Anirban Bhattacharya says Dracula Sir drained him most as an actor after Dhananjoy
His humble yet promising debut in 2016, as Bishan Roy in Eagoler Chokh, took Bengali film audiences by surprise, and few people expected the consistent, breathtaking quality of performances that followed. Be it as the shrewd, conniving brother in Ek Je Chilo Raja, the funny dacoit in Bibaho Obhijaan, the maverick truthseeker in Gumnaami, the handsome middle-aged news editor in Ghawre Bairey Aaj or the abrasively attractive Byomkesh, actor Anirban Bhattacharya nailed it each time with his nuanced performances and distinct looks.
The actor’s successful run at the box office continues with Dwitiyo Purush — the first blockbuster of the year and the decade, earning more than Rs 4 crore in two weeks in collections. The thriller by Srijit Mukherji, which is a sequel to his mega-hit, Baishe Srabon, saw Anirban playing Khoka, a killer from the underbelly of the society, with great panache. But the star is unperturbed by his success, and he earnestly believes that the best is yet to come. Busy rehearsing for the next show of his play, Titumir, we sat down with the man of the moment for a candid chat on his upcoming movies and more. Excerpts:
Ghawre Bairey Aaj, Gumnaami and now, Diwitiyo Purush. We feel these films feature some of the best performances of your career.
It feels wonderful to be a part of such great films. Even more, when it is good for the industry, and all the people associated with it — if the film works well. But as an actor, I am not sure if this is my best phase. Like all artistes, I feel that much better work awaits me in the future, and I always strive for better performances.
How do you manage to look so very different with each film?
That’s becoming banal to me now. Anything that is a norm becomes boring. For now, I will consciously try to look the way I do, at least in the next few movies, to break the monotony of appearing different. I wished I had gotten the role of Nikhilesh in Ghawre Bairey Aaj a little later in life, maybe when I was 40-41 years old. I could have looked even more convincing. It took me a lot of restraint and practice to play that mature a character.
In Dwitiyo Purush, however, your look was repulsive...
That is the kind of response I wanted to elicit from the audience. I wanted Khoka to have a fleshy, oily and repulsive look to portray the ugliness, and it clicked very well with the audience. In fact, it did so well that now Khoka has a dedicated Twitter handle and a huge fanbase on social media with, perhaps, the largest number of memes.
Which movie drained you the most as an actor?
After Dhananjoy, it is definitely Dracula Sir. I just finished shooting for the movie and it has exhausted me completely. It deals with schizophrenia and the film‘s plot parallelly takes place in the present day and the Naxalite movement in 1971. It wasn’t easy for the director or the team, and was very strenuous, as the filming was done mostly late at night. It has left a deep impact on me as an actor, and I will definitely look forward to how the audience reacts to this particular film.
How much has the industry changed lately?
It has changed for the better, and I believe in the next five years, it will evolve further. Who knew in the late-’90s that Bengali cinema could be better than those commercial potboilers? Young filmmakers like Srijit and others have brought a whiff of fresh air, and audiences have discovered their appetite for thrillers. I believe, people value trained actors like us a lot more than they did. And it’s because content has gone through a sea change. If you look at current national or Bollywood trends, you will observe that all medium- or small-budget movies that are hitting the bullseye are based on smalltown stories. People want to see their stories on-screen, and that’s why semiurban plots work so well.
That’s true of your character Ganesh in Bibabho Obhijaan, and we hear that a sequel is in the offing?
I have also heard the same, and the talks are on. I enjoyed playing the very innocent and funny Ganesh, and I was thrilled to get the best actor award in a comic role for the same at WBFJA. It would be fantastic to do Bibaho Obhijaan 2.
Tell us about your long-awaited wedding.
It has been getting delayed, despite everything having been fixed, due to personal reasons. At this point, even I am beginning to get a bit restless, having lived alone for a long time. I am sure you will hear the good news soon.