COVER: Tollywood star Prosenjit Chatterjee always reinvents himself to stay relevant to the times

Ahead of Father's day, Prosenjit talks about his latest release, Aay Khuku Aay, where he plays a doting dad

Sharmistha Ghosal Published :  17th June 2022 12:00 AM   |   Published :   |  17th June 2022 12:00 AM
Prosenjit Chatterjee

Prosenjit Chatterjee

Tollywood's only true superstar Prosenjit Chatterjee knows how to survive the winds of change by taking up new challenges. Nearing 40 years in the film industry with about 348 films and still counting, the actor is as hungry for new roles as he was at the onset of his acting career.

“I am a very self-centred man when it comes to acting. I want all the filmmakers, new or seasoned, to bring out the best in me. Nowadays, I like doing selected films that challenge me differently and though I can’t expect each one of them to strike gold at the box office, they must satisfy the actor in me. Playing varied roles are more important to me, now, than success in the box office alone,” tells the iconic star of the Bengali film industry.

The actor’s latest film, Aay Khuku Aay, produced by Jeetz Filmworks and Grassroot Entertainment, sees Prosenjit in a role that’s anything but jejune.

Ahead of Father’s Day, we talk to the ever-ebullient actor about the film, his evolving relationship with his son and on turning 60 this September.

Prosenjit Chatterjee
Prosenjit Chatterjee in Aay Khuku Aay

Your character, Nirmal Mondal from Aay Khuku Aay, has been the topic of discussion in almost every Bengali household since the movie’s trailer got out…

Some of the characters that I have played earlier in mainstream cinema, especially Probir in Baishe Srabon or Kushal Hazra in Jatishwar got very popular after the films’ release. But Nirmal Mondal has become popular way before Aay Khuku Aay’s release and there lay my challenge. -- to turn Prosenjit into Nirmal Mondal. Nirmal represents millions in our country who wake up every day and think about how to run their family by doing small-time odd jobs. And the lives of these struggling people from the fringes have always interested me. I always wanted to play one of them on screen. It amazes me how at the end of a day’s toil, they still retain that smile on their face and are happy and hopeful about tomorrow. I salute those people and it’s a tribute to all such people, who still find meaning in their lives and holds up against all the odds of life.

Prosenjit Chatterjee
Prosenjit Chatterjee

How did you approach the character?

Nirmal is one such character from a rural district, whose life centres around his daughter Buri Nirmal. He tries to keep his household running by hawking in trains, which is turning redundant. He is the kind of person, who hears from his daughter that he couldn’t make anything of his life. Approaching a character like Nirmal had been exciting as an actor for me since I had to do away with all that defines Prosenjit the star to play Nirmal.

To become Nirmal, I had been immensely helped by the whole team including the director and the makeup team. Also, I developed a wonderful father-daughter equation with my screen daughter, actor Ditipriya. Ditpriya and I did many a thing in the film for which even the director wasn’t prepared. There are scenes where I wash clothes, scrub and mop rooms, wash dishes and also tie Ditipriya’s hair. So, these were the things that further added to the credibility of the very rural characters with which the audience will be able to identify.

Prosenjit Chatterjee
Prosenjit Chatterjee

You have always worked with and encouraged new filmmakers including Srijit Mukherji. How was it working with Sauvik Kundu for his second film?

When I watched Sauvik’s debut film Switzerland, I observed that he likes making commercial movies with a modern approach while retaining the simplicity and charm of yesteryear films. In this film too, he has kept that essence of pure simplicity intact. He thinks in a lot of layers and knows how to bring out many sides to a character in a single frame by evoking the right emotions in an actor. So, I loved retaking scenes for him, since that brought out the best in me. As a self-centric actor, I have always loved working with directors who bring out the best performance in me.

In real life, how has your relationship evolved with your son, Trishanjit (Mishuk)?

Mishuk is in his late teens now and going through those tumultuous adolescent years. It’s always a difficult and challenging time for a child and a parent to navigate their relationship during this phase. Since he has always been in a boarding school, we never got him much at home, but Mishuk and I share a very interesting equation. Sometimes we are good friends and at times we don’t talk at all. He is extremely caring and during nights when I sometimes fall asleep watching television, he will sneak in and cover me smugly with a blanket. Technology-wise too, they are miles ahead of us and he advises me too on how to promote my films on social media.

Prosenjit Chatterjee
Prosenjit Chatterjee

How do you discipline him?

I don’t shout at all when it comes to disciplining Mishuk and that works the best. Mishuk knows that if I go silent that means something is gravely wrong and he is extremely scared of my silence.

Is it physically taxing to rear a late child?

I carry more weights than he does in the gym (laughs). But definitely, there’s always a mental concern as an aged father until your son turns adult and becomes ready to face the world.

You have completed nearly four decades in the film industry and this year, you are turning 60. How do you feel?

Aay Khuku Aay is my 348th film. I wish I could have started all over again since now, I know which mistakes not to make. There are probably a lot of films I shouldn’t have done, maybe, I shouldn’t have turned down the film offers from Bollywood. But again, I think of all the love and adulation I have got in all these years.

Being 60 is just a number for me. I am now working with the third generation of actors, so, I try to maintain myself well since I want to match steps perfectly with them, all the time.

Aay Khuku Aay is in theatres, now