In Raj Chakraborty’s film Habji Gabji, which releases today, Tipu, the son of Aditya (Parambrata Chattopadhyay) and Ahana (Subhashree Ganguly), feels lonely at home. His parents have busy schedules. Aditya, without thinking of the repercussions, hands Tipu his mobile to play games. Tipu’s friends at school teach him an online multi-player game to which he gets addicted to. A few years pass by. Tipu has become a gaming addict and often hallucinates things from the game. This reflects on Tipu’s sleeping patterns, behaviour, studies and health.
Habji Gabji is a cautionary tale about the dangers of gaming addiction. The Telegraph chats with Subhashree and Raj.
What was the starting point for Habji Gabji?
Raj: It started when I saw my niece getting hooked to these games. She would get irritated when we would speak to her. She started showing signs of aggressive behaviour. Now she understands a bit... has tried to change. Through our research we have seen that gaming addiction has devastating consequences.
What kind of incidents did you read about during the research of Habji Gabji?
Raj: Quite a few and they were very scary, alarming. And they were taking place in many homes across the world. These games on mobile phones have wrecked families across the world. We have read about incidents of killing, suicides, kids confusing reality with the reel world, shootings in schools abroad.
Did you play the game for research?
Subhashree: I did not... but Raj did, for research. He started getting headaches. Then he stopped. The film creates awareness and reminds you to take all kinds of precautions for the future of your children. For those growing up, there can be many options and substitutes for the mobile phones.
Subhashree, you and Raj had first worked together in the blockbuster film Challenge (2009). What are your memories from that film?
Subhashree: I still remember one particular incident. We were shooting in a desert in Dubai. It was really hot. We were all set to shoot a car scene... and then I turned and saw Raj sitting under a huge umbrella. I went up to him and saw that he was applying sunscreen mixed with foundation on his face! Raj has always been very conscious about skincare. At that point of time I had seen his Chirodini ... Tumi Je Aamar and then we worked in Challenge. I have always been a fan of his films. Raj is very charming, good-looking. As a director he has always been restless and energetic on the sets. Earlier, he would lose his cool at times on the sets. But now he is calm. People say that he has changed and become cool and calm on sets after marriage (smiles).
Now, I know what he is planning for a film, what he is thinking about a film. Now I understand his psychology. Raj has this immense passion for cinema. On the sets, he doesn’t sit. In fact his energy levels have gone up... much more than his Challenge days. Same goes for his passion. He is also a producer and a politician and he has equal passion for all the different spheres, aspects. He remembers, takes care of and looks after everything really well. He personally looks into everything. And he enjoys that.
I know what he is planning for a film, what he is thinking about a film. Now I understand his psychology. Raj has this immense passion for cinema. On the sets, he doesn’t sit. In fact his energy levels have gone up.... Same goes for his passion — Subhashree
You mentioned his passion for cinema. How much of it has rubbed off on you?
Subhashree: Yes, he motivates and inspires me in every way.
Do you discuss the nuances of your character with him before a shoot?
Subhashree: Yes... I tell him my point of view, how I am seeing my character. Once I feel for a character, I know how I’ll be able to give life to the character on screen. We have these interactions... improvisations happen on set, and once you have the script memorised, then everything flows easily. When I am shooting for the film I completely surrender to the vision of the director. My priority is to practise... to hone my craft, to read the script many, many times, to think about my performance.
Raj: I discovered Subhashree the actress in a new way in Parineeta. Her performance had so much depth. She became so expressive, articulate and could brilliantly convey her emotions. Her workshops, and the way she became Mehul, really inspired me. By the time she did Parineeta, there was that hunger in her as an artiste. For Habji Gabji she was involved from Day One, from the time it was conceived.
It helped her to become the character. She went into details. She plays a mother in the film and her homework was brilliant. She would observe, meet and talk to people. She read the whole script at least 100 times. She knew it by heart. She gave so much time to the work, to her character. And we work as a team.
How has Subhashree inspired you?
Raj: Among her many qualities, I am inspired by her positivity. I stay away from people giving off negative vibes or who criticise others. We watch a lot of movies together at home. She loves to travel... and I have grown fond of that too. I like to travel now. Now I can balance work and family life. I like to spend as much time as possible with my family. I am extremely professional when it comes to work, and at the same time I am a complete family man. She always encourages me... she understands me.
What kind of subjects are you drawn to now?
Raj: I like to work with socially relevant realistic subjects. I like to look at topics that are familiar, important but are not talked about. I like to direct stories of woman empowerment.
A large part of Habji Gabji is about the growing up years. How was it for you?
Subhashree: I have played cricket and football with the boys. I have grown up in a joint family and never felt the urge to watch TV. I have 24 cousins. And we had great fun being together. Those were very innocent times.
Subhashree, tell us about the time when you do rehearsals at home. We have heard that it is a really fun process. You assign different roles to the people at home...
There are days when I tell them to take a day off from work. I’ll order in food... I’ll see to it that everything is taken care of... all of us would sit and I’ll read out the script. Through this exercise I’m reading my script again and again. They try to act out a scene or play a character for a while. For the rehearsals of Parineeta, Raj played Babaida (played by Ritwick Chakraborty in the film). I would practise scenes with Raj.
So Raj is the original Babaida?!
Subhashree: (Laughs out loud) But then things work out differently when you are acting out the same scenes on the set. The character gets a certain X factor on set, and that is carried forward throughout the shoot. Characters like Mehul and Ahana become complete and achieve a wholeness once they are on the sets. Maybe it happens two-three days later. The essence of the character comes through and I become that character on the set.
Pictures: Pabitra Das