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“Cinema will always be a blend of art and commerce”

Bengali actor Jeet started his career more than a decade ago and has many hit films to his credit. The actor soon turned producer and his hit score has continued unabated. Right before the release of Abhimaan, his third outing this year, here’s the actor-producer in conversation with Rohini Nag Madnani

Your acting career spans over a decade, how has your journey been like?

It has been almost 15 years now and it has been fantastic. It has been wonderful and I am happy about the way things shaped up for me. I have had my share of ups and downs in the industry with hits and flops. But so far so good! The journey has been nothing less than extraordinary.

When you are green lighting a project as an actor, are you subconsciously thinking about the commercial aspects of the film or is it an instinctive call?

It is usually an instinctive call in the beginning. Now with the experience I have after being in the industry for so long, I get an idea of what kind of things the audience would like to have in a film. My decisions are more inclined towards my gut feeling at the time. Sometimes we fail also. Sometimes a film doesn’t work even though the content is good. The understanding of commercial aspects of filmmaking is not ignored while deciding.

Other than instinct, good content combined with a few other things matters. There are a lot of things you consider when you are doing a film. I generally look for a great story and interesting content which has commercial value.

You are one of the very few non-Bengali actors who have made it big in the industry. Was it tough to sustain in the Bengali industry?

I am a Kolkata boy so I never faced issues regarding being a non-Bengali. Other than that everyone has to go through huddles in life to succeed. Life is never easy. No matter what you do, until and unless you work hard results will never be in your favour. Bengali or non-Bengali, one has to let their work talk and stay focused. Having said that I feel blessed the way people love me and my work. I feel gratitude for the audience to have loved me for all these years and they continue to do so.

The Bengali industry is regarded as one of the most content-rich industries of our country and your films always have the commercial appeal along with good content. It is a conscious decision to marry the commercial aspects with the content?

Our films always have the commercial appeal with the content and it is a conscious decision to marry both because at the end of the day films have to do well and give return on investment. Otherwise the investors and the producers would not survive. Cinema is and always will be a blend of art and commerce. The divide of commercial and content films is a myth as only good content has the ability to bring in returns at the box office and that is what makes it a commercial success.

Abhimaan is a remake of Telugu film Attarintiki Daredi. As a producer what was it about the film that made you want to back it?

The film Attarintiki Daredi released in 2013 and that film was also produced by Reliance Entertainment in Telugu. The rights for the film were with Reliance all along and because of the content of the film we had been in discussion since a long time to remake the film in Bengali. Apart from being a complete entertainer which has romance, comedy and action the film has a very rich content with a story that has a soul. And I am personally very fond of Trivikram Srinivas’s work who is the writer and director of Attarintiki Daredi. In the past also, I have done a film that was based on his film and that worked very well. That film was Wanted (2010) a remake of his film Athadu.

This is your third collaboration with director Raj Chakraborty, and most of the directors always repeat you in their films. Is it fair to say that you are a director’s actor?

(Laughs) Thankfully they do repeat me in their films. It has been fantastic working with Raj as he is immensely passionate about his work. He has the ability to get the best out of his actors. I enjoy working with him as the energy on the sets of his films is so fervent that it engulfs you and makes you want to give more than a 100 per cent to your work.

If I have some thoughts about a film, as an actor, I do share it with the director. Sometimes they like my inputs and sometimes they don’t. I respect the director’s decision and trust their final decision as the director is the captain of the ship and knows the minute technicalities of filmmaking as a craft.

You have always worked with directors who are best in the business. How critical is a good director for you as an actor?

It’s not just for me as an actor but I feel a good director is the backbone of a film. A director’s way of handling the story and his way of storytelling with conviction is what makes director’s capabilities evident. A good director is someone who thinks of a film as a whole and doesn’t let his creative call get affected by the actors in the film. Who wouldn’t like to work with a director like that? A good director’s vision takes into account the film as a whole. A good director has the competence to highlight the strong aspects and cover the weak links of an actor.

Will we see you turn director in the future?

I never practice never so I cannot say no. But as of now I don’t have any such aspirations. I wouldn’t dismiss the idea but at the same time I wouldn’t give in to the idea of becoming a director too.

What about Hindi films, will you venture into Hindi film industry too?

I aspire to work in the Hindi film industry. There have been some proposals in the past but I never found anything exciting enough to take that leap. If I find something exciting and interesting I would certainly love to do it.

Would you be interested in dabbling into other regional film industries?

I have done Telugu and Tamil films in the past. I would love to do a film which has good content that has the ability to entertain the audience no matter in what language. Just like emotions have no language, cinema too has no language.

Since this is a trade magazine, how clued are you to the business side of cinema?

In my capacity I do keep a tab on what kind of business films are doing. As a producer it is part of my job to be updated with what the audience expects and accepts at the box office. At the end of the day the box office numbers only reflect the number of audience who watched your film. I try and keep myself updated with the Indian film collections and not just Bengali.

What can the audience expect from Abhimaan?

The film is releasing on October 6 and I am excited to see how the audience welcomes our film. If you see the original film you would know that the film has rich content with lots of action, romance, drama and comedy. Also in terms of numbers, that film too was one of the biggest grossers of Telugu industry, the year it released. The film had widely connected with the audience and I expect the same with my film too. Having said that, Abhimaan has everything that can entertain people, and touch their heart, the film has a soul and it talks about family relations and how important they are, when ego and pride harms the relationships what is the outcome. The film also conveys that sometimes while we hold on to our egos we miss out on great memories with our family.

The film will be released during the festive period, what are your expectations from the film?

Apart from being an entertainer, the film has an important message.  The film is releasing during the festival period and that is a plus for sure but at the end of the day everything depends on the content of the film. It’s the content that sells not the actor, not the director. The content makes or breaks a film.

What’s next for you?

After Abhimaan, I am working on Boss 2. The film is still in the preproduction stage and we will start shooting for it soon. For the past one year I have been working non-stop, so now I would like to take it slow. Abhimaan is my third release of 2016. I will take it one film at a time for now.

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