Your performance in your recently release film One has been appreciated. How did the film come your way and what was the driving force that made you sign the film?
For the last 8 to 10 years, I have been exploring my characters in a very different way. I was looking for something different, I would not say a ‘villain’, I would say an edgy kind of negative role. I was looking for a character who had an evil mind but is very sophisticated. So when this film came to me, I thought let me take up this challenge. Today, regardless of the fate of the film, Aditya Sinha has become very popular. Everybody is talking about Aditya Sinha, his lines, approach and attitude. For a director also, it becomes a big challenge to make a villain or a character so impactful that the villain finally becomes the hero of the film. It was a wonderful journey and I would say Aditya Sinha is a very impactful character.
Are you happy with the response to the film?
Yes, it’s a great moment for me and for the team of One. The film is doing great, not just in Calcutta but nationally too. It is getting a really good response in Bangalore, Mumbai and Chennai too. I think this is the way we should release Bengali cinema nationally because we have a lot of Bengalis all over India and it is a great initiative. Bengalis all over India wait to watch good cinema. The film is doing well and I am watching it in theatres. There is a lot of advance booking and cinemas are almost packed. That’s great news for all of us.
Is there a checklist you run through before you sign a film? What are the things you look for in a script before taking up a film?
I am doing two kinds of cinema. One kind of cinema is not very massy because I think that zone is all over India. When we used to watch a masala film, we used to assume even before watching the film that the hero would fight and the heroine would dance and then there would be a comedy scene. I think that has changed. I do two to three films a year, which is for a bigger mass audience, like Praktan or Kakababu. When I do those films, they are for the masses and these films are box-office hits.
Then I do at least one film a year which at least has the potential to aspire for a National Award. When I feature in a film, people expect to see something different. That also works if I am doing a film with Goutam Ghosh. I did Shankhachil, with him, which got a National Award for Best Feature Film in Bengali last year; and I did a film with Srijit Mukherji named Jaatishwar. These films are, in a way, classy.
For me, selecting films is for, number one, to do something contemporary, and then I choose some work which has archival value. We recently announced a film titled Mayurakhi, directed by Atanu Ghosh, where Soumitra Chatterjee and I are working together. He is a living legend for us. Somewhere, people say that ‘Prosenjit in today’s day is our legend.’ So the two of us are coming together and a film which is…like he is doing a role of his age, like my father, and I am doing a character of absolutely my age.
It’s the journey of a father and a son. When the son is eight years old, his relationship with his father is very different but when a man turns 45, and the father turns 75 or 80, the relationship changes. It’s a journey of a father and a son, so I know this film is going to touch Bengalis because of these two characters. At the same time, this film has archival value because Soumitra Chatterjee and Prosenjit Chatterjee are working together in it. I am sure it will be recognised nationally. So this is my target.
I am doing Srijit’s Kakababu next month, and that is going to be a huge, massy film. My last film was a huge crossover. That film is not for a massy crowd but all Bengalis will love to see it. This is how I work. I do two to three films a year now, not more than that, because I need time for one film. I am dedicated to one film at a time now.
Speaking of Mayurakhi, the film that explores a father-son relationship, how did you connect with the character?
I think everyone who has a father aged 80, not just Bengalis, will connect with this film. It brings back memories in the sense that the father is talking to his son, who is mature enough now, about what he did in class three. My director has written the characters really well. Today, when I meet my father, he sometimes talks about a letter I once gave him whereas, today, we write emails or WhatsApp each other. It’s like when I was young, I did not understand my father’s decisions but now, when I am the age he was then, I can relate to it. This is the chemistry shown in the film. I loved the script, which is very sensitive.
You have worked in the industry for a very long time. What changes have you witnessed when it comes to the audience and films?
We regional actors try to do films which give not only us pure pleasure but give the audience pleasure as well. Now I believe that I have fans across three generations. So, some of my fans have grown up with me and I now wish that young people, like 18 to 19 years old, should also be my fans. So I have to stay up to date with my characterisation and film selection. I want to do some good work and different work while keeping my brand intact.
The cinematic language is changing everywhere. Did anyone imagine that actors like Rajkummar Rao and Nawazuddin Siddiqui would pull off a film single handedly? For Indian cinema, heroes are like us who sing, dance and fight but that’s gone now. Today, there is content, and good actors are also getting a break. I am really excited about this change. We, in Bengali cinema, are changing the content pattern.
You have been there, done that. What excites you as an actor now?
Every film I do, excites me. I am a person who wakes up with cinema and also sleeps with cinema. When I have a conversation with someone for half an hour, for 15 minutes, I am talking about cinema. It’s my passion and energy. Whenever I do a film, I start dreaming about it. I start practicing for it. Once I am out of one character I get into another character and start living with it.
You just said you live with your characters, day and night. How tough is it for you to switch in and out of those characters?
Very tough. What happens nowadays is that when your film is complete, the promotions start. Normally, I stay with a character till the promotions are done. It’s not that once the film is complete, I jump into another character. Six to seven days ago, I was Aditya Sinha since I was promoting One because I wanted to make the audience connect with the character. So it’s really very tough. It’s like killing one character and building another.
What about Bollywood?
If I were to get into Bollywood, I would want to do very challenging roles. I don’t want to come to Mumbai and do something ordinary. I have been in cinema for 34 years and now I want to explore. I am working on a script now, not as an actor but as a director. I am trying to do really good, national work. I am trying to direct a Hindi film by the end of 2017 or 2018. My script is in process. For my last film Praktan, Bhatt saab has taken the rights to do it in Hindi.
How do you feel about being a part of SVF Entertainment?
Well, let me say it this way… we are very proud of SVF since it is the biggest production house in Calcutta. The best part is, I am honoured that they have just celebrated 24 years. I am honoured because when Mahendra Soni and Shrikant Mohta were in their early 20s, they signed me for their first film. I have done 30 to 35 films with them and it’s been a long journey.
They have been the biggest game-changers in Bengali cinema. They are not just in it only for the business, it’s their passion. I have seen them struggle to become number one. They went through a lot of learning and now they are big, they are corporate. When they started, they were just two boys who had a small office. Their first film was Bhai Amar Bhai, a black-and-white film which ran for 50 weeks. If I am not wrong, this film had the biggest release in Mumbai. They did fail and sometimes they thought they would leave the industry but they went on and they are now successful. Many people think I am on board here at SVF that’s because we have a long relationship. I am lucky.