Interview Bengali

Learnt how to appreciate the little joys of life from Rosogolla: Ujaan Ganguly

Son of artiste-filmmakers Kaushik and Churni Ganguly, Ujaan is nevertheless clear that he does not want to get into a situation where he stops loving cinema because it does not sustain him.

Roushni Sarkar

Ujaan Ganguly is all set to make his debut with Pavel’s directorial Rosogolla, a biopic of Nabin Chandra Das, creator of the iconic sweet from Bengal, opposite Abantika Biswas, also a first-timer.

The son of National award-winning director-actor Kaushik Ganguly and his actress-director wife Churni Ganguly, Ujaan has grabbed the attention of Bengali film-goers as the trailer and songs of Rosogolla have gone viral.

A student of English at Jadavpur university, Ujaan is quite passionate about accepting new challenges that come his way and is open to learning. In a candid conversation with, he shared the journey of his debut film, his vision, his plans for the future and the perks of working with some of the finest artistes in Bengali cinema. Excerpts:

Were you consciously aiming to start your career in the film industry or did the first offer come purely by chance?

The urge to work in front of the camera as an actor was always there at the back of my mind. I already had the experience of acting on stage and I knew that the right opportunity will arrive someday and I would be a film actor as well.

It was not like I was chasing after opportunities or losing sleep at night. As a student, when I found myself in a rather peaceful state of mind after I was done with the pressure of board exams and got into Jadavpur university, I got the offer of the film.

I think it was the right time for me to get associated with films. Honestly, the film happened purely by chance, but at the same time it was the right time to embark on the journey of pursuing my dream.

Why do you think you were chosen as Nabin Chandra Das?

I can only comment on this from the perspective of others' observation and vision. I think I could easily fit into the look they wanted for Nabinchandra who is from 1860. Our producers, Shiboprosad Mukherjee and Nandita Roy, suggested my name judging me by my appearance. Then I was auditioned and I think they could feel that I could bring out the various dimensions of the character of Nabin Chandra with my acting capabilities, ie they could clearly see me as Nabin Chandra.

I remember, while I was auditioning, Pavelda was looking at me as if I were a beautiful heroine from the 1970s. Later, when I asked him the reason for that stare, he replied, “Finally I felt that I had got Nabin Chandra!”

What are the dimensions of the character you had to bring alive on screen?

See, on the one side, Nabin is very innocent and a simpleton to some extent. If we look at the character sitting in this period, we might find his behaviour at such an age to be quite odd because these days we generally become streetsmart in our 20s. On the other hand, Nabin Chandra has an innate sense of responsibility which is hardly seen in the young generation of this era. The maturity, courage and determination to strive for his goal are visible in his interactions with the elders.

On the other hand, he becomes shy and clueless when it comes to talking to girls, especially to Khirodmoni (Biswas), because in those days there was not much scope for open communication between boys and girls.

However, it is the journey of this simple fellow towards creating the legendary sweet through innumerable sacrifices that turns his character extremely endearing and unique. Somehow the traits of a co-called ‘hero’ gradually come out in the course of his journey that begins when he is 20 years old and has a culmination when he is 25, a father of a son.

It was a bit challenging for me to play the character who becomes a father and a quintessential Bengali babu when he is only 25. I had to invest a lot of thoughts in composing my movements, in dialogue delivery and interactions with my son in the film.

Still, I feel no matter how much transformation a character goes through, the core remains the same and therefore enacting Nabin Chandra was not exceptionally difficult for me at the same time.

What did you take away from the character?

The film has been made on many little moments of joy that pile up and create an ensemble experience. See, somewhere I am shaking my hands with Nabin Chandra in several sequences of the storyline and through my acting. Whenever in a sequence Nabin Chandra has found happiness in little joys, I too have realized those emotions. Normally, I, perhaps, don’t appreciate such things, but the character has definitely taught me to take little moments of joy, sorrow and motivation into consideration.

