last word and the actor does contribute and make a huge difference but by adding to what the director is thinking.
Will there be workshops before you start rolling?
Anjan: I would like to go with the flow of what she (Swastika) is doing or he (Pratim) wants me to do rather than go all prepared. I don’t believe in that.
Swastika: You know, no matter how much discussions you have or workshops you do, once you go on the sets and you are there in your make-up and costume and the camera is rolling and the other actors are there and the director says ‘action’, I have never seen things matching with the discussion or workshop. Everything changes.
Anjan: Workshops don’t work. Of course they bring people together, I mean I haven’t really worked with her (Swastika) as an actor. Maybe we can meet over a cup of coffee and chat and Pratim comes over, it brings people together but I look forward to that uncertainty.
Pratim: With all due respect to the cast of my first film, in this film I am working with better actors, so may be the approach would be different. We will figure out what works best for the film.
Anjan: Workshops kill spontaneity.
Pratim: In some workshops, sometimes you do scenes which are not there in the film. That’s an interesting exercise. It gives you a backstory, a subtext and that can help.
Anjan: I personally believe in method acting. But that method is basically to become the character, to know the character. I am a hit man in Saheb Bibi Golaam. So I have to be very comfortable with guns. I can’t fumble with it.
Pratim: AD, we were not supposed to reveal that. Anyway, what the heck, let’s shoot!
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