Parambrata Chatterjee on the past, present, future and ‘Aranyak’

One of Bengali cinema’s most prolific and promising actors Parambrata Chatterjee is back in ‘Aranyak’ this time teaming up with Raveena Tandon to solve gruesome serial killings. Parambrata feels the OTT has blurred the lines between regional and national cinema. “I think it is everything in one box so you can just choose what to watch and I have myself witnessed this during the last few years how perceptions have changed, how people appreciate good work over boundaries of language these days.”

Parambrata feels the OTT and the big screen will co-exist. “It’s nice, so yes it is opening up the possibilities for access of content in general and it is here to stay alongside the big screen. The big screen will never fade but yes, OTT is creating opportunities for foreign subjects which never found their way here and it is also providing opportunities to people who would want to experiment with telling stories on the screen … it’s becoming a little more widespread the whole filmmaking process is more democratic.”

Parambrata says there were several reasons why he agreed to be in Netflix’s Aranyak. “First of all, this was for Netflix one of the most prestigious platform that we have. Someone like Raveena Tandon was my co-star. All of these mattered and then when I heard the story and eventually the script I think it made complete sense, so yeah. This is something that came my way and there was no question of not stepping into it.”

He enjoyed working with Raveena. “You know I’m the 90s’ boy and no matter what kind of cinema I’ve done, later on, I’ve watched all the right kinds of cinema while growing up, so yes I’ve watched a lot of Raveena Tandon movies.So it was very strange to end up working for such a long time and so many days and so closely with somebody whom I’ve kind of been a bit of a fanboy in my teens and I also said that to her on the first day of the shoot. But yeah after about the first 4-5 days it became really easy.We became great friends and it was very easy very chilled out and very nice.We developed a great friendship.”

Explaining why he is not seen more often in Hindi cinema, Parambrata says, “After ‘Kahaani’ people expected that I would just immediately move to Mumbai and start doing Hindi films. I didn’t want that.I got very busy in Bengal. I learned direction myself and I was doing a lot of stuff.I don’t regret it at all. I made some wrong choices in Hindi. I’m a little careful about that now and almost as a part of my answer to your previous question about what to do I think the advent of OTT has given me and many others like me a lot of good work.”

More than twenty years as an actor and director in Bengali cinema…how does Parambrata assess these two decades? “I started so young that it is been two decades almost …yeah it’s been fascinating and in very many ways it’s been very very fascinating. When I look back at it I just sometimes feel that I’ve had many lives. There’s a film in English called The Many Lives Of Pippa Lee. It’s beautiful. I think my journey and many such as the journeys of many of the people remind me of that film because I really feel that we live many lives in one lifetime .So what I’d done back in 2001-2 seems like a different life, it feels like a different person that was living that life.”

Looking ahead the actor has many projects lined up. “I think I need to get much wiser than what I am now. I still am quite impulsive about certain things.I think all the experiences have made me mature, they have also managed to keep the hunger alive. You know, deciding to quit television was a big turning point for me. Doing the films of Sandip Ray and then The Bong Connection was a turning point. It made me a film actor. Then leaving for the UK to study was a turning point although that was something that people thought was absolute madness. But I am glad I did it. I’d think of turning producer and director is a big turning point. And I would say recently the pandemic has been a turning point.”

He feels the Bengali film industry has reached a turning point. “I think any industry when mainstream films and commercial films stop working …I think that’s a bad sign for the industry because you know I think mainstream and parallel cinema keep each other in check. I think mainstream cinema in Bengali has completely stopped working and that is not a good sign and I think the people who are making that kind of cinema have become a little complacent. It stopped exploring more rooted subjects, well-grounded subjects and that’s a problem. Having said that, there is a lot of interesting work happening and the people who have probably got complacent are also trying out new things and there’s no stopping that, and then the next one or two years will be very crucial. After the pandemic, we thought the whole Bengali cinema industry will probably just collapse but that didn’t happen thankfully. On the contrary a lot of new films are being made. It would be very very interesting to see how it goes and I think that there will be a little bit of churning, so let’s see how it goes. We as a production company are producing 3 films next year, midsize Bengali films. And in the OTT space I am doing a series for Prime Video called The Girl, and then another series for Lionsgate Play. I am also doing a film being produced by Applause Entertainment. I’m currently shooting for a sports film.So it’s a jampacked schedule for me.”

Parambrata has also directed several film. His last directorial Abhijan chronicled the life and career of the legendary Soumitra Chatterjee. What drew him to this project? “Abhijan came my way. The producers were a dear friend of Soumitrada so they came to me and said they would like to make this. I did think about it and then came to the conclusion that yes I would like to make this. I don’t know ….when the film releases some people might not like it some people might like it very much. But I think for me it’s been a very unique experience interacting with Soumitrada spending so much time with him They gave me a lot of insight into the person’s mind and existence and that is what I’ve tried to reflect on the screen.”

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