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Interview Bengali

Parambrata Chatterjee needed greater focus than usual while portraying Byomkesh

Unlike earlier adaptations of Byomkesh Bakshi tales, Satyanweshi Byomkesh has a distinct political flavour.

Roushni Sarkar

Sayantan Ghosal’s Satyanweshi Byomkesh, which was released today, features Parambrata Chatterjee as the iconic Bengali sleuth Byomkesh Bakshi while Rudranil Ghosh plays Ajit, his confidant and the documenter of his cases. The screenplay of the film is by Anjan Dutt who is also creative adviser to the production and plays a role in it besides.

Based on Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay’s story Mognomainak, Satyanweshi Byomkesh promises a different take on the detective from earlier adaptations. While in most Byomkesh stories crimes are dealt with in terms of family relationships and vengeance, Satyanweshi Byomkesh highlights the political aspect of the case.

Chatterjee plays a youngish Byomkesh who is politically conscious. “The film shows how Byomkesh perceives contemporary politics. In the plot, he has a certain standpoint. However, the attempt was to not make the approach too serious either. Hence, I have played a rather young, restless Byomkesh in the film,” said the actor at the film's trailer launch last month.

Satyanweshi Byomkesh is set in the Calcutta of 1971, when the Bangladesh Liberation War was on and the Naxal movement had also created unrest inside and outside Bengal. In 2009, Chatterjee had appeared as the protagonist Animesh in Goutam Ghose’s Kaalbela, which represented that particular period.

Before Chatterjee, several actors like Uttam Kumar, Rajit Kapur, Dhritiman Chatterjee, Abir Chattopadhyay, Jisshu Sengupta, Sushant Singh Rajput, Gourab Chakraborty and Anirban Bhattacharya have portrayed Byomkesh Bakshi. Hence, he is under a lot of pressure to lend something unique to the character.

Asked his favourite Byomkesh actor, Chatterjee picked Abir who, according to him, fits better as the iconic detective than all the other characters he has played so far. “It is quite different from the dimension my act of Byomkesh has, but I feel Abir has done his job with lots of dedication and sincerity while playing Byomkesh in both Anjan Dutt and Arindam Sil’s films,” he said.

However, this was not the first time Parambrata himself was offered a Byomkesh film. He was approached earlier not only to play the detective but also to direct the venture. “I was preoccupied then with other works," the popular actor said. "And, honestly, Byomkesh was not so popular on screen at that time. Now the demand has increased and I think it is the right to time to get hold of the project.”

Chatterjee has directed a Feluda series, a modern version of Satyajit Ray’s creation, for Addatimes, in which he plays the sleuth himself. Asked whether he felt any connection with Feluda while playing Byomkesh, Chatterjee replied, “No, because in this film Byomkesh represents a completely different time period. Also, Byomkesh is much more political in itself and the stories carry the essence of the times.”

Before Satyanweshi Byomkesh, Chatterjee had featured in Ghosal’s Jawker Dhan (2017) and Sagardwipey Jawker Dhan (2019) too. He said he has always had belief in Ghosal’s method of work, which itself has evolved with time. However, according to Chatterjee, on the storyline of Satyanweshi Byomkesh, Anjan Dutt had the major influence. He clarified that the film doesn’t necessarily document the political unrest of the 1970s, but there is a strong connection between the crime and the political backdrop.

In an interview with Cinestaan.com, Ghosal had spoken about interpreting the classical screenplay written by Dutt with an adaptation fit for today's Netflix era and called the entire project a ‘fusion cuisine’; Chatterjee, however, said, “It is not a fusion cuisine; rather it is the same cuisine presented with a modern touch.”

Chatterjee said he is generally a multi-tasker and loves to engage himself in various kinds of activities between shots, like checking drafts and sending e-mails. However, he felt he needed more focus for portraying Byomkesh and refrained from other tasks while shooting for Satyanweshi. He ensured that there is not much difference when it comes to the look of Byomkesh, but his portrayal is different.

Satyanweshi Byomkesh goes up today against three other big Bengali films, including Password, in which Chatterjee himself plays a negative role. But the actor was not worried. "I think on every single day of Puja, people are in different moods and they would choose to watch the films accordingly," said Chatterjee, picking Mognomainak and Durga Rohosyo as his two favourite Byomkesh stories.