Karnasubarner Guptodhon avenue for audience to reclaim life post pandemic: Abir Chatterjee
Despite not being a fan of franchise films, Indian actor Abir Chatterjee feels the audience will celebrate life this festive season with Dhrubo Banerjee-directorial Karnasubarner Guptodhon, an SVF production slated for Sept 30 release. Abir shares his journey as Sona-da, his 'unlearning' process on OTT, and future plans in a conversation with India Blooms correspondent Souvik Ghosh. Excerpts...
Q. You are successfully leading two popular franchises, Byomkesh and Guptodhon!
A. I feel humbled. It's very heartwarming to see the kind of reactions we are getting with the visits to the schools and colleges because the biggest treasure of Guptodhon is the love and support from the youth and kids. I am always indebted to Byomkesh because of the recognition I have got due to it.
But I didn't expect people to call me Sona-da so soon. Kids and teenagers calling me Sona-da is a huge thing for me. One needs some amount of maturity to enjoy a Byomkesh film but the biggest USP of Sona-da (Guptodhon) is it can be watched with family members, be it a four-year-old kid or a senior citizen.
Byomkesh has given me everything but with Sona-da, stakes are higher.
Q. Did you feel a bigger responsibility on your shoulders during the shooting process as you say 'stakes are higher'?
A. When I give a shot, I totally concentrate on that particular situation but at the back of the mind, we as actors feel like what extra can be or should be contributed to the character or the situation. But thankfully, our off-screen chemistry (with co-actors) helps us to evolve more on-screen. Our off-screen chemistry reflects on the big-screen.
Q. At one point you felt too many Byomkesh films were being made. Did you have the same feeling with the Guptodhon franchise?
A. No. I feel the release of three films in a time span of five years is healthy. I am interested to know what happens after this installment. Dhrubo (Dhrubo Banerjee) has already asked this question but I want to wait for the audience's reaction. I don't want to jump into the bandwagon. I have never wanted to do that with Byomkesh either.
Once a film becomes successful, there is a tendency of repeating it if it's a franchise. I have seen people and a large section of the audience interested to watch a second part post the success of its first installment. It doesn't happen like that. One cannot capitalise on another film's success. We need to give it more time.
Moreover, I am not a big fan of installments. There are so many forced franchises that have happened in every language, maybe encashing on the success of one or two films. In my humble opinion, that shouldn't happen.
Q. Do you feel a challenge to constantly reinvent yourself in a franchise?
A. Exactly. We know the kind of expectations people have from the Guptodhon franchise. The pressure is actually skyhigh and that keeps us moving. Though many believe it's a sure-shot success, I feel there is nothing like it. There is no place of complacency.
We need to reach out to the maximum number of people (during promotions), especially after this pandemic where the viewing pattern has changed. My journey will end the moment I will turn complacent.
Also at this juncture of my career considering the kind of experience I have or the films I have done already, I very well understand my responsibilities which I welcome.
Q. Why would the audience root for Guptodhon when two other major films are releasing this festive season?
A. For the last two years, we couldn't celebrate Durga Puja the way we wanted to for health issues. Since people are now coming back to normal lives, there are a few things people need to do. Going to the cinema halls is an experience of collective watching.
We want people to celebrate life and in this Durga Puja season, our film, which is a mix of adventure, mystery, history, food, fun and Bengali culture, is a great avenue where people can reclaim life. Durga Puja is all about being together.
Q. With the change in viewing pattern, do actors think differently while shooting?
A. There are a few things which need personal viewing while some require collective viewing. We knew Guptodhon would be released on big screens and then come on OTT.
The Bengali film loving audience, who live either abroad or somewhere where the film could not be released on big screens, can watch it on OTT. Once a film releases on OTT, it's there for eternity.
Q. Did your national exposure through OTT help you in Bengali films too?
A. Definitely it does. I worked in a completely different setup and environment. After spending so many years in the Bengali film industry, it was very important for me to unlearn a few things. Working in a different environment gives a feeling of being a debutant.
Q. Are Bengali filmmakers struggling to get your dates now?
A. No, no, no (laughs). Not at all. There was a rumour like that. Post pujo, I will reassess my career because I have been continuously working for the last seven-eight months.
Q. Are you charging more from the Bengali producers?
A. That's quite confidential information (laughs).
(Images of Abir Chatterjee by Avishek Mitra/IBNS)