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Interview Bengali

Kishore Kumar Junior would have made national news if it were not a regional film: Prosenjit

The actor speaks about the intense preparation he underwent for one of the more challenging roles of his career and explains why the film is close to his heart.

Roushni Sarkar

Prosenjit Chatterjee is all set to treat his fans with Kishore Kumar Junior this Durga puja.

The film hits the screens on 12 October. Directed by Kaushik Ganguly, Kishore Kumar Junior tells the story of a Kishore konthi (a singer who makes a living singing Kishore Kumar songs) and the reality behind his apparently glamorous lifestyle.

Kishore Kumar trailer: Kaushik Ganguly gives dramatic, musical tribute to legendary singer

Kishore Kumar Junior marks the second collaboration between Ganguly and Prosenjit after the romantic thriller Drishtikone (2018).

In a conversation with Cinestaan.com, Prosenjit shared his experience of the intense preparation for one of the more challenging roles of his career and explained why the film is close to his heart. Excerpts:

How excited are you for Kishore Kumar Junior?

Actually, more than me, my audience is excited because now I am not doing more than two or three films a year. They also expect a film from me during Durga Puja. People now want to know my reactions regarding five or six Puja releases on a single date. They forget there was a time when I singularly used to have three or four releases during Puja. Anyway, my point is that since Autograph (2010), I have had all my good films being released at this particular time of the year.

People are generally in a festive mood at this time. Apart from the two factors — that Kishore Kumar Junior is my Puja release and a comeback of the Kaushik Ganguly-Prosenjit pair —  the film is also a musical, which is not really a trend these days. Moreover, it is about Kishore Kumar, the biggest Bengali brand of all time, but it [the film] has also got a lot of layers. No film has been made on such a character before. We know there are countless konthis of Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, and many other artistes around the country. They are big performers, but nobody has told their stories.

Kaushik has previously dealt with little-known issues in Shobdo (2012) or Cinemawala (2016). Konthis are underdog artistes who are successful in their own way but have their own share of struggles, which is common to an artiste’s pain.

Kishore Kumar Junior song: 'Ki Ashay Bandhi Khelaghar' is Kaushik Ganguly's tribute to the singer

It is also a story of a middle-class man and can be understood from the opening lines of the trailer, when his wife [Aparajita Adhya] says, “It needs talent to become an artiste but to become an artiste’s wife, it requires courage.” Aparajita’s character here represents the daily socio-economic struggle of these artistes. What I want to say is that this is a very interesting film, much beyond its music and songs.

At the same time, I am sure the audience will enjoy singing the songs in the theatres, as they are so popular and everyone has so many memories associated with them. You can see that since Biswakarma puja [on 17 September], all the pandals have started playing Kishore Kumar’s songs. We are thinking that, thus, we are having good promotion for our film, but the reality is that every year his songs are played in every pandal.

The film tells the story of these songs, and also of the artistes who carried them to places where Kishore Kumar or Rafi Saheb could never reach in person. They are like the messengers, but nobody knows about their sorrows or the satisfaction they get through singing their idol’s songs. Kishore Kumar Junior attempts to sum it up all.

How did you prepare for the role?

Since the last eight to 10 years, I have prepared myself for every single film. I take two or three months and try to get into the character before I start shooting. Portraying Kishore Kumar Junior was a big challenge for me, much like the character of Lalan Fakir in Moner Manush (2010). As I was saying, the film is not only about the ‘singer’. The interesting aspect of the character is that he spends his nights in flashing lights, amidst huge crowds and applause, but returns tired in the early hours of the day, sometimes in good health, sometimes not. His mornings are mundane and he has tea in the local tea-shops. It took a lot of effort to bring out the contrast.

When Kaushik first approached me with the film, I was quite fascinated to think how he could come up with such a subject. See, I have done more than 300 films and in most of them I have played a character for which Kishore Kumar, Kumar Sanu or other artistes have done the playback, while I have enacted the songs. This time, my role is the opposite. I am a singer and I had to enact singing those songs with feeling and passion. In order to depict the emotional journey of the singer, I had to study the character for three months.

Also, stage performers have a certain body language; of holding the microphone and interacting with the live band musicians. When a singer performs every day, he or she is bound to make some mistakes. In the film, the musicians that you see accompanying the singer are the ones who actually played with Sanuda [Kumar Sanu].

We were cautious not to use too many instruments as we did not want to show them in the film. This was Kaushik’s idea to record the same music that was being played on stage on the film. It was quite a difficult challenge for our music director Indraadip Dasgupta because he had to bring out the quality out of five musicians. You would see that some mistakes have been deliberately made to keep the sound natural.

I had to practise performing those 18 songs for two months every day. These musicians have also worked so hard that now they would be able to identify the mistakes even in their sleep. Same goes with me — I know every pause and lift of the songs sung by Sanuda.

Being a celebrity, another big challenge for me was to portray a common man. I had to learn the values of a simple, middle-class man, the nuances of his strange equation with his son, and so on. These are the reasons why I take time before doing a film. I sacrificed making public appearances and going to parties for the buzz that now is going on regarding my avatar as Kishore Kumar Junior.

How do you think the film has attempted to tell the stories of these underdog artistes and also pay tribute to the legend?

See, the film is a tribute to all those underdog artistes, not only from Kolkata, but from all over the country. The film was announced around the time of the Kolkata International Film Festival last year and I had described the theme of the film to Mr Bachchan [Amitabh Bachchan] in one line. His immediate reaction was that there are countless such artistes around the country but nobody has a made a film on them.

What I have realized through this journey is that these artistes are immensely talented and important as performers. It is important to pay them the due respect. It is sad that the film is a regional one; it would have made national news otherwise. So many artistes make their career as konthis year after year, and the beauty of Kishore Kumar Junior is that the film speaks for them.

Kaushik Ganguly has repeatedly said that he could not think of anybody else as Kishore Kumar Junior.

Yes, he says that and, of course, it is his individual perspective. I was rather surprised when I was chosen for the character, just as I was taken aback when I was offered the role of Lalan Fakir. What I can say is that he probably needed someone who has a larger-than-life appearance. See, often, the people we see regularly and closely seem unfamiliar when they are on stage with lights and costumes. I believe he had the vision of bringing out these elements of non-familiarity from the brand 'Prosenjit Chatterjee'.

Also, I have been doing stage performances since I was 11 years old. Along with my sister, I used to do Biswajeet Night open shows, for which thousands of people would buy tickets. I have been doing these for the last four decades and I know the pulse of stage performance. I think, this factor also pushed him to choose me for the role.

I can say that I am obliged that he made the decision. It was an instant 'Yes!' from my side. I was quite fascinated to take up the role, which is bold, complicated and has multiple layers but at the end of the day, he is stubborn and Kishore Kumar means the world to him, irrespective of the circumstances.