Interview Hindi

Arpita Chatterjee: I don’t like calling Shab my Hindi debut, it’s another good film

In an exclusive interview with, the well-known Bengali actress speaks about Shab and why she wouldn't like to call it as her Hindi film debut.

Keyur Seta

Arpita Chatterjee is a known name in Bengali cinema. She has played a wide range of roles in commercial and off-beat cinema in her 18-year-old career. She will now be seen in Onir’s Shab alongside Raveena Tandon and Ashish Bisht. Although the film is technically her Hindi film debut, she doesn’t feel it is the right way to put it. She reveals the reason for this and shares other interesting stuff in an exclusive chat with
What character are you playing in Shab?

The name of the character is Raina. She is a waitress in a cafeteria. It’s a confident, self-dependent, mature and practical character. But it has a lot of layers and mystery. There is a back story in this girl’s life due to which she is dragged to Delhi. The city is not her birth place. Also, she has a different aspect in life. Right now, I can’t disclose these two things. What is coming right now about Raina through posters, teasers and song videos through promotional activities is not all about Raina. 

A poster of Shab

What was the reason for choosing this film as your Hindi film debut?

I have a reservation using the term, ‘Hindi film debut’ because I have been working in the film industry for 15-17 years. I have done films in other languages as well, like Oriya. So, for me, this is another very good film, which happens to be in Hindi language. So, that extra exuberance is not there honestly that it’s a Bollywood debut for me. I think I have crossed that state of mind. It (debutant tag) goes with Ashish (Bisht) for sure. But I don’t think this is something I can relate to. 

I choose a project because of three things irrespective of the language — the script, character and director. So, as far as this film is concerned, it covers all these points. 

Did you experience any change working in Hindi from Bengali cinema?

Honestly speaking, no, because a film has its own pattern. That’s what I say that a film is a film, which has its own pattern and language, no matter what language it is. In terms of technicalities and unit, all elements are same. So, for me it’s not absolutely a different world or thing that I actually realised. And at the end of the day, Onir is a Bengali. Maybe because of that too the comfort was there and I didn’t feel it was a completely different industry. 

You are married to Bengali superstar Prosenjit Chatterjee. Do both of you discuss films at home?

Not at all. At the end of the day it’s a profession. This is something which takes care of our livelihood. We manage our livelihood by doing this thing. It is just like other professionals like doctors, lawyers, etc. We have other bigger issues to discuss; trust me (laughs). 

What is your take on the current scenario in Bengali cinema? How is it placed according to you?

Right now Bengali cinema is going through a very sensitive stage. Every industry, I believe, faces this particular moment or stage. It has grown to that stage and from there, there has to be a turning point to go to the second leap. According to me, Bengali industry is going through this particular stage. From here, I am very hopeful that it will see much better light in terms of bigger markets, more distribution, flow of continuous good content, more experimentation. I am sure it is moving towards that direction slowly. But, of course, a lot needs to be done. 

Do you think Bengali cinema has an advantage of the rich literary culture of Bengal?

We do have a very strong literary background. But not always directors choose plots and stories from our literature. Whenever it happens, of course we get a good story for a film. 

You have worked with a veteran like Shakti Samanta (in Devdas, 2002) and also with young directors. What difference do you experience?

Of course, there is a difference. In fact, all directors are different. As individuals they are different and also their working style. But in terms of Shakti Samanta and other directors, of course he is like a legend. He is a veteran. So, apart from getting an opportunity to work with him, it was also his last film. Every day after pack-up, it was like an unwritten agreement that he would tell stories which he faced and experienced during Aradhana (1969) or Kati Patang (1970) or other films. These stories helped me a lot to sort of understand and learn many things. That was an added advantage. 

How filmmaker Shakti Samanta shifted gears from thrillers to romance to social dramas

The story has been waiting to be told since 17 years. It’s finally going to release now.  What would you like to tell the audience?

I would like to say not precisely for Shab but for all films that people are not very keen to go to the theatres to watch a film these days. A film is something meant for the big screen. That shouldn’t be compromised with any other screen. Also, before we decide to go to the theatre, we filter the film through various parameters like critic reviews, opinions of friends and family. Everybody has a different taste and mindset. Something you like won’t necessarily be liked by me and vice versa. Considering these things, I would request people to go to the theatres and watch the film. And then you are free to say anything about the film you felt and experienced. 

Ashish Bisht and Arpita Chatterjee in a still from Shab

Just like you, Onir recently told us that a film should always be seen on the big screen and he will never settle for a small screen and make a web series.

No, here I have a different view point because in Delhi I have set up my own company. So, I have other aspects in my life too apart from being an actress. Through our company, we create video apps. We have done a lot of research on mobile and other digital mediums. The fact which emerged is that these mediums have their own nuances. When you make a film, it is for a big screen. But producing content for digital can’t be in a similar way. Lengthy content doesn’t work there. These points need to be considered for digital. So, I am not completely in agreement with Onir that I won’t make anything for digital. 

Onir: Instead of web series, I'd rather walk the path of Iranian cinema

Do you think one of the biggest advantages of the web medium is that one can be free from the wrath of censorship which is so prevalent these days?

Of course, this domain has given complete freedom to all of us. We can express whatever we feel because this is owned by us. In a way, it is good as long as we are using this freedom in a constructive way. That sensitivity is very important. We all should remember that we have got this freedom and we should use this in a positive and constructive way.

What are your forthcoming films?

As far as Hindi is concerned, no as of now. For Bengali, talks are on. But I haven’t finalised any project. Let’s see.