Friday April 19, 2019

I can’t be choosy at this age: Soumitra Chatterjee


Kolkata: At 83, one of Satyajit Ray’s most favourite actors, Soumitra Chatterjee, who starred in the critical and commercial hit ‘Bela Seshe: In The Autumn Of My Life’, says he is no longer in a position to choose scripts and grab meaty roles since age has limited his repertoire.

A much talked about Bengali film, ‘Bela Seshe‘ recently completed 150 days at the box office and was lauded for reuniting Chatterjee with theatre actress Swatilekha Sengupta, 30 years after Ray paired the two in ‘Ghare Baire’ (The Home and The World).

Chatterjee has worked under Ray’s direction in 15 feature films and one documentary – starting with his debut in ‘Apur Sansar’ in 1959 – in lead and award-winning roles.

Despite his brilliance in performing, the actor’s oeuvre over the past few years has largely comprised supporting acts.

“I’m not choosy any more at this age. I can’t afford to be choosy now. When I was a full-fledged hero actor, I could choose my scripts, but when I had to switch over to character acting I can’t afford to choose,” Chatterjee told IANS in an interview.

But as director duo Nandita Roy and Shiboprosad Mukherjee approached him with the script of ‘Bela Seshe’, he found it unusual and accepted it because it also provided a chance for him to showcase his acting skills.

“It was a rather unusual concept and interesting for me since I got ample opportunity to sort of exercise my abilities,” the thespian said.

The film revolves around a married couple who decide to separate after 50 years of marriage and narrates a tale of how the decision will change their children’s life. Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan heaped praises on the movie which had its pan-India release in June and is slated to have a global release later.

The fastidious Chatterjee was also impressed with the filmmakers’ interest in elderly actors.

“It was a good thing on the part of the directors to pair the two of us since there are not many elderly actresses left who are frequently seen and often opposite me,” Chatterjee observed.

Swatilekha, a Sangeet Natak Academy-winner, concurs.

“They thought of this concept, this was our gain. At our age it is very difficult to get meaty and pioneering roles,” the actress told IANS, hoping the film helps in changing mindsets in the film industry since even at their age, they are as professional and disciplined at shoots as any actor of the younger generation.

Chatterjee says he prefers to adopt a “thoroughly” professional attitude on sets, notwithstanding personal relations.

In fact, he says, though there were moments while shooting ‘Bela Seshe‘ when the two were hit by waves of Ray nostalgia, the focus was on getting the job done.

“But nothing compares to working with Ray. He was a class apart,” asserted Chatterjee.

A leading figure of Bengali stage, Chatterjee recently played the protagonist in an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’. The play got rave reviews and also drew the crowds in large numbers. The octogenarian says he wants to do more of Shakespeare.

(By Sahana Ghosh, IANS)

Next Story

A Life, Career shaped by Unconventional Upbringing says Critically-acclaimed Konkona Sensharma

Konkona Sen Sharma. Twitter

– by Radhika Bhirani

New Delhi, May 28, 2017: Mainstream has never been the mainstay in her filmography. Not even with her directorial debut, the 1979-set drama thriller “A Death in the Gunj”. The critically-acclaimed Konkona Sensharma says her choices are a result of her unconventional upbringing — sans TV shows like “The Bold and the Beautiful” or even “Mahabharata” and “Ramayan”.

Konkona is the daughter of celebrated Bengali actor-writer-director Aparna Sen, whose much-appreciated works as a director include “36 Chowringhee Lane”, “Sati”, “Mr and Mrs Iyer”, “15 Park Avenue” and “Iti Mrinalini”, and writer Mukul Sharma.

NewsGram brings to you latest new stories in India.

Talking about her mother’s influence in her life, Konkona told IANS: “My mother has lived life on her own terms, did what she believed in, all her values and liberalism… All of that have had a strong impact on my life. She paved the way and was one of the pioneers (among women) to make a film in the early 1980s. She has always been ahead of the times.”

Having a mother with a broad world view, understanding of global cinema, showbiz and literature, meant a more controlled environment for entertainment at home.

“She was particular about what I watched and what I read. I was a voracious reader, and you know when you’re young, you’d be reading a lot of Enid Blyton, and she would say, ‘You can’t be reading only this’. And I listened to her, I trusted her.

Go to NewsGram and check out news related to political current issues.

“She was not one of those parents who had a lot of rules for everything. She let me be my own person, but she had some opinions… She didn’t let me watch ‘The Bold and the Beautiful’ or ‘Mahabharat’ and ‘Ramayan’. She said she didn’t want my first impressions of these epics to be through television. It was quite tacky back in the day… Of course, it may have had an emotional appeal. But she didn’t want me to watch it at that point,” Konkona recounted.

She didn’t grow up watching a lot of Hindi films either — but “Mr India” and “Masoom” are some titles she remembers watching during her growing-up days. Other than that, she was exposed to world cinema as she travelled extensively with her mother to film festivals in Egypt and Moscow.

“I guess it was an unconventional upbringing,” she said, adding how “The Sound of Music”, “Mary Poppins”, films of Ingmar Bergman and Satyajit Ray were among those that left an indelible impact on her as she grew up to become a formidable name herself in the Indian film industry.

Look for latest news from India in NewsGram.

“Mr and Mrs Iyer”, “15 Park Avenue”, “Page 3”, “The Namesake”, “Wake Up Sid” and “Goynar Baksho” are among some of her noted works.

Her directorial project, “A Death in the Gunj” — releasing on June 2 — draws from a short story by her father, and real life. It’s a fictionalised retelling of an incident that took place at a house in McCluskieganj, a hilly town in Jharkhand.

For the film, Konkona revisted McCluskieganj. She says the fact that its old-world charm is still intact made the shooting experience even more exciting.

“Recreating McCluskieganj was so much fun. Firstly, I didn’t know if there was any archival information of that time as it was a remote area and not so well developed. As a result, I was relying on memories and talking to people.

“It’s a very atmospheric, a largely forgotten place… very tucked away. When we reached there for the recce, we realised some things about the place are the same as 30 years ago… And it worked in our favour,” she said, sounding excited as a child.

According to her, the movie is about “family dynamics” — and to tell the tale, she roped in a cast as talented as Tanuja, Vikrant Massey, Ranvir Shorey, Kalki Koechlin, Tillotama Shome, Gulshan Devaiah and Jim Sarbh, apart from the late Om Puri.

“It was a bit overwhelming… Together, they were like a force of nature,” she said of the talented ensemble, adding how working with the “irreverent” Om Puri “was a privilege”. (IANS)