March 28, 2015 1:05:58 am
On the sets of Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!, stepping out of her vanity van, Swastika Mukherjee would be transported to her beloved city she thought was forever lost. With vintage cars, tram buses and hand-pulled carriages, the film, set in Calcutta in the 1940s, would make her nostalgic. “The indoor shoots in a beautiful, old bungalow would remind me of my grandmother. The memories of the times spent in her house, with its glass chandeliers, wicker chairs, the dressing table that held a large ornate mirror, came rushing back,” says Mukherjee.
The Dibakar Banerjee-directed rendition of Sharadindu Bandopadhyay’s popular detective character Byomkesh Bakshi will see the Bengali film and television actor make her Bollywood debut on April 3. Yet Mukherjee wears the air of confidence as she explains the legacy of the original text. “If you grew up in Calcutta, your childhood was incomplete without reading and re-reading the adventures of Byomkesh Bakshi and Satyajit Ray’s fictional detective character Feluda. While the latter is for a younger audience, the former is a lot darker and complex,” says the 34-year-old actor.
In the film, Mukherjee essays the role of Anguri Devi, a dancer and a spy, seen in the trailers drawing leisurely on a cigarette as she seduces the young sleuth. “Anguri is dark, intense and very dangerous. She never takes her mask off, and you can never be sure of what she’s thinking.”
As simple as it may sound, playing the part didn’t come easy, asserts Mukherjee. Used to directors okaying a shot in a few takes, the actor, on the sets of Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!, sometimes took hours to deliver the expression Banerjee wanted. There would be times she would nearly give up, tell the director that she cannot do any better. And when she would feel the most vulnerable, Banerjee would ask her to face the camera. “It was scary and exhausting, but also intensely rewarding,” she says.
The company of a “warm and gracious” co-actor in Sushant Singh Rajput also helped. Having seen him on television, Mukherjee had always known that his looks and screen presence are supplemented with great talent and the potential to make it on the big screen.
Her own entry into Hindi cinema, she believes, has come at an exciting time too. “Hindi filmmakers have been telling some great stories over the last few years, but what is important is that the audience is now ready to hear those stories. People want to watch unconventional or dark films such as Badlapur or Ankhon Dekhi. Kolkata saw a similar wave in 2008 and our cinema has evolved rapidly since then,” says the actor, who won acclaim for her role in Bhooter Bhabishyat and Jaatishwar.
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