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Audiences' tastes are changing even in Bengal, says Prosenjit Chatterjee

In his next film, Drishtikone (2018), Chatterjee plays a man who loses his eyesight and then regains it partially.


In the about-to-release Drishtikone, Bengali cinema's distinguished actor Prosenjit Chatterjee plays a man who loses his eyesight and then regains it partially. He is happy to push the envelope with such a role.

"My character has a chance to regain sight in both his eyes. But he chooses not to. He opts for just one eye to be restored because he feels there are so many in the world who need that one eye to see... It is an idealistic thought, yes. But I do feel we need to tap the humanism within us for mankind to survive," Prosenjit said.

Drishtikone marks Chatterjee's first collaboration with multiple National Award-winning director Kaushik Ganguly.

Chatterjee says he fell in love with Drishtikone when he heard the subject.

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"It took really long for the two of us (director Ganguly and Chatterjee) to come together. But now we're doing two back-to-back films together. The first is Drishitkone and then we've also completed a film called Kishore Kumar Junior which will be released during Durga Puja.

"I play a Kishore Kumar fan. We got the chance to use a lot of Kishore Kumar's Bangla and Hindi songs in this film. It was fun."

It helped that Chatterjee's co-star in Drishtikone is the super-talented Rituparna Sengupta.

"Ritu and I have done so many films together. We instinctively know how to approach a scene. It's a very rewarding collaboration."

The film was tough to shoot as Chatterjee had to go through the film with a fake eye lens.

"I play a man with vision in one eye. We got a special lens from the US."

Wearing the lens was hazardous to the actor's eyes.

"We consulted a doctor who said I should not wear the lens continuously while shooting. So I would take it off after a couple of hours of shooting. It was a lot of painful physical work, but all worth it."

But then when has Chatterjee ever shied away from painful work?

Smiling modestly, he said: "I think it must have been a decade back in my career when I decided that doing the safe commercial cinema was not my cup of tea.

"I could have made lot of more money and I would have got the taalis and seetees [claps and whistles] for doing the matinee-idol roles. But I preferred to take the unconventional route."

Working with directors as diverse and dynamic as the late Rituparno Ghosh, Buddhadev Dasgputa, Goutam Ghose and Srijit Mukerji, Chatterjee has established a formidable reputation for character transformation, comparable with the legendary Soumitra Chatterjee with whom Chatterjee shared screen space in his last film.

Recalling the experience fondly, Chatterjee said: "I finally got to act with Soumitrada in Mayuraskshi last year. It was a memorable experience. When the film became a success, I was over the moon.

"But to my surprise, Mayurakshi had more waiting. It was re-released in select theatres of Kolkata and it ran to full houses even in the second release."

The actor, who confesses he lives, breathes, eats and sleep with cinema, sees a lesson in the Mayurakshi experience. Atanu Ghosh's Mayurakshi, a father-son story, won the Best Bengali film at the 65th National Film Awards.

"Audiences' tastes are changing even in Bengal where the conventional potboiler is not acceptable anymore. I am so glad to see the younger generation of actors also attempting something different.

"Riddhi Sen, who won the National Award for Best Actor is just 19, a child whom I have seen grow up in front of me."

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This year, he was happy that regional cinema was whole-heartedly appreciated and rewarded by the jury.

"I was so happy to see so many regional language films from many states, including Bengal getting recognition at the National Film Awards this time.

"And the Awards' chairperson (filmmaker Shekhar Kapur) expressed such joy at the diversity and excellence of regional cinema. I am so glad to be a small part of the movement towards regional cinema acquiring an identity."