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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 05 March 2024

Shaheb Bhattacherjee on completing 15 years in the industry and more

From being the sweet chocolate boy who won our hearts as Topshe in the Feluda films to acing more serious roles in recent web series like Detective and Bonyo Premer Golpo, the actor has created his own ‘slow but steady’ graph

Priyanka A. Roy Published 04.12.23, 12:00 PM
Shaheb Bhattacherjee's look in the upcoming Star Jalsha serial Kotha

Shaheb Bhattacherjee's look in the upcoming Star Jalsha serial Kotha

Actor Shaheb Bhattacherjee completes 15 years in the industry this year. From being the sweet chocolate boy who won our hearts as Topshe in the Feluda films to acing more serious roles in recent web series like Detective and Bonyo Premer Golpo, the actor has created his own ‘slow but steady’ graph. Television has been a part of his career from the beginning, starting with serials to keeping people glued to the screen in reality shows as a charming host. His recent social media post announced his return to TV serials. In a t2 chat, Shaheb reveals more...

You started your career with the TV serial Bandhan and now you are back again to serials after almost a decade and a half. What motivated this transition?

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The kind of films that I do cater to the urban audience. I think this is the perfect time to reach out to a larger audience. Every evening five or five-and-a-half crore people sit down to watch television in and around Calcutta, in greater Bengal, and in Bangladesh as well. I think that’s a huge audience that I could reach with my work. Television is doing well. I have been getting offers from television for some time but I felt this is a good time to make this transition.

What interested you about your character or the script of Kotha?

I thought the concept is very unique because in television the stories usually show an idealistic husband and from there the marriage goes haywire. Stepping aside from that, this character is a shift. He is a celebrity chef and the kitchen is his place to be. He runs a food vlog which is extremely popular on social media. I have never played a character like this before. So, I thought this is very cool and on the contrary, the girl is very orthodox in this. There is a comic tussle between the lead pair.

2023 has been a good year for you in films and OTT with three projects. TV requires a huge commitment in terms of working hours. Was it tough to take this decision?

I am not a person who is afraid of working hard. Every craft requires a different amount of hard work and a different amount of perseverance, and in television, you have to be a little consistent in what you are doing. I think I will do pretty well in television when it comes to working hard or long hours.

Getting back on a serial shoot floor after so long... are you experiencing any changes in the shooting process?

(Laughs) Not specifically in my serial but the co-actors that I used to work with back in the days, in 2008 and 2009… the ones who used to play my brothers, friends and contemporaries, are all playing kaku jethu (uncles) now! It is a very strange feeling for me. (Laughs) It is a little shocking for me, too. Also, in the technicality part of it, the shots are different in television. In the first few days, I was being a little technically challenged by my director but now I got the grip of it (laughs).

You had left TV serials right after the first two. Was that transition into films deliberate?

It was a careeristic move actually. Back in those days, in 2008 or 2009, if one would start doing television, they would not be considered for films. These distinctions were there but the amazing thing about how cinema has evolved in all these years is that this distinction has completely broken down. Film actors are coming to television, television actors are acting in films, film actors are doing web series, TV actors are doing web series, so the entire performance platform can be explored by an actor. It is a great time for an actor to explore rather than do only one thing.

In a way, you never really left TV, as we have seen you host many reality shows. Have you always enjoyed the small screen more?

TV had definitely given me that initial boost in my career with serials and reality shows. It gave me the much-needed launch in my career and immediately I became a popular face in people’s homes. So, there are a lot of senior citizens and uncles and aunties who would always tell me to come back to television. So this is the correct time because the demand and the acceptability are also there.

With so many streaming platforms and the convenient viewing experience it provides, many TV viewers have also shifted. Was this a concern for you while stepping back into TV?

I wouldn’t consider it as a step back. I think this is a step forward or this is evolving in the sense that the TV channels have their own streaming platforms and every show gets uploaded by the next morning itself. There is a huge viewership on the platform because of the episodes and it can be viewed from a lot of places, not only in India. I was really taken aback by the number of people from Bangladesh who commented on my FB post. For actors, this is an evolution and we have to be a part of it. We cannot deny the reach of the OTT platforms. People have become dependent on it. Sometimes a good film doesn’t work at the box office nowadays but when it comes on OTT, it works. You create a craft and people don’t get to see it is sad. Creating something and reaching out to the maximum number of people is where I want to be at this stage in life.

Is the medium at all important to you as an actor?

Depends on how we look at it. My love for films will never die because love for films is eternal for me but television is a people’s medium and we cannot deny its reach. To put my craft in front of people, I think the most effective way is television at this point in time.

What motivates you to choose any project now?

I have never pursued it as a business model where I make money out of it or make an apartment in Urbana out of it. I have never pursued it like that. I have always pursued it as a craft and as a dedication. It is my temple of prayer where I wake up and keep myself fit and then I do my rehearsals, acting workshops… all possible things that an actor needs to do to get into the character. If you are working for your craft and if you are honest about it, the results will come. I am very confident about it.

In what ways have you matured as an actor in all these years since 2008?

With every actor, the more life experiences they have, the more they go out into the world, the more they meet, interact and travel, the more mature they become as actors. From 2008, my life has been a varied experience of things. I have travelled a lot, worked in different mediums, started working on stage, have done dance, plays, films and web shows. The more you meet people and see people the better you become as an actor.

Did you go back and watch your first serial when you accepted this role?

No, I didn’t have the guts to! (Laughs) When there’s a new project, I don’t have the courage to see my own films. I do watch my own work otherwise but I am very overcritical actually.

Do you think the Bengali industry has given you enough opportunities?

This is something that a lot of people ask me but I think it is a matter of one film or one project. I truly believe our generation of actors has not been explored very well. After a Jeetda and a Param (Parambrata Chattopadhyay) or an Abir (Chatterjee), there has been a lack of good projects for the next generation of actors. There are a lot of actors from my generation who have shifted to television and I think they have all come from the same space but again to each his own. I think it is one good project, one good film and it can just turn everything around. I don’t have any regrets or complaints that they have not used me enough. We don’t know what’s in store for us in the future. We have to be prepared. If we are prepared with our craft, one good opportunity is what luck is for me. But I don’t wait for a better director, better casting, or better channel to come to me. I don’t wait for that one good opportunity to come to me, whichever opportunity comes to me I give my 100 per cent to it thinking that this could be that opportunity, the best opportunity that I was looking for.


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