By Shoma A. Chatterji
How did The Royal Bengal Tiger happen?
I have known Neeraj Pandey much before his film, A Wednesday. I met him at his office in Mumbai when I went to shoot for Bidhataar Lekha. We have been in touch ever since. He wanted to make a film in Bengali and I wanted to do a film with him. I also needed to come out of my comfort zone. When Viacom18 and Grassroot Entertainment put their heads together, The Royal Bengal Tiger was the result.
Didn’t you think it was a big risk playing an out-of-the-box role in a different kind of film?
After a dozen years in the industry, it was time for me to try something new. I needed to be innovative and Neeraj, along with his new director Rajesh Ganguly, offered me this platform. This is a commercial film because no one can afford to make a film that does not pull in an audience. It was a meaty and challenging role for me. And I had faith in Neeraj. Wanted was a super duper hit and it added to my oeuvre as a versatile and mature performer too. I knew that this was a different role, but also that it would not create a dent to my credibility as an actor. Risk is a part of this big game. In that sense, every film is a risk.
You have done 40 films in 12 years. Comment.
It has been a great learning experience and has enriched my life in many ways. Cinema is above everything. It is timeless and it is total. The quality of a film and your role in it should not work against your credibility as an actor. It helped me take the risk of turning producer. Part of my family is also involved in Grassroot Entertainment today.
Describe your character Anjan in The Royal Bengal Tiger.
I have to answer that cleverly because it could give away the twist in the tale. Anjan is a childhood friend of Abhiroop, the protagonist played by Abir Chatterjee. Anjan, who is reckless, daring, rebellious and radical is the perfect antithesis of Abhiroop, who is timid, complacent and unambitious. But they separate and meet again after many years. Anjan keeps telling Abhiroop that, ‘Fear is a state of mind’, pushing him to overcome his fear and panic by drawing courage from within. I have never done this kind of role.
What is your next film all about?
My forthcoming film is Game, directed by Baba Yadav. It begins with the hero playing a game. We are still shooting for this joint venture by Reliance and Grassroot Entertainment. It is a full-blooded entertainer with action, romance, song-dance routines etc. I play Abhimanyu, an army guy who is responsible for countering terrorist activities. Shubhasree plays my love interest. There is one more film, a rom-com titled Bachchan directed by Raja Chanda.
Your films are being co-produced by your firm. Does this mean you are not open to independent banners as an actor?
I am basically an actor. I am open to offers from independent producers and everyone may not want to sign up with Grassroot Entertainment in order to sign me for their film. To join in with Friday Film Works, Reliance and Viacom18 is aimed at reaching out to a national identity for Bengali cinema which now has a global reach. I am negotiating with corporate and national producers and also with independent production banners rooted in Bengal.