Prosenjit Chatterjee, at the trailer launch of Bird of Dusk, speaks to RBN about his association with filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh and the impact that the Chokher Bali director had on the audience. Excerpts.
Tell us about your first encounter with Rituparno
Back then I used to work in three sets simultaneously. Ritu was making Unishe April. One day I was going from one set to another when Ritu spotted me. He told his line producer that I could be taken for a role in the film. Ritu later told me that the line producer warned him whether he had any idea what he was talking about. That I was a big star and won’t allow a director like him to enter my home. Ritu would recount this incident whenever we used to meet (laughs).
And your experience of working in Unishe April?
Honestly, I didn’t take Unishe April seriously in the beginning. It was a minor role and I took it more as a fun. But those two days of work with Ritu, even after already working in countless other films, made headlines in all major newspapers.
The first day experience?
You won’t believe this. He told me to go and urinate in the bathroom while talking to Debashree Roy in a scene. I was like stunned. Here was I, a star, and he a rather new director casually tells me to go and urinate? I asked him, are you serious? He said, sure I am. So I went. I tried, failed, and said hochhe na toh. Then drink water, he said casually. Fourteen years later, when I worked with him in Khela, I suggested a scene where I and the young boy, played by Akashneel Mukherjee, could play crisscross while passing urine. Ritu enthusiastically said yes to the scene. What I mean to say is that he got me the guts to experiment something different. That has been the major takeaway from all the films that I worked with him.
What do you think has been Rituparno’s biggest contribution to Indian films?
People who want to study films often spend a lot of money in formal institutes learning about them. But all that can be negated if you carefully study Ritu’s films. They are complete in every respect.
Tell us about Sangeeta Datta’s docu-feature Bird of Dusk on Rituparno
It’s a very important work. Sangeeta has worked with Ritu since Chokher Bali. Unfortunately, in our country, the documentation of filmmaking doesn’t happen, largely because of the lack of archival footage. Sangeeta has done an almost impossible task in this regard. I think Bird of Dusk should be the opening film in the next Kolkata film festival. It has been brilliantly made and should have archival value all over the world.
He had tremendous faith in mainstream actors
Yes, absolutely. He worked with leading mainstream actors from his very first film. He had the conviction that given the proper opportunity, mainstream actors and actresses were capable of doing different and much better work. He used to make actors out of stars. He made me realise that there was a different Prosenjit inside me. Ritu was an incredible actor himself. Simply following him was half the work done for us. He was technically very sound and taught me how to properly dub for a film.
There’s not a single day that Ritu is not remembered in the industry. He is not a ‘was’ but still ‘is’ with me.
Pic: Gopal Naskar