Also, the undaunted determination to create something new in Nabin Chandra Das has inspired me a great deal.

Share your experience of working with Pavel.

Pavelda is like my elder brother and we have become quite close with the making of this film. We started off with the director-actor relationship, but now it has grown into a personal one. I feel when a professional relationship turns into a personal one, the chemistry adds a lot to the creative process.

For example, as I got to know him more closely, I could realize that there is a Nabin Chandra hidden in him as well. His hard work and struggle are quite similar to that of Nabin. I have been inspired by his journey as well and improved my performance on the basis of the equation I have had with him.

Both you and Abantika Biswas have worked with a bunch of extremely experienced artistes in the film. How was the chemistry on the sets?

When my journey commenced I felt as if I had entered the phase of brahmacharya. There were gurus before me and [it was] as if I was getting prepared to learn from them. I tried to absorb and imbibe as much as I could from their dialogue delivery, their gestures, and every bit of my association with them.

At the same time, much like an arrow and a bow, I tried to hit the target as much as I was taught. It has been an equation of reciprocity, as whenever they found that I could respond accordingly they blurred all the differences stemming from seniority and experience.

Roni Mama [Rajatabha Dutta], Shanti Kaku [Shantilal Mukherjee], Chiranjeetbabu [Chakraborty] and Bidipta Masi [Chakraborty], all of them have told me that when one enters a significant zone of performance all distinctions get blurred. Then the entire ambience, the concert of performances turns into an unparalleled experience. I am grateful to them that they allowed me to get into that zone and I am glad as well.

Tell us about your theatre background.

When I was in class V, Indrasish Lahiri used to teach in our school. He used to do theatre with both my parents in the university. Incidentally, both my parents’ and my journey in theatre started with the same person.

Of course, I did not have any idea about acting back then. I also became part of telefilms. All I remember is that when Indrasish Lahiri pushed me on to the stage I did not feel scared. I had no urge to escape the situation; rather I wanted to act with all my spirit in that dark hall, standing in the spotlight.

I think that spirit of not giving up has led me to the present scenario. My parents have always encouraged me to stay consistent in both studies and acting.

Also, theatre in my school St James was followed with a strict discipline. I received training for different kinds of acting. First Indrashish Lahiri, then Sumit Roy, Dana Roy made me do Broadway musical and gave me a lot of exposure. That discipline has helped me a lot while performing in the film.

Though the style and the language of acting in theatre and in films are quite different, I feel if one can harness the internalized expression and body movements learnt in theatre, one can reap a lot of benefits while acting on the screen.

Yes, I have not had the opportunity to do group theatre despite having the wish; however, I am immensely grateful to the ambience and the entire training offered in school.

How are your parents looking at your journey?

Kaushik and Churni Ganguly

I respect them as artistes, directors and the actor and actress they are and love them as my parents. They too feel proud of me as a student and actor and love me as their son. I think the latter aspect of love is the most important part of our equation and the way they have brought me up as a human being is always much more crucial to me than any advice on acting. Also, they have never really explained everything from A to Z of acting to me; they have dropped subtle hints and clues in my daily course of life, which I am extremely grateful for as they have helped me grow both as a human being and an actor.

How do you plan to balance your academic and acting careers?

I had quite a hectic schedule while promoting the film as my third semester was on then. Also, there was a thrill to maintain the balance between the two. I was never restricted from participating in extra-curricular activities during my exams; therefore, I am quite used to being in a busy itinerary since my school life.

First of all, like any other field of arts, the film industry is quite unpredictable. Any freelance work doesn’t ensure a fixed income. That is why I want to prepare myself by doing justice to all my faculties or the fields that I am good at. I don’t want to be in a situation that robs me of my capabilities to support my family. I love studies and want to continue my career in academics so that I do not get into a situation in which I stop loving my art or cinema just because it is not sustaining me financially.