Interview Bengali

It was difficult to portray a common man and an artiste: Rudranil Ghosh on Vinci Da


The actor speaks about the craft of acting, the experience of working with filmmaker Srijit Mukherji, and why stardom doesn't count for much anymore.

Roushni Sarkar

One of the most treasured actors of contemporary Bengali cinema, Rudranil Ghosh has appeared in various character and lead roles since making his debut in Kantatar (2005).

Known for his impeccable comic timing, Ghosh has moulded himself time and time again and broken away from stereotypes with his versatile performances.

Over the years, Ghosh has been the dark horse in many a film with relatively poor content. At the same time, he has pulled off challenging characters in films such as Chaplin (2011) and Kedara (2019). He is almost a permanent member of the cast in Srijit Mukherji’s films. This time he has also co-written Mukherji’s Vinci Da and is essaying the lead character of a struggling make-up artiste, alongside Ritwick Chakraborty, who plays another protagonist.

In a conversation with Cinestaan.com, Ghosh spoke of the challenges he faced while portraying Vinci Da and shared his philosophies and inspiration behind his work as an artiste. Excerpts:

In Vinci Da, we see you portray a character that has multiple shades. How difficult was it?

I sincerely feel one remains an artiste when one is unsatisfied, otherwise he or she merely performs, without the craving for creation. I have been an artiste and, in this film, I portray an artiste. One of an actor's most trusted human beings is a make-up artiste. No matter how skilfully an actor brings alive his or her character, one needs the assistance of a make-up artiste to lend him or her confidence on the physical appearance. Make-up is like salt in curry.

It may appear easier to essay the character of an artiste, but in reality the situation is quite the opposite. It is easier to get into the skin of a character which is not similar to the actor, but when the characteristics and crises are quite similar, it becomes quite difficult. I think the drive to overcome this challenge gives an actor motivation and satisfaction.

The job became even more difficult as I had to portray an extremely simple and common man. Whenever an actor begins to receive professional recognition and appreciation, he or she stops living as a common man and it also creates a distance from the common man. We hardly get to see the lifestyle of a make-up artiste; we only see him working in the studio. So I had to take the help of my imagination as well as experience. All I can say is that I consistently strove to become Vinci Da.

Smart appearance and interesting dialogues make a character appealing to the audience. However, when there is nothing in the appearance of a character to be mesmerized with, the challenge is greater.

To add to that, Vinci Da is honest. Human beings, in their struggle to deal with crises, tend to turn smarter in their lives and their muscles become stronger. Therefore, turning the muscles soft becomes the toughest job as much as to appear honest. I am sure if Ritwick [Chakraborty] or Anirban [Bhattacharya] had played the character, they would have faced similar difficulty in etching it out.

Playing Vinci Da was more difficult than essaying Chaplin as Vinci begins to go through a certain turmoil in his personal as well as professional life. A man who is passionate and honest about his work has to go through various layers and, at the same time, he cannot get rid of his basic honesty.

I am grateful to director Srijit Mukherji for trusting me with such a character and I am hopeful the audience will get to see Vinci Da, not Rudranil Ghosh.

You are a regular in Srijit Mukherji’s films. How is the experience like?

No matter how big a star is, he or she thinks 10 times before asking Srijit a question while working. However, since he is aware of my capabilities as a writer, he allows me the space to share my thoughts.

Srijit is basically an actor’s director. He understands the hunger of an actor very well and can bridge that with his own vision. He always makes sure to communicate with an actor in a way that he or she doesn’t have any doubt on the sets. Each and every actor needs their own lesson in terms of their capacity. Srijit can give that lesson with a lot of detail.

You have co-written the story of Vinci Da. What contribution did you make to the story?

