Co-stars Ritabhari Chakraborty and Soham Majumdar help us figure out the artiste’s code of conduct for new-age Tollywood
A lot rides on Ritabhari Chakraborty and Soham Majumdar’s next Tollywood outing. Brahma Janen Gopon Kommoti which releases on Women’s Day is a dramedy with such a unique premise that it could really be a tester for Tollywood’s new decade. The film, helmed by debutant director Aritra Mukherjee, tells the story of a priestess named Shabari (Chakraborty) who’s also a lecturer and re-evaluates the age-old traditions to make way for a more conscious way of ritualistic practise. Not only is this one of the most anticipated Bengali movies of the year, it’s also Majumdar’s first role after his much-talked about stint as Shiva in Kabir Singh . We got the actors to tell us a little about their new film and their artistic priorities.
What did you think when you heard the script for the first time?
SM: That we have to have to make it right now!
RC: The story is incredible because it's about a female purohit or priest who is actually educated and makes an effort to make people understand the significance of the rituals that they go through. For instance, in so many weddings, if a priest tells you to do something, you do it, without really understanding what it stands for. But Shabari is an educated girl, she’s a lecturer, she incorporates Rabindranath when she talks about love, she refers to the Gita when she talks about death. There is in fact a female priest in Kolkata who is doing this and a few aspects of the film have been inspired by her body of work.
The first thing I told Aritra was that I can't just orate in sanskrit or enact it like a performance, I'll really have to immerse myself into the act and he said ‘Bingo!’. He asked me if I will have the time for the needed research.
Ritabhari, what kind of research did you have to go through? Did you have to learn Sanskrit?
RC: No I focused on the mantras. The production house was very supportive. They had a sanskrit teacher on board and a priest as well. It did take some work. Moving the chavar and ringing the bell simultaneously takes a lot of practise (laughs)! If you're doing one thing, the other stops.
What are the kind of roles are you both focusing on now?
SM: I think cinema lives forever. My grandchildren, if there are any, will see my films and resonate. So I don't care if the role is supportive or a leading one, it has to be significant enough, it’s not about the length at all.
RC: Yes, both Soham and I want to make good movies, I really admire that about him. So many new actors just jump into whatever they are offered.
SM: I don't want to do 300 films but I do want to do cinema that stays with people. If you look at some of the milestone performances like Anne Hathaway’s role in Les Miserables, it’s like a 7-8 minute role; Anthony Hopkins has a little over a 10-minute presence in Silence of the Lambs. But they both got Academy Awards for these two roles; it’s not about the award, of course, it’s about the significance, it’s about how great they are as performances. I'm lucky that I can make the choice now.
RC: For me, I really want to make sure the kind of film I’m making reaches the audience it is intended for. In the past, I’ve been part of films which haven’t been planned well or weren’t exactly seen by the film’s target demographic. So, now that’s important to me. I also refuse to be a prop in a film. I make sure I’m not just being cast as a pretty face, that my role is substantial and meaty.
Soham, how did you get your start in acting?
I used to do theatre in school, and then in college. I actually never thought I’d act in films, then of course I was introduced to global cinema. After a point I figured why not introduce myself in films since it’s a different medium.
You’ve both worked in Bollywood and Tollywood. Have you personally felt the differences?
RC: In Tollywood, different production houses work in individual ways, so it’s difficult to actually speak collectively. But here of course, the people are much more immediately accessible and warmer. But more often than not, things do happen faster in Mumbai.
SM: I disagree a little, I feel we work faster here, you know. We have such fantastic technicians here. In Mumbai, for instance, I shot for Kabir Singh for 65 days and the entire film’s schedule was around 72 days! Here it’s more balanced.
Ritabhari, your own crew has a lot of women in it!
RC: Yes, it’s majorly women and they are so great. I only work with them, even if I’m shooting with Katrina Kaif or some A-lister, I bring in my own crew. I tell them I know you have excellent people but I want to give my team this platform.
You’ve more than a million followers on Instagram. How has social media helped you?
RC: You know after Ogo Bodhu Sundori ended, I wanted to focus on my studies and took a break. But when I was ready to come back my fans were right there with me; usually a star fades out as soon as their work ends. So social media has been a direct connect for me, and I use it to give back and speak out on things that matter.
I remember in 2018, we asked people on social media to donate so we could buy 2007 pairs of shoes for children who do not have any, and the response we got was overwhelming. So social media has always been a huge support. I have worked ridiculously hard and every role I get it’s through my work, nothing else. Even when I got the call from Anushka Sharma’s production house to star in Pari, it was because they’d seen my earlier work.
SM: I also think very few actors have made a successful transition from TV to films like Ritabhari has.
And you also topped your ISC!
RC: Yes, I did, I think Soham and I were from the same batch/ year. But I never saw myself as some sort of protege, I never wanted people to call me that.
Tell us how you liked working with each other
RC: We both have a no-gossip policy on set, I think that helps. I get really uncomfortable when I see someone gossiping about a person I know. And we had such fun, I love reading, he loves films, we would have fun, eat together with our crew members.
SM: Yes, I think it’s so great the way Ritabhari breaks mould in ech of her roles. Like I see some actors worry too much about their image. Like what image? You’re an actor!
RC: I agree. Soham is just that authentic, which is why he did so well in Kabir Singh, which was also his first audition in Mumbai I think.
SM: It was actually. I do think we all need to communicate better, because we usually assume we know what people want, but we don’t. I remember once when I was shooting, a technician told me I look like Rangeela’s Aamir Khan, so it was important for me to talk to him and connect
Makeup: Babusona Saha
Ritabhari's outfit: Kalighata
Soham's wardrobe/ styling: Anupam Chatterjee
Picture: Somnath Ray
Shoot Location: The Westin Kolkata Rajarhat