Had to Learn about Occultism and Spirits: Rishav Basu

Actor Rishav Basu makes his first major big screen appearance in Abhishek Roy and Meenakshii’s upcoming film Kuasha Jakhon which is currently in the post-production stage. He speaks exclusively to RBN about the role he plays in the film and his journey so far.

How did you land the role?

I had a brief appearance in director Anik Dutta’s film Meghnad Badh Rahasya which released last year. One evening I got a call from costume designer Suchismita Dasgupta with whom I had worked in the film. She told me that a debutant director duo was looking for a new actor for their upcoming project. I went to meet Meenakshiidi and Abhishekda, had an hour-long conversation, showed them some of my works in theatre and things worked out from there.

What made you say ‘yes’ to the offer?

I connected well with them when we first met. They are extremely good human beings. That aside, the character that I play in Kuasha Jakhon, is very unconventional. New actors usually don’t get such roles. Also, I had no other project at that time (laughs).

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You have been an active theatre actor for many years. What are the things that you learnt as a stage actor that you feel will help you going forward?

Discipline, more than anything else. I was on a strict diet and did rigorous training before and during the shoot. Character study is also an important part in our profession. Doing your homework and studying the character and its trade is something I acquired from theatre. But honestly, regardless of the medium, an actor should believe in and get under the skin of the character. I bugged Meenakshiidi every now and then to learn about occultism and spirits, and she was very open in sharing ideas.

Rishav Basu

There are many seasoned actors in this film. How have you benefited from them?

ImmenseIy. Everybody has their own style and you always keep learning from them. Even when I didn’t have a scene, I sat in front of the monitor and observed my senior actors. Shatafda (Figar) has a commanding on-screen presence. I saw how he carried himself during a shot. Anindyada (Banerjee) on the other hand is very spontaneous and playful. He is also very unpredictable and that kind of lends a surprise element and a natural instinct to your acting.

Gargi Roychowdhury?

Gargidi is a very powerful actress and has a lovely way of delivering her dialogues. There was a scene where I had to smoke during a shot. But Gargidi is allergic to smoke. I was very sceptical whether I should smoke or not, but she told me to forget about her, and concentrate on the character who would actually smoke in front of a woman. That was very inspiring for me.

This is the debut film of Meenakshii and Abhishek. While you have worked with Anik Dutta earlier, don’t you think a more experienced director would have handled you better in your first film in the lead?

Well, working with different directors broadens your knowledge. I worked in Bohurupee and later in a new group like Bohuswar. You learn the best from experienced professionals, but with new directors, I was able to share my ideas and become more responsible. I even argued with Meenakshiidi and Abhishekda at times. Every director had a debut film and they grew into filmmakers with time. So it’s more like a journey we debutants made together.

You role in the film

I play Alex, an occultist. He is a bohemian spirit researcher who, as a part of his destiny, comes to an old mansion turned into a heritage hotel to solve a mystery revolving a dark past of the family which once lived there.

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You are also a dramatics teacher. How interested are children now to pursue theatre?

Very much. Some of my students who are now in college are doing theatre in various groups. Young children are very intelligent and always a step ahead of us when it comes to art and trivia. They have that innocence to do something creative and I learn so much from them. I have been taking dramatics classes since I was 20. So the children consider me more as their friend and elder brother. They come to me with their daily problems, seek advice, and keep me updated on films and other art forms.

Your experience of working on television

I have briefly worked in television and it is certainly not easy as many people think. There has to be a story everyday and sometimes it becomes the part of people’s lives. I had played the brother of the lead actress in a serial, and our housemaid once requested my mother to tell me to save my sister from her in-laws because she was facing a lot of issues. We laughed off, but later realised that television shows are a part of our daily lives, and people start believing in them and empathise with the characters. I think it is very motivating as an actor.

What are the changes you have noticed in acting for TV and in film?

Well, acting on TV, as compared to cinema, has to be more dramatic to keep the audience glued, since people watch it in their homes with a lot of distractions around. But cinema has a much broader spectrum. But whatever the medium, an actor should remain the same everywhere.

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Memorable incidents while shooting the film?

There were many. Like a snake invading the outdoor shoot under real thunder and lightning during the climax. We were shooting at Belgachia Rajbari and it was kind of spooky after sundown. Just before the camera rolled, I spotted an owl on the terrace, and Manali (Dey) was petrified. Meenakshiidi and I convinced her that it was a spirit watching over us (laughs). The entire unit was very lively and like a family. We had a lot of fun during the shooting.

And Shataf is crazy for sweets, we hear?

Oh yes. You have to see it to believe. Being a north Kolkata resident, I used to treat everyone to sweets from my neighbourhood. One day I brought shwarbhaja on the sets and Shatafda ate 10 at one go. All of us were dumbstruck (laughs).

Pics: Amal Kundu

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Foodie, lazy, bookworm, and internet junkie. All in that order. Loves to floor the accelerator. Mad about the Himalayas and its trekking trails. Forester in past life. An avid swimmer. Also an occasional writer and editor

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