After impressing the audience with his turn in films like Shakuntaladevi and Sadak 2, Jisshu Sengupta is back with Amazon Prime Video release Durgamati.
In this exclusive interview with indianexpress.com, Jisshu talks about Durgamati, shooting for a horror-thriller and why he doesn’t shy away from taking ‘smaller parts’.
Excerpts from the conversation:
Tell us a bit about your role in Durgamati.
I am playing an ACP, and I really can’t tell much about the story, as that would give out the plot. It’s a horror thriller, and will keep the audience on the edge of the seat. The script really intrigued me, and that was the major reason why I took up the film.
Since it’s a remake, many in the audience already know about the film. Do you think that will take away the surprise from it?
Well, given we were making it for the Hindi audience, director G. Ashok has made some changes. I think that makes it unique. These alterations might be very small but are very important ones. I am sure a lot of people have watched the film, and even read about it. But watching Durgamati would be a different experience for everyone.
How was the experience of shooting for Durgamati?
I have to give this to Ashok. We actually shot at real locations in Bhopal. With mostly night shifts, we would shoot till wee hours. And at times it would get really cold and even eerie. To be honest, filming is mostly a technical job, but the place and environment do matter. I remember we were once shooting in a haveli which was supposed to be haunted. After we packed up, one of the team members informed me that people don’t visit the spot as it’s said to be visited by ghosts. I was shocked, and couldn’t believe that we were actually working there a few moments back. When you are on a set, it’s a different ball game. But, on real locations, you do feel that something or someone is looking at you all the time.
How much of a horror fan are you?
Not at all! I only like Batman, Superman and Tom and Jerry. I just can’t watch anything scary (laughs).
The film’s storyline broadly revolves around a “temple”, and religion is a sensitive topic in today’s time. The title was also changed recently. As an actor, do these controversies affect you?
First and foremost, people really don’t know what this film is about. It doesn’t deal with religion, so there is no scope for controversy. Yes, the title was changed because there were some objections. Our country is said to be democratic, where there are multiple religions, castes and we should be able to respect everyone. At the end of the day, it’s a film, and everyone has the right to tell their own story. If you don’t like it, speak about it then. But don’t stop anyone from making their vision.
The film has Bhumi Pednekar in the lead role. The same was the case when you did Shakuntala Devi where Vidya Balan took charge. When you take up a project, does it ever bother you that a female actor might overshadow you?
To tell you honestly, I only look at my character and where it fits in the entire scheme of things. I only think about how important is my role, and whether without it the story would move ahead or not. That helps me to choose the right part. And then, it really doesn’t matter if a male or female actor is stealing the show. One should only work towards making the film a success. And I got this learning from Amitabh Bachchan when I worked with him in The Last Lear. He told me that it’s always team work, and actors have to help each other to make the scene better. If one tries to overshadow their co-star, the scene won’t stand, and then the film would fall flat. I have followed that to the T till now. Even if you are doing just one scene, if you have agreed to do the film, you have to give it your all.
Are you happy with the kind of roles offered to you in Bollywood?
Of course, I am thankful that I am working on some good projects. I have mostly worked with all Bengali directors – Sujit Sircar, Sujoy Ghosh, Pradeep Sarkar, Anurag Basu, as they know the kind of work I have done. Now, I am getting different offers. Also, not just Bollywood but I am getting to be a part of different type of films in different languages. I am getting to learn a lot. I am really loving it.
A lot of Hindi films stars wouldn’t be keen to take up smaller parts which force filmmakers to search for actors in the regional industry. Do you think their loss has worked in your favour?
I am very happy in my space with whatever films I am getting. Also, I wish good luck to everyone who did not do these parts.
Your Hindi films Shakuntala Devi, Sadak and Durgamati premiered on an OTT platform. Did it act as a dampener, or were you fine with it?
Of course, it was disappointing. This year, I did three films and characters which were so different from each other. I would have wanted it to release in cinema halls, but I am happy that so many people watched the films. However, as an actor, there is always a desire to watch yourself on the big screen.
Durgamati will start streaming on Amazon Prime Video from December 11.