Tolly star and MP Dev talks about his upcoming movie, Tonic, and what he learnt from the pandemic
The actor talks about his journey so far, the kind of experimental roles he loves to play and more...
With Tollywood reeling under the pandemic, most film producers, apprehending heavy losses, decided to hold back their movies for better times. But a few films were released despite the gloomy prospects and went on to set records in terms of profits despite the truncated seating arrangements. Leading the pack was this Puja's highest-grosser Golondaaj, a period movie directed by Dhrubo Banerjee that saw superstar Dev in the role of Nagendra Prasad Sarbadhikari, who is hailed as the father of Indian football.
The movie has been held, both by critics and fans as Dev's best one so far, with a flawless act by him. This Christmas too, the actor will be back on the big screen with Tonic directed by debutant filmmaker Avijit Sen. It will be the only Bengali movie to release alongside much anticipated Bollywood biggies like Atrangi Re and 83.
We had a long chat with the MP-actor, who is looking dapper than ever in his new lean look, about his role in Tonic and why he thinks Tollywood is languishing.
This year, it was only Golondaaj, so far, which broke records at the Box office…
It really felt good that Golondaaj has done such a great business despite a general air of apprehension and panic in the post-pandemic times when people are still a little cagey to visit theatres. It definitely was satisfying to see the audience flocking cinemas to watch the movie. I really worked hard for the film, sustained injuries while shooting and also a lot of money went into making this period piece. I have the same feeling for my next film Tonic. It is a very different kind of film, unlike Golondaaj and I am sure Tonic too will be loved by the audience equally if not more.
What do you play in Tonic?
In this movie, I play the titular role. Tonic is a travel agent who sells dreams to people. It’s about what happens when Tonic enters the life of an aged couple who want to celebrate their wedding anniversary in a grand way away from home somewhere exotic. With Tonic’s arrival, many events, good bad and ugly take place in their lives and the story unfolds with the couple finally somewhere to celebrate. It’s a roller coaster ride and has hilarious moments too. The aged couple is played by actors Paran Bandyopadhyay and Shakuntala Barua.
It’s an unusual role, how did you prepare?
I love travelling and I have a travel agent who takes care of my itinerary for many years, now. He arranges everything for me and gives me so many options, at times trying to sell hard the places where I am not interested to go. He is a great manager and I have taken a cue from his style and mannerisms and convincing skills.
From mass to meaty roles, how has the journey been, so far?
The cinema language has completely changed with time and it’s become more global with the audience exposed to world cinema. I always felt you can’t repeat the same hackneyed formula and realised I needed to change before the world changed. So for a long time, I had been consciously balancing my film career, with one mainstream film on public demand and one for myself. I had done this since Le Chakka, Buno Haansh and Chander Pahar and I am fortunate that I rode the tide. The journey is still very interesting and I am still learning every day.
What’s one thing you want to better about yourself?
I want to act better and better and learn more. Besides I want to bring back the respectability that Bengali cinema is losing due to in-fighting. The intention of people here is to pull each other’s efforts down and as a result, Bengali films are suffering. Healthy competition is lacking and that needs to change.
The pandemic saw you working overtime as an MP, trying to help people…
I have always done this but during the pandemic, it got noticed. It’s difficult to sit back and see people suffering, being stuck somewhere far away from their homes. Every day there were 100-200 distress calls and all my offices in Ghatal, Delhi and Kolkata were active 24x7. I felt so helpless and realised that it’s not important how much money you have, it’s of no use. I wish our next generation doesn't see such times ever.
Do you think cinema will regain its old glory?
Of course, it has no alternative in terms of experience. The last two years with theatres closed and no new content on television, OTTS were the only mode of entertainment. But I think now the excitement around it is gradually slowing down and fatigue has set in. Cinema will always be a grand experience, it’s a family outing and can never be compared with OTT. But OTT platforms have brought so many actors back from oblivion, giving them a fresh lease of career, so it’s a great thing for actor and director fraternities.
Your upcoming projects?
There’s Kishmish, a pure love story where I play a character that turns from 16 to 45. Then there’s Kacher Manush with Prosenjit Chatterjee and Ishaa Saha, which I am also producing. I will be doing Raghu Dakaat, directed by Dhrubo Banerjee.
Tonic will release on December 24