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A for acting & adda

As actors, they are a lot like each other — t2 discovers, in an adda with Swastika Mukherjee and Ritwick Chakraborty

She shows up on time; he is 10 minutes late. Which means Swastika Mukherjee isn’t going to pass up this opportunity to roast Ritwick Chakraborty, her co-star in Anubrata Bhalo Acho?. “Oh hero, now you’re a big shot and we are all waiting for you! And look at your sunglasses, my god! So would you like some chilled beer?” she asks. “No thanks, ami cha khabo!” says Ritwick. So, over a bottle of chilled beer for her and black tea for him at Aqua, The Park, t2 chatted with Swastika and Ritwick about their August 7 release Anubrata Bhalo Acho?...

Ritwick and Swastika at the t2 chat in Aqua, The Park. Pictures: Rashbehari Das

t2: Ritwick bhalo achho?

Ritwick: Yes, I am fine... doing good. Good work is coming my way. Rest of the life is wonderful... everything is fine now.

t2: Swastika, you’ve always said that Ritwick is your favourite actor...

Swastika: Yesss! I have been cribbing since Kolkata Calling... we had such a small scene together and then in Ebar Shabor we got the opportunity again, but he just kills me and goes! So yeah, working with him in Anubrata Bhalo Acho? has satisfied me five per cent, 95 per cent is left. I still think I should have played the double role. I wanted to play his wife and the other woman too.... Whoever calls me for a film, I always say, please cast Ritwick! It may be the character of a don or an American, my only choice is Ritwick! (Ritwick laughs)

t2: Ritwick, you had told us that you didn’t identify with Anubrata at all...

Ritwick: It’s not important for an actor to identify with every character. Finally, it’s the script and the character graph that works. There are so many different types of people, half of them you’ve never met.

Swastika: There are specific moments when you do identify.

Ritwick and Swastika in Anubrata Bhalo Acho?

Ritwick: Exactly. Like Anubrata has an ailing wife and he is worried about her, so this bit is easily relatable.

Swastika: I was very happy to play Jaya, who too is in her fifties, like Anubrata. I had salt-and-pepper hair and the way I walked, talked is different. I was conscious about maintaining the acting continuity.

Ritwick: For me, too, it was difficult to play a gloomy, depressed Anubrata. In real life, I do everything in a jiffy! I eat fast, walk fast, talk fast.... We shot a major chunk of the film inside a hospital and that did take a toll on us.

Swastika: And the comments I would get whenever I stepped out in my make-up were awesome! Someone said: ‘Dekhechhish toh, asholey erome dekhte... buri, dark circles... cinemay bhalo dekhay! (Laughs out loud)

t2: Ritwick, playing Anubrata fetched you the best actor award in Madrid International Film Festival. What does it mean to you? 

Ritwick: I was happy. But how long I will remember it is something I don’t know! (Laughs)

t2: And Swastika, you won the best actress award in Queensland...

Swastika: Yes, I’m happy, happy, happy!

t2: Can you both analyse each other’s work in Anubrata?

Swastika: I hate Ritwick! I get irritated and pissed off watching him deliver so brilliantly every time. While shooting for Saheb Bibi Golaam (directed by Pratim D. Gupta), I asked Ritwick, ‘Why are you acting so convincingly that I am actually believing that you are a taxi driver?!’ He looked like as if he has been a taxi driver since he was born. There’s never a chance to tell him that you could’ve done better. Ritwick is so good that I hate him! He is so perfect.... I don’t know how he achieves perfection with every character.

Ritwick: About Swastika, I would say one thing, that she can play an ageing, elderly person better than me. She looks so convincing as a 50-year-old lady, which I thought was better than how I looked as an old man. Also, we follow the same rules when it comes to acting. Like Swastika, I too don’t believe in workshops; we both believe in spontaneity. That’s why I enjoy working with Swastika.       

t2: Both of you have been consistently good in all your recent films. How does an actor maintain this consistency?
Ritwick: It depends on the films I finally choose to do. I have made good choices and that’s why my job has been praised. Between action to cut, I am a very confident actor.

Swastika: I think someone who is a good actor will always be a good actor. The observation power has to be very strong. Watch not just good films; an actor can learn so much from a trashy film too. 

Ritwick: Yes, inspiration is everywhere, from good friends to your adda thek.

t2: Do you get the scope to interact with common people?

Ritwick: I am not really bothered about my profession. Besides, not too many people know me as an actor. Only sometimes people recognise me on the streets. I am not so popular and I know that! Last week I took an auto from Golpark to 8B. Some of them recognised me and said: ‘Arrey ki byapar, apni ekhane?!’

Swastika: I still take a rickshaw to drop my daughter to school. I am not really one of those who won’t move without a car or make-up. I don’t live my life that way. Besides, at home nobody gives me the patta given to a star! They believe that no one on the streets would recognise me as Swastika Mukherjee!

Ritwick: In fact a few days ago, I was returning from a friend’s place around 1.30am and was waiting for a taxi. Suddenly a taxi driver came forward and said ‘Dada choley ashun, Pagol Premi [Ritwick’s debut film which bombed at the box office] dekhechhi. Ashun! (Laughs out loud)

t2: What keeps you grounded?

Swastika: My family. For them I am their daughter, sister, mother. Anything but a star.

Ritwick: It’s up to an actor how he wants to lead his life. Whether he wants to walk around with an air of superiority or just be humble and grounded, it depends on him. As for me, I still go to the fish market and pick up fresh fish and feast on maachher jhol-bhaat.

Kushali Nag
Are Ritwick and Swastika the most down-to-earth actors in Tollywood? Tell t2@abp.in

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