{ Page-Title / Story-Title }

Article Bengali

Rajatava Dutta focused on Abhirup Ghosh's passion rather than the budgetary constraints on Zombiesthaan

The actor refused to see the film as political. “We cannot escape conveying social messages; if we do that, then that also becomes a stand," he said.

Roushni Sarkar

Rajatava Dutta is known for his performances in diverse character roles. The actor made his debut with Tapan Sinha’s Ajab Gayer Ajab Katha (1998) and has appeared in more than 100 films in a career spanning two decades. Perhaps one of the more underrated actors in modern Bengali cinema, Dutta is nevertheless popular for his commanding presence on screen.

The actor is seen in a unique avatar in Abhirup Ghosh’s Zombiesthaan (2019), which was released last week and is the first Bengali zombie film. He plays Raja Haridas, a ruler, in a film that depicts a future blighted by mass destruction and cannibalism. In the trailer of the film, which also featured Tanushree Chakraborty and Rudranil Ghosh, Dutta’s appearance seemed the most intriguing and dramatic.

At the film's trailer launch on 27 November, Dutta said, “I have always been an avid reader of science fiction. Though science fiction is the background canvas of the film, the director has attempted to convey a lot more than that. Of course, he hasn’t attempted to lecture the audience, but there are clear thoughts behind it.”

Dutta believes such films need a larger budget and said he often ribbed the director, “You start visualizing The Matrix (1999) but on a budget of five rupees.”

Unfortunately, the market to allocate the finance required for such films is yet to be created in Bengali cinema. “Maybe that will happen in the future, but somebody has to take the initiative," the actor said. "From the beginning, Abhirup has attempted to work with concepts that break the walls.”

Dutta has been a fan of thrillers and sci-fi films and whenever he watches such films made in foreign languages, he finds the theatres full. “If people can watch those films with such great enthusiasm, then they should watch Bengali thrillers too,” he remarked.

However, the actor also admitted that the director is the one who faces the maximum difficulty on account of budgetary limitations, not the artistes. “Perhaps we had to compromise when it came to comfort," he said. "Abhirup could not always provide the urban facilities that are arranged for actors while shooting.”

Abhirup Ghosh

But Dutta valued the passion of the director, who gave up a cushy engineering job to pursue a career as filmmaker. “I feel that when someone makes a certain amount of sacrifice, they also inspire others a lot. Hence, I need not speak much about those discomforts, if I compare that to the positive aspects of the experience,” Dutta said.

The actor believes Ghosh has overcome the budgetary constraints with his creativity. The film's narrative connects three characters through a road trip. Dutta’s Raja Haridas is a character from 2030. “Tanushree’s character first interacts with Rudranil and then with me," he said. "I play Raja Haridas, who rules a place called Haridas Nagar.”

Though he is called a raja, he is not necessarily a king; just a ruler. “He is a tyrannical and eccentric ruler. In Haridas Nagar, there is a barter system, as the monetary economy has collapsed. But the value of the barter system has changed. Maybe gold is not as precious in that era as it is now. Much like today's highly expensive onions, other objects have more value for exchange,” said the actor.

Dutta admitted he could be flexible on the set as the director gave his artistes great freedom. He said the ideas for their costumes were conceived by the director himself, while Dutta offered inputs on the makeup. “He graciously welcomed my ideas," the actor said. "I adopted a specific speech pattern for my character. He agreed to that too. There is a lot of humour in the film, but some serious issues have also been conveyed in the garb of that humour.”

The actor, however, refused to see the film as political. “We cannot escape conveying social messages; if we do that, then that also becomes a stand," he said. "But I don’t believe social messages can be spoon-fed through lectures. In this film, some subtle ideas have been projected through entertainment.”

Dutta said working on the film was a lot of fun for him and his co-actors and was certain the film would give its audience an unprecedented experience. Of course, fans can now say whether he was right on that score.