Interview Bengali

A sense of scarcity is essential for creativity to flower: Madhabi Mukherjee


Veteran actress Madhabi Mukherjee on what she liked about director Anik Dutta and why it is important for the media to highlight government interference in creative pursuits.

Roushni Sarkar

The golden screen pair of Madhabi Mukherjee and Soumitra Chatterjee will be seen together yet again in Anik Dutta’s upcoming film Borunbabur Bondhu (Barun Babu's Friend). The duo’s glorious journey together began when they were cast in Satyajit Ray’s Charulata (1964) and continued through films like Ray's Kapurush (1965), Ajit Lahiri's Joradighir Choudhury Poribar (1966), Tarun Majumder's Ganadevata (1979), and so on. Last year they appeared together in Hrishikesh Mondal’s Kusumitar Gappo (2019).

In Borunbabur Bondhu, Soumitra Chatterjee plays the protagonist Borun babu while Mukherjee essays the character of his wife. Borun babu is a traditional man and an idealist who doesn’t get much attention from his family members for his stubborn attitude. However, when the relatives learn that an influential friend of Borun babu is arriving at his place, the old man suddenly becomes the centre of their attention.

Mukherjee’s character, on the other hand, is that of a life partner, who sticks with her husband through thick and thin. While she does not judge him for his idealistic stands, she turns into a place of solace for the old man when everyone else starts buttering him for their own selfish ends.

In a group interview with journalists, Madhabi Mukherjee, who is quite economical with her words, spoke about her experience of working in the film with a host of young artistes. She also shared her views on contemporary cinema. Excerpts:

What is the mystery behind the everlasting chemistry between you and Soumitra Chatterjee that remains the same even after so many decades?

Mystery is in your hearts and perspectives. It is still there only because of your love and support for our work. I cannot say whether I can act or not. I can only try to portray a character on screen. The rest is done by the director.

You have recently become very picky about the scripts you choose. What did you like about Anik Dutta’s script?

First of all, I quite liked Anik babu. Then I also liked his vision and the way he explained the entire concept to me. He thinks in detail, which helps the actors work easily. I don’t think many directors think in detail these days.

Also, my daughter loves to watch films and write as well. She told me Anik babu’s Bhobishyoter Bhoot (2019) was banned for political reasons, which I thought was an extremely wrong step by the government. Then she introduced me to him and, later, when he narrated the script, I found it to be quite an unusual story, which deals with a realistic issue.

Can you tell us a bit about your character?

I think to know about my character you should watch the film. I don’t think it is right for me to tell you about my character. Whatever you will perceive after watching the film will form the idea of my character.

Do you also wait for any friend like Borun babu in real life?

I can only quote Kabir Suman’s song in this regard, 'Kotota path hantle bondhu pawa jae [How long must we walk the road to find a friend]?'

Do you also think that most aged people only receive attention on special occasions and live lonely lives most of the times?

Yes, I think there is no bigger truth than this.

Do you see any trace of the golden-era directors in the directors of contemporary times?

There was a sense of scarcity in those times, I think a little bit of 'lack' is required. A sense of abundance doesn’t give birth to creativity. There is too much abundance these days.

You have worked with many young artistes in this film. How was the experience?

It was a great experience. I don’t think they are lagging behind in any field. They need proper direction, that’s all. They need to get into depth and educate themselves more.

Though the film was selected for screening at the Kolkata International Film Festival 2019, it faced a lot of discrepancies at the screening. Do you have anything to say about that?

I don’t think it makes a lot of difference if we say anything regarding such wrongdoings. I think you [the media] should be more vocal about these issues because if we give our opinion, everyone will think we are biased. It is your duty to raise more awareness regarding such issues.