Abhishek Bachchan didn’t know about Surjyo Sen (Interview)

December 5, 2010 (Calcutta Tube) Abhishek Bachchan will be seen playing freedom fighter Masterda Surjyo Sen in Ashutosh Gowariker’s Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey. The actor in conversation with Sreya Basu

How did you prepare yourself to play Surjyo Sen?

This film is about kranti (revolution)…it has a jasba (emotional conviction) which is very infectious. The moment Ashu (Ashutosh Gowariker) narrated me the story, I was very embarrassed because I didn’t know about Surjyoda (Surjyo Sen). I never studied Indian history in school because I was educated in Europe. Ashu narrated me the incident and said: ‘Look, this actually happened’. Both of us felt that this is the story that should be told.

Did you sign the film primarily because it’s being made by Ashutosh?

See, any actor would want to work with Ashutosh. But apart from working with a genius like Ashu and working on a wonderful script, on an emotional note, I wanted to be a part of the film because it is very important for me. Whatever happened in Chattogram (Chittagong) on April 18, 1930, I desperately wanted to tell it on a larger platform.

Abhishek Bachchan

Did you do adequate research on Surjyo Sen?

Ashu did almost two years of research on Chittagong Uprising, Surjyoda and other characters that were part of the Uprising. But there is very little photographic documentation of Surjyo Sen; very few photographs after he was arrested. The entire incident, the people related to it…are not very extensively documented. We collected whatever we could get our hands on and relied heavily on Manini Chatterjee’s book Do and Die. We did as much research as possible, but then, as actors, directors…we always want to a lot more. Obviously, unlike Bhagat Singh or Chandrashekhar Azad, not as much as is written about Surjyoda.

What are the documents that could have helped you more with the character?

It would have been good if we could have some sort of video footage. That would have helped us to study Surjyo Sen’s body language. So we have to create things like that on our own.

So, it was difficult for you to portray the character?

It was difficult, but easy as well. Easy because you know basically what the character is like. Difficult because you always want more. Being given to play a real-life character, you want to be as truthful as possible. But having said that, Ashