Cover: Parambrata Chatterjee is riding high with noticeable work both in Bollywood and Tollywood

The prolific actor-filmmaker Parambrata Chattopadhyay will next be seen in Raj Chakraborty's film Habji Gabji that releases this June 3

Sharmistha Ghosal Published :  20th May 2022 12:00 AM   |   Published :   |  20th May 2022 12:00 AM

Parambrata Chattopadhyay

If there’s an actor in recent times from the Bengali film industry who has made a mark in the Hindi entertainment industry, it has to be Parambrata Chattopadhyay. Miles ahead of his contemporaries in terms of the choice of the roles and the limelight he derives from the same, Parambrata is riding high for the past two years, thanks to a few significant Hindi projects including Ram Prasad Ki Tehrvi, Bulbbul, Mithya, Aranyak and Jugaadistan, that got his talent noticed and recognised beyond the Bengali diaspora.

Besides getting accolades in Bollywood, Parambrata is also garnering appreciation back in Bengal for his recent, very-matured directorial venture, Abhijaan, a biopic on late actor Soumitra Chatterjee, that’s still running to packed houses. Busier than ever, the actor returned to Kolkata for promoting his upcoming film, Habji Gabji, directed by Raj Chakraborty, and we caught up with him about the film, his upcoming projects, directorial and production ventures and why he chooses to be even more reclusive.

You have become even more elusive these days...

Yeah maybe, but it’s by choice and not because I am busy. That’s how I like to lead my life -- by remaining immersed in work or being all by myself-- and now, perhaps a little more.

Parambrata Chattopadhyay
Parambrata Chattopadhyay

Why so?

I don’t know why but deep down I have a fear that with the kind of attention and respect I am getting now for my work even in Mumbai, I might get pushed into a space where I might start thinking that I need a bouncer or a hovering manager with me 24x7. I dread this entire act of the bouncers pushing away fans and creating a barrier. The big stars like Khans and Kumars might need them, not actors like us. But honestly, I see a lot of people who do these image building exercises when they actually don’t need to.

Having said that, the past couple of years have been very special for me. My work in Aranyak, Mihthya and Jugaadistan has been appreciated and my film Abhijaan is doing well.

You are doing exceptionally well as an actor-producer. What is the secret?

The secret is having a great partner in Aritra Sen. Second, it’s very crucial to separate your actor self and producer self. It’s a dreadfully wrong idea to become a producer to showcase the actor in you. Ideally, you shouldn’t be seen in any of the films other than if it’s absolutely needed. I haven’t acted in most of our major productions including Kali, Mafia and a huge web series that’s in the making.

Parambrata Chattopadhyay
A still from Habji Gabji

Tell us about your upcoming film Habji Gabji?

When a few filmmakers like Raj Chakraborty and Kaushik Ganguly ask me to do something, I usually don’t say no. Raj and I go a long way back and the only big-screen outing I had with him was in 2013 with Proloy. So, when he reached out to me with Habji Gabji in 2020, I agreed instantly and I felt it’s an incredibly relevant story.

Subhashree and I play an upwardly mobile, aspiring, working couple who lead an otherwise perfect life with their son. Many of us too had working parents but there were fewer trappings and relatives and grandparents often guided us. Our parents bought us good books or watched some great films together. But now, I see even my very literate friends giving tabs or phones to children without thinking of the long term harm. The film highlights how the parents lose track of what their child is going through.

Parambrata Chattopadhyay
Parambrata Chattopadhyay and Subhashree Ganguly in Habji Gabji

This is your first film opposite Subhashree...

Yes and I must say, many heroines of her age won’t agree to play an onscreen mom to a pre-teen son. She is passionate and hungry for good work and constantly keeps thinking, improvising and adding value to her work.

You have also acted with her in your upcoming directorial venture, Boudi Canteen...

Yes and this film is a journey of a successful chef and a businesswoman. It takes a different look at how we perceive women’s emancipation which is mostly through a male gaze. But a woman can also emancipate herself through the things she is conventionally used to and can find her passion there too.

You will be playing an important role in Mumbai Diaries season 2?

I have some very vital scenes with Konkona Sensharma and Satyajit Dubey. Mumbai Diaries has a lot of tracks in it since it revolves around a hospital with many people who have their individual journeys. Mine is a crucial journey which is also a part of Konkona’s journey. It’s too complex a character and it’s a treat to work with Nikhil Advani.

Anything, in particular, you learnt from him?

I enjoyed and learnt so many things. As a filmmaker, I have a passion for staging a scene and what I find missing here is that when we film a scene we make actors sit down and talk. But that happens in interviews, in real life, people don’t just sit and talk, they walk, move around, pick up things and stuff like that while talking. It is all the more crucial to be dynamic and mobile in a hospital set-up since everything is shot indoors and Nikhil does it admirably well.

Parambrata Chattopadhyay
Parambrata Chattopadhyay

Tell us about your short film with Sudhir Mishra?

It’s an anthology of four films by Anubhav Sinha that thematically explores the emotional changes in our lives since 2020. Sudhir’s film travels between two timelines, one set in the current pandemic times and the other, some 45 years earlier. Both Taapsee Pannu and I play characters that are shown in both times and underwent heavy prosthetics that took three-and-a-half hours to set and 90 minutes to remove.

Did you anticipate that Abhijaan, directed by you, will do so well?

Abhijaan is a classically made film and with our attention span reduced to the length of an Instagram reel now, I had doubts if the audience would sit patiently through the film. It’s not a simple biopic, but it deals with the complex crises we face every day internally and never quite express. Hence I never expected it to do this well.

Any memory with Soumitra Chatterjee?

Before Abhijaan’s filming started, I would visit him twice a week in the evening over drinks for two and a half months to discuss the film’s script. I still have a few recordings of those brilliant conversations.

Parambrata Chattopadhyay
A still from Habji Gabji

How are you growing as a filmmaker?

I have grown considerably in the last 2-3 years as a director and I hope that in the next 5 to 7 years I will be able to articulate more maturely and poignantly, the way I feel about any particular subject.

I will also be making Hindi films but for now, since I am making Bengali films, I feel we need to make films about ordinary people. Also, there should be some takeaway from the film. My film Boudi Canteen is a relationship, social drama and the next one is a political drama where I might be acting in a small part. It would be based on contemporary times but will relate to certain events back in time.

What are your upcoming projects?

There’s Mumbai Diaries 2, Sudhir Mishra’s short film and the web series Jehanabad for SonyLiv which is directed by Rajiv Barwal and Satyanshu Singh. In this series set in 2005, I play a dreaded political convict. There’s also a full-length Hindi feature film by Kannada filmmaker Pavan Wadeyar where I play the lead. The film looks at our legal system in a funny way.

Also, we will be soon shooting a series based on a legendary Bengali detective very soon.

Habji Gabji will be in cinemas on June 3