COVER: Actor Jisshu Sengupta talks about Baba Baby O, surrogacy and his web and film projects
Just before the release of Babab Baby O, his first Bengali film of this year, actor Jisshu Sengupta talks about the movie and what keeps him grounded
The prolonged contagion has taught Tollywood’s most popular actor Jisshu Sengupta to always live the moment. “I always try to go with the flow. Right now, I am talking to you and a few more interviews are lined up but I really don't know whether I am going to live after that. The pandemic has underscored how short life is and we need to be there for our loved ones in whatever way we can,” tells a reflective Sengupta, whose much-anticipated film, Baba Bay O released today in theatres.
During these two years, our cinema viewing habit has undergone a sea of change, with most of the major films getting released on OTT platforms. But with things slowly getting back to normal once again, an increasing number of films are being released in theatres and Aritra Mukherjee’s Baba Baby O, starring Jisshu and debutante Solanki Roy, definitely leads the pack with an unusual storyline.
Scripted by Zinia Sen, this film has all the ingredients to pull back the audience to cinema halls. It happens to be Jisshu’s first release of the year and sees him as Megh Roddur Chatterjee, a young man who chooses to be a single father through surrogacy.
Besides his rich oeuvre in Bengali films, Jisshu is now busy creating a niche for himself in Bollywood and has acted in some very popular films including Barfi, Piku, Mardaani Shakuntala Devi, Manikarnika, Duirgamati and Sadak 2.
He also happens to be one of the very few Bengali actors who have made a mark on the national OTT platforms. After web series like Typewriter and Criminal Justice, Jisshu will be seen alongside Tanya Maniktala and Parambrata Chatterjee in Amazon Prime's next big thriller, The Girl, set in North-East India.
Besides Hindi content, Jisshu has also been doing well in the south and after major hits like Aswathama and Bheesma, he just finished filming for two more Telugu films. Interestingly, he will be seen as the main antagonist in Chiranjeevi's upcoming film Acharya directed by Koratala Siva besides Malayalam film L2:Empuraan starring Mohanlal.
We talk to the actor, who was recently in Kolkata for a short while, about Baba Baby O, and his other upcoming projects.
Tell us what drew you to the film?
I have played a single father before in Uma but this film is about becoming a single father through surrogacy. I have always tried to play different characters and have experimented with my looks and roles. Be it negative, dark, bisexual or gay roles, I have done it all. To be brutally honest, I said yes to this film because it is a Windows Production and my friendship with filmmakers Shiboprosad Mukherjee and Nandita Roy goes long back and when I read the script, I knew I wanted to do it. It’s a very beautiful love story that has the distinct charm of the Bengali films made in the ’70s and ’80s and I also realized I haven’t acted in a romantic film in last few many years, so, there were many catches.
You look so different as Megh Roddur Chatterjee…
Thanks, that’s for the audience to feel but like always, this time too I didn't prepare and was very spontaneous. More than preparations, the environment of the shooting floor helps me as an actor to emote well and if I am convinced of the character, I can portray it well.
And the topic of this film, surrogacy, too is back in trend on social media, thanks to Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas’ surrogate baby…
Yeah, since our film was made a little before, I guess Priyanka and Nick actually followed us and thought of promoting the film by having the baby through surrogacy (laughs). Jokes apart, I believe our society is still not educated about surrogacy. I myself had no clarity about the exact process unless I did the film. Baba Baby O has attempted to make the layman understand surrogacy in a simple, subtle and practical way without being preachy.
It is also a love story between a young woman and a much older man…
Yeah, there’s a single father, there’s a young girl who falls for a much older man, and she doesn’t like kids. But in the end, everything falls into place beautifully which is so good about the script. Also, the issue of same-sex relationships has also been touched upon without mocking it or turning the topic into a dark comedy or sarcasm.
Do you think surrogacy will help a lot of men and women in same-sex relationships to become parents?
Definitely and it’s high time we start accepting things the way they are rather than changing what is natural. They too have every right to have babies and society shouldn't judge them or anybody.
How was it working with debutante Solanki Roy?
She is a dream actress and has been doing television for quite some time. A beautiful actress, Solanki quickly grabs nuances and takes advice that helps to enhance the overall performance in any scene. I am very happy about her debut and I am sure the audience will like her job in the film.
And what would you say about Aritra Mukherjee, the captain of the ship?
I had seen Aritra as an assistant director while filming for Posto. He is very meticulous, knows exactly what he wants and it’s difficult to believe that it is his second film. The best part is he is very open to suggestions and if it goes with the script he agrees to incorporate the same. There are many directors I know, who wouldn’t even change a comma in the script, but that’s another way of making a film and I respect that too. As an actor, one shouldn’t let the ego come in between.
In all these years what’s your takeaway as an actor?
I am still learning the ropes of acting and want to remain a learner till the last day. But what’s more important is to be a good human being. One must respect people and understand them. As a human, I have the right to react, but how I react is very important. I might go all out and say a few bad words about someone publicly but I should also have the courage to say sorry.
Does it hurt when someone who hurts you doesn’t apologise?
Yes, it does, I am a human at the end of the day.
Your recent Hindi releases on the web including Shakuntala Devi, Sadak 2 and Durgamati and big release Antim have not quite clicked with the audience…
I was labelled as unlucky for over a decade in Tollywood but I made my mark. It’s just been two-three years in Bollywood, one has to wait and watch. I am happy with the kind of work I am doing there as an actor and I want to work with filmmakers like Anurag Kashyap, Sujoy Ghosh, Sanjay Leela Bhansali and others.
Your upcoming projects?
There’s one web series that I can’t talk about. I play a very different and interesting character there. I have also done two Telugu films and currently shooting for two more. There’s also another Hindi film and a web series in the pipeline. In Bengali, Soumitra Chatterjee’s biopic Abhijaan, directed by Parambrata Chatterjee is almost ready for release.
How was it working in Abhijaan?
Abhijaan is my second film with Parambrata as the director and I am so proud to have played the part of Soumitra Chatterjee. Recently my actor friend Rahul Banerjee pointed out that perhaps I am the only actor in Tollywood to have played both Uttam Kumar (in Mahalaya) and Soumitra Chatterjee in one lifetime and I am indeed very proud of that fact.
How do you spend time when not working?
I primarily sleep. Other than that, I play cricket and listen to my two daughters, Sara and Zara talk, while hugging them tightly.
Pictures: Tathagata Ghosh