Ritwick Chakraborty is being heartily applauded for his recent release Har Har Byomkesh, where he plays the famous character, Ajit. The actor, who has worked for a decade in the Bengali film industry, is happy with the offers he’s been getting and with the growth in the Bengali industry. Chakraborty shares his journey and his experience.
Har Har Byomkesh released alongside two big Hindi films, Dilwale and Bajirao Mastani, and the film running as strong as those two films are in its fourth week. Does it feel surreal?
Cinema has changed and so has the audience. Regardless of language, a good film always works. And speaking of Har Har Byomkesh, the film garnered good reviews and that’s why the audience is pouring in even in its fourth week. To be honest, if a Bengali film is good, our audience will always choose a Bengali film over Hindi films. This has been happening for the last few years and, as a result, we too have holiday releases and sometimes even four films at a time and they all do well at the box office.
What kind of response are you getting for your film, given that several Byomkesh films have released in the last two years?
The response is outstanding. Our director, Arindamda (Sil), chose Benaras as the backdrop and when you watch the film with the Ganga as backdrop, it looks really nice. The audience is appreciating that as well. Speaking of Byomkesh, yes there have been many but there are so many more stories still to be told. So none of the Byomkesh film is a repetition of any story. Every time, Byomkesh and Ajit get together, there is a new case to solve.
Lately, many artistes have played Ajit. How is your character and body language different from the others, and what kind of feedback are you getting for the same?
When I signed the film, I too was a little sceptical about being able to pull it off as Saswata Chatterjee, one of my favourite actors, did in the other Byomkesh films. I was wondering whether the audience would accept me as Ajit as he is an iconic character and everyone connects with him. But our director changed the way Ajit’s character works. Usually, Ajit is Byomkesh’s assistant and he keeps talking and helping him. Here, Ajit is also a writer, a friend of Byomkesh who helps him solve his cases. He is also constantly looking for a story to be told through the cases. Finally, all the Byomkesh stories are written by Ajit. That was a twist that Arindamda gave to the Byomkesh series.
You started your career with television switched to films. Your last three films – Shabdo, Asha Jaoar Majhe and Bakita Byaktigato – won National Awards. How do you define your journey as an actor and where do you see yourself today?
I started with television but I always wanted to do films. So even when I was doing well on the small screen, I took some time out and did some good films. As an actor, I wanted to explore myself, which television doesn’t allow you to do. At the same time, television gave me work experience and helped me improve my acting skills and it showed me that I could do more. I never chose a lead role in any television series as it takes up all your time. I always opted for character artiste roles so that I could manage both mediums.
Over the last few years, Indian cinema has changed, and people are now looking for rooted and original stories. Shabdo, Asha Jaoar Majhe or Bakita Byaktigato are all original stories about the common man, and the audience loved them. As for how much I have grown as an actor, that is something the audience will tell me but the journey has been very fruitful. I am now in a position where I don’t go mad about work, or go looking for it desperately. I am offered good roles, which I want to do. The audience knows me and that’s what really matters.
In Hindi cinema, character artistes are getting increasingly popular. Is it the same in the Bengali industry?
Definitely. Films are no longer about a hero and a heroine. Today, actors work hard on their respective characters so that they do full justice to their roles. Earlier, films used to be about a hero, a heroine and their parents, who played side roles. Not any more. If I am the second lead, my audience still notices Ajit, who has a huge screen space to share with the lead actor. I believe that if the industry had not changed, then I wouldn’t have got these roles. Since the trend did change, there was demand for actors like me.
Also, directors do not stereotype actors any more. In the last few years, I have played a villain, second lead and also a protagonist. This proves that you are being offered films on the strength of your talent and not because of your last film’s success.