Rahul Arunoday Banerjee gets into a death row convict's psyche for Mrityupothojatri
The actor also shares why he thinks television directors are overpowered by channel strategies in today’s time
It is easy to burden all our pent-up hatred and anger upon a person once they’re accused of a heinous crime, but do we often overlook what goes on in their minds when they’re punished with something as severe as a death sentence? While it is difficult to empathise with someone on death row, being aware that one will perish soon enough is something that would push any human being to emotional extremities. Rahul Arunodoy Banerjee steps into the shoes of one such accused in Saumya Sengupta’s Mrityupothojatri, where he single-handedly interprets the last moment of psychological turmoil faced by a person who is left with only twelve hours in his life. The actor also shares his views on the current situation of television content.
What is your role like in Mrityupathojatri?
My character is that of a convict who is aware that he has only twelve hours left until execution. He is captured in a cell and has no other way left to be pardoned from his crime hence he resorts to every faith and religion out there to pray for his life, as well as reflects on his own actions that pushed him to the edge.
What helped you get into the psyche of this character?
The current infrastructure in our industry doesn’t allow an actor to freely exercise methods, but since this film allowed me to take things into my own hands since it is a solo act, I had some freedom to experiment with a few methods.
I cut off completely from my social circle fifteen days prior to the commencement of the film’s shooting. I refused to speak to my mother, confined myself in my own room, and switched off from all social media platforms. It is true that my room is in no way similar to a prison cell, and has a plethora of facilities that is unthinkable for an inmate but I tried my best to do whatever was in my capacity to at least place myself in a person’s psyche who is deprived of social communication. I also resorted to books provided by my director, and meetings arranged with members of a correctional home to understand the psychological state of an unpardonable accused.
Is the audience yet prepared for experimental films like Mrityupathojatri which is mostly based on a solo act?
It is important to consider that we can’t stop experimenting just because the mass audience is not prepared yet. The audience needs newer concepts and content and it is true that Mrityupothojatri might be a little different from usual commercial movies packed with entertaining elements. But even if at least six out of ten people internalise what they are watching on screen through this slow-burning film with minimal camera movements, it will give them the opportunity to accept experimentation in the future.
Khela made you quite popular on television back in the early 2000s, and now again you have stepped into television with Desher Maati & Laalkuthi. Has television content progressed in terms of content over these years?
The type of content served through television serials back in those days was quite different from the audience it targets today. Serials like Ek Akasher Nichey, and telefilms directed by stalwarts were the ones that catered to the urban sectors while commercial films were targeted towards the masses. The situation has quite flipped now with films being made for urban audiences and serials being targeted towards the mass audience from the suburb pockets. This is also why folk practices like Jatrapala are also losing their charm as the mass audiences no longer prefer to travel to watch a 3-hour long play, they would rather sit comfortably in their homes and watch stories change on television every half an hour. Naturally, the decades in between have seen the story narratives, choices as well as acting style change in order to fit into the preferences of its targeted audience.
I also feel a little uncomfortable about the fact that television directors have become somewhat powerless as most of the content and practices are controlled by channel executives. This has pushed floor mannerisms to lack discipline and much-required respect towards the director. I still believe the director should have the ultimate control over his actors and team.
You have also acted widely on stage at one point. Do you have any plans of taking things live on stage anytime soon?
Honestly, I am swamped with work and theatre demands a lot of seriousness, dedication and time which I cannot provide immediately at this moment.
Your upcoming projects?
Mrityupathojatri is currently screening in nearby theatres and I have also played an important role in Srijit Mukherji’s Feludar Goyendagiri. The latter is streaming on Hoichoi. Apart from this I also have a few other films like Chhad and Shohobash down my pipeline. I will also soon be donning the director’s hat for Kolkata 96 featuring Ritwik Chakraborty and Sohini Sarkar. The project is due to commence from July 25 onwards.