See, every actor wants to turn into a different character and, for that reason, we closely observe make-up artistes. Make-up artiste Somenath Kundu is such an artiste, who reads the script with more detail than an actor and has a similar kind of hunger for creating a new avatar like an actor. Prosthetic make-up first amused the audience when Paa was released in 2009. Since then Somenathda has been vesting his interest in prosthetic make-up. As a painter, I also used to have discussions about it with him.

Eventually, he started making prosthetics at a much lower cost than in the Hindi film industry and with a visual effect of similar quality. While our industry believed that only the Hindi industry could afford such a costly experiment, he kept his fight on. He created a ravaged body of a bomb blast victim with prosthetic make-up and applied that on me. It was so realistic and grotesque that the director avoided taking a close shot to abide by the rules of the censor board. Hence, Somenath’s work was shown from a distance.

It took three-and-a-half hours to put on the make-up and again take it off me. After the shooting, while he was taking it off with utmost concentration, I heard him whispering, in tears, "What was the need to ask me to work with concentration if they did not intend to show my work?" He did not complain, but an artiste can never achieve satisfaction only with money. He or she wants his work to reach the public or the audience, and he felt the same.

I took inspiration from the incident and started writing a story with a human angle and blood in it. But I was not satisfied with the ending. Since Srijit is the only director who can handle a thriller with a smart approach, I went to him. He read the story and got excited. Soon he started conceiving it for a cinematic composition.

My story's name was Shilpi. Srijit infused Leonardo Da Vinci’s ethics and punched the story of a serial lawyer or killer with it. We both discussed and analysed while building the script and that is how it has turned into a film by both of us.

However, the film would not have been possible without Somenathda. He is like the apple that was consumed by Adam and Eve.

A few days ago, Srijit Mukherji posted a photo with you, Anirban Bhattacharya and Ritwick Chakraborty with the caption, I can go on a world war with these three actors. Your comment?

The three of us strive to become complete actors. My idol is Naseeruddin Shah. Every time we chat, he says, “It feels like I have learnt nothing yet.” We don’t have any competition [among us], we only concentrate on turning into our characters. Yes, competition is there in terms of how authentically each of us has turned into our respective characters in the film. We have huge respect and regard for one another. We are colleagues as well as students of acting. Of course, it is because of a director like Srijit that we can stand together for this fight. I feel the more a character brings out the local essence, the more it becomes international.

You have appeared in both lead and character roles. Do you think the line between lead and character actors is getting blurred?

I think that fine line has been erased by the audience. Also, I don’t think this is a recent phenomenon. The audience has been hinting at such a trend for a while. For example, Sujoy Ghosh made Kahaani (2012) and cast various stars in it, but the audience picked up Saswata Chatterjee and Nawazuddin Siddiqui.

Since we cannot communicate with the audience directly, we need to wait for some time to understand the audience’s preference. If an actor is not able to get into the skin of his or her character, the audience can easily brush him or her aside. Now actordom is stardom.

The trend started across the globe many years ago and gradually took small steps in our country as well. Kaushik Ganguly made his mark in a very small role in the multi-starrer Jaatiswar (2014). Even in Vinci Da, Srijit has written only a few lines for Riddhi [Sen]. Riddhi has already started garnering praise for that brief yet bone-chilling scene that has been shown in the trailer. The credit goes to both Srijit and Riddhi.

All I want to say is that now we don’t suffer from the insecurity of having or not having space on the poster. Stardom has a lot to do with luck, but to become an actor one needs potential and dedication.

Is Rudranil Ghosh an artiste or a performer?

I am thoroughly an artiste. I only have to perform when there is a dilemma of logic with the director. We work on a very limited budget and time and hence we don’t have the scope to invest a day only for discussion. We cannot complain and we know that in certain cases we will have to trust the director, and the same goes with the director.

Being an actor is an individual and inner choice, while a performer has a lot to do with the audience’s reception. By heart, I am an actor and the audience will receive me as they see me.

In the present day, people have easy access to the work of the entire world and they can compare among several platforms. There is no language of expression, if it is conveyed authentically, anyone can understand it.