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Interview Bengali

Trend of mutual appeasement in the industry will not last for long: Rwitobroto Mukherjee

The young actor speaks of his experience working in the latest film, Generation Aami, and also shares his views on the internal politics of the Bengali film industry.

Roushni Sarkar

Rwitobroto Mukherjee came to the spotlight with Anindya Chatterjee’s Open Tee Bioscope in 2015. Son of renowned theatre, film and television artiste Santilal Mukherjee, Rwitobroto then acted in films like Durga Sohay (2017), Pornomochi (2018), Rong Beronger Korhi (2018) and Kaushik Ganguly’s Kishore Kumar Junior (2018), in which he essayed the character of Prosenjit Chatterjee’s son.

Rwitobroto first appeared in a lead role in Mainak Bhaumik’s Generation Aami, also starring Sauraseni Maitra, Santilal Mukherjee and Aparajita Adhya. As a young actor, Rwitobroto not only aspires to do substantial work in the industry, but also wishes for its overall improvement. In a chat with Cinestaan.com, the young actor speaks of his experience working in the latest film, Generation Aami, and also shares his views on the internal politics of the industry. Excerpts.

How are you feeling post the release of Generation Aami?

I hardly rate films good. I mostly try to justify the positive and negative aspects of a film. Recently, I watched Tumbbad (2018) and it blew my mind. I was still in the hangover of the film when I watched Generation Aami in the preview screening, and honestly, I liked it quite a lot. Even if I was not a part of the film, I would still love the film. It is an essential film and entertaining as well.

I have never really bothered about box-office success neither about the criticisms in papers as they are mostly paid. I can easily understand which of them are paid and which of them are not. There is a tendency of deliberate negative publicity and I have faced it often, as I did films such as Pornomochi and Rong Beronger Korhi, which people hardly watched.

I do not have much respect for these reviews as they are the outcome of a lot of politics. Recently, came across a review on Generation Aami, which stated that there is no originality in the storyline and hence, the film is not worth watching. I wonder what kind of films are really worth watching. Then there was a review that compared the relationship of Apu and Durga of Pather Panchali (1955) with that of Generation Aami — as if we have attempted make a sequel of Pather Panchali! Honestly, it is quite annoying!

However, I really enjoyed the fact that the entire cast and crew watched the film together and then went for a dinner. The fact that we have done a good work and meeting after a gap of time since the making of the film, we were still able to seat and have fun together was the biggest take away for me. After a long time since Open Tee Bioscope, I could finally make some friends, who, I guess, will be there with me for a long time.

Since you are saying that you don’t want to get involved in the politics of the film industry, how are you planning your journey in the industry going ahead?

There are always exceptions and authentic reviewers who do not compromise. For example, critics such as Nirmal Dhar from Sangbad Pratidin (a Bengali daily), Alokprasad Chattopadhyay, Ananda Lal write honest reviews and I read those.

Normally, if I come across some criticisms on my performance, I try to rectify myself in my next work. What I am trying to say is that the trend of mutual appeasement is not going to last for long. On the one hand, people here compare Bengali cinema with world cinema and comment that the industry is good for nothing, and on the other hand, they don’t try to look beyond the walls of the industry.

As watching films is not confined to theatres anymore and the platforms for independent filmmaking are evolving more than ever, I feel, this format is not going to work in the coming years.

How does it feel to act in the lead role in one of the most important filmmakers’ film at such an early stage of your career?

I always feel fortunate to get cast in films and I also ask the reasons behind casting me. I asked Mainak da as well, and he replied that I look like Apu. Generation Aami is basically Mainak da’s own story and he wrote the script 12 years ago. Basically, Apu is the child Mainak.

Therefore, there was an added pressure on me to perform in the director’s personal film. I had to adapt myself to the quintessential Bengali teenage character so that the Bengali audience can easily identify themselves with Apu. Mainak da’s script made this process a lot easier for me.

I want to work with Mainak da again for two reasons; firstly, he is a child at heart and extremely chilled out. After working with him I was convinced again that work matters the most, nothing else. He also taught me not to take myself too seriously and do my job with fun and dedication. As I said that I made a family after Open Tee Bioscope, Mainak da can be considered to be the head of the family. Not only did I get to learn a lot from him but a lot of my own beliefs also got more established. Secondly, as Mainak da is not an actor, he never gives direction through acting and gives a lot of space which is quite enjoyable.

How was the experience of working with Sauraseni Maitra?

Sauraseni di is a natural actress. I think, Mainak da consciously wanted to place a spontaneous actress with me as I am a trained actor from theatre and the combination has worked quite well. And, like the rest of the cast and crew, Sauraseni di is also very like-minded and a chilled out person. Also, we share the similar chemistry that we portrayed on screen on the sets and we hang out and share secrets with each other as well.

How much did you prepare for the role of Apu?

Yes, I had to go through certain physical preparations. I swim a lot and hence, my structure is wide. Mainak da had told me that a boy of 16 doesn’t have that kind of a structure, so I had to put on weight to cover that. I had to modify my walking and movements according to the age, bring speech modulations and also lessen the base of my voice. Besides, I have grown up with boys like Apu and seen the characters of their parents throughout my childhood. I always had empathy for the suffocating state of their lives. Hence, I only had to become those characters in the film.

How different is the scenario at your home to that in the film?

They are completely in contrast with each other. Both I and my father are quite different from our characters in the film. However, the primary difference is that Apu is always forbidden from a lot of activities but is never told the reasons behind them. On the contrary, my parents always made me aware of the reasons before telling me to do or not to do certain things. Apu’s parents don’t communicate with him but I had always had clear communications with my parents.

Having been the son of a theatre artiste, did your interest in theatre grow organically?

The beginning of my journey in theatre was quite accidental. The actor who was supposed to act in the role of a child character in a play called Suryashikhar had grown and hence, I was roped in for the role. I remember Chandan kaku [Chandan Sen] telling me, 'These are your dialogues. Whatever you have to say, say loudly on stage!' Then, of course, I got gradually inspired by baba [father], watching him working on both stage and on screen.

How different was the experience of working with him in the film?

There was no awkwardness as I have shared stage and screen space with him previously. As the characters are completely different from what we are in real life, we collaborated as the characters not as father and son. Mainak da clearly stated that he chose us as both of us are professional actors. However, I still feel that our real life chemistry had underlying effects on our portrayals.

You are now working for Soukarya Ghosal’s Rawkto Rawhoshyo. How has been the experience so far?

Working with Shoukarya Da was a long due since his debut film Loadshedding and then I was supposed to work in Rainbow Jelly as well. I am glad that finally we are working together. I have known him for a long time before he became the known director that he is today. We share a bond beyond the director- actor relationship.