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Actor Debopriyo Mukherjee on REKKA and sharing screen space with idol Pankaj Kapur in Lost

He plays the character Phalu in Srijit Mukherji’s Hoichoi web series Robindronath Ekhane Kawkhono Khete Aashenni

Arindam Chatterjee | Published 04.09.21, 12:03 AM
Debopriyo Mukherjee and Anirban Bhattacharya in Robindronath Ekhane Kawkhono Khete Aashenni, streaming on Hoichoi.

Debopriyo Mukherjee and Anirban Bhattacharya in Robindronath Ekhane Kawkhono Khete Aashenni, streaming on Hoichoi.

He has been receiving congratulatory messages since the web series started streaming. Playing the intense, mysterious undertaker, who is full of angst, in Srijit Mukherji’s Hoichoi web series Robindronath Ekhane Kawkhono Khete Aashenni, Debopriyo Mukherjee has been soaking in the praise coming his way. A chat with the actor, who also plays an important role in Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s new film Lost....

How is the feedback from REKKA?
It’s still sinking in. The feedback is overwhelmingly positive and the sheer volume of love and appreciation I have received is unprecedented in the context of my journey as an actor. On social media, the calls, texts, reviews... I cannot begin to express how overwhelmed I feel by the love Phalu has brought into my life from all quarters. The very first review I read post-release said I have done justice to my father’s (the late Mrinal Mukherjee) legacy — I still can’t process it without choking up. Phalu, like any character or performance we see on screen, belongs to a whole team of people. It might sound cliched, but it’s the truth.

How have things changed for you post-REKKA?
For one, I hope that I’ve been able to earn a little faith and some goodwill as an actor so that I am tested with challenging portrayals more frequently.That is my sole aspiration. As for the adulation and compliments, while they feel really good and to some degree they even make one feel accomplished, I believe it’s all temporary. It might sound cynical but that’s what I believe, that all successes and failures are temporary, especially in this day and age with an unfathomable amount of content being made and released on a daily basis. So for me the idea always was and still is to stay level-headed, keep working on my craft and keep pushing myself to do good work.

What was your takeaway from the shooting experience of REKKA?
There are quite a few. Firstly, working for Srijitda means everyone is expected to bring their A-game to the set every day. That sense of dedication, teamwork and discipline is extremely enriching and it lives on long after the schedule has been wrapped. Secondly, shooting something of this scale with the pandemic protocols in place was extremely challenging. To be a part of the team that took on this challenge and pulled it off in style feels extremely satisfactory.

Tell us more about your character in REKKA? How did you prepare?
Phalu is a mysterious character who acts as a catalyst to the greater scheme of things. As I would discover later, he is also a character who is popular with the fans of the original novel. Srijitda wanted him to be a character who has a strong and dominant presence, but simultaneously, he also has his soft spots and vulnerabilities that he conceals very effectively for the most part. He is a man of very few words. To prepare for it, I relied solely on the script and the very vivid and detailed brief that Srijitda had given me. The temptation to refer to the novel was there, but I decided against it fearing that it might add some information to my sketch that ultimately would not be present in the script. From there, I followed my usual routine of creating the character in isolation with the information I had with me.

How did you work on the body language and dialect?
Getting the body language right was imperative. It had to be rustic, strong and intimidating but given how Phalu evolves through the course of the story, it could not have been set in stone. Phalu’s arc takes him through a lot of life-altering events and it was necessary that it reflects in his body language. For instance, let’s take the first time the audience meets Phalu and the last time they see him in the series. On both occasions, he interacts with Muskaan. There was a drastic change behaviourally from the first to the last occasion, that wasn’t a conscious decision or an objective while performing the scenes, it just happened organically.
Also, little things like how Phalu uses the pickaxe or the shovel were extremely important. His technique had to make it seem like they aren’t just tools to him, they are extensions of his own limbs. That comfort had to show. I heard of extensive road reconstruction being done in Golf Gardens around the time I was preparing. I changed my morning run route so that I can go watch the men at work. I realised most of the workers who have to swing heavy pickaxes and shovels on a regular basis have terrible posture and are battling injuries. Those who use proper technique and momentum to their advantage, remain fit.
As for the dialect, as with everything else, it was guided by Srijitda too. He wanted my accent to have a Bangladeshi imprint on it, but not as prominently as let’s say Ator Ali who is of Bangladeshi origin. He wanted that little room for ambiguity and guided me to that effect. Then, once Samir Kundu, whom I also share screen with in the series, came on board to help me with the dialect, all I had to do was follow his and my director’s guidance.

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The feedback (for REKKA) is overwhelmingly positive and the sheer volume of love and appreciation I have received is unprecedented in the context of my journey as an actor.... I cannot begin to express how overwhelmed I feel by the love Phalu has brought into my life from all quarters. The very first review I read post-release said I have done justice to my father’s (the late Mrinal Mukherjee) legacy — I still can’t process it without choking up

Debopriyo Mukherjee

What were some of the most challenging scenes to shoot?
There is a very important scene that is set in the rain. We shot it on an extremely cold December night with the temperature dipping constantly. As soon as the rain machines started and the water hit us, the body’s survival mechanisms would take over and we’d start to shiver. That experience made me wish I hadn’t been a teetotaller. Fortunately, the unit kept handing us warm milk with honey and blankets between shots, they really took care of us. The confrontation between Phalu and Ator was also difficult, although I am sure it was much more taxing for Anirban than it was for me!

How was it like working with Srijit, Anirban Bhattacharya and Azmeri Haque Badhon?
Srijitda is extremely supportive of younger talents. I have no words to express how grateful I am to him for trusting me with Phalu. It’s an opportunity that actors across the nation would give anything to have, and to have him trust me with it gave me confidence. He is extremely specific about how he sees his characters and that comes through in his instructions as well.


I have worked with Anirban thrice before... in Dhananjoy, Bhoomi Kanya and Ghawre Baire Aaj. I am still in awe of his craft. There is so much we should and could learn from his methods. I feel Badhon’s work in REKKA speaks for itself. Badhon is also a gem of a person. Extremely down to earth and helpful. While shooting together she would constantly encourage me and, I am sure, her other co-actors as well. We actually had a long conversation on my last day of shoot. I was amazed to learn how she has fought destiny to grab her share of happiness.

Who are you in the film Lost?
It’s a character who is instrumental in the events of the entire film. Although I have worked in Hindi projects before, this is the first time I am playing a prominent character like this. It’s a dream come true to be in Tonyda’s film. Tonyda is a very hands-on director. He acts out what he wants and the best thing is, he makes no effort to conceal his happiness if his actor is able to deliver. He is extremely precise and equally generous.

I have idolised him (Pankaj Kapur) for as long as I can remember, and being in his presence felt surreal to me.... Before our scene, I somehow gathered my guts and wished him a good morning, he looked at me with this glowing smile and said, “Good morning beta.” That put me at ease. Then we rehearsed the scenes and I watched in awe of how meticulous he is about every detail of his character

How was it like sharing screen space with Pankaj Kapur?
I was a nervous wreck. I have idolised him for as long as I can remember, and being in his presence felt surreal to me. In fact, Yogesh Bhardwaj, who is also in the film and has become a close friend while shooting, keeps making fun of the fact that I was shivering. Before our scene, I somehow gathered my guts and wished him a good morning, he looked at me with this glowing smile and said, “Good morning beta.” That put me at ease. Then we rehearsed the scenes and I watched in awe of how meticulous he is about every detail of his character. After a certain take he watched the playback on the monitor and said, “The kids have done a good job, let them see the shot as well.” In that moment, I felt all the struggles, tribulations, rejections and disappointments of my journey as an actor fade away. To receive a compliment like that from my idol, while shooting for a film helmed by Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, shot by the legendary Avik Mukhopadhyay... I still have to pinch myself to believe that this has actually happened.

For you, is it the best time to be an actor? Full of promise and possibility…
Absolutely! Audiences in India and around the world have started choosing performance over stardom, as a result, we are seeing more and more performance-oriented films. A great variety of subjects are finally being explored, giving rise to a need for capable and versatile actors. The division that had once separated the “stars” from the “character actors” is eroding.

Last updated on 04.09.21, 12:06 AM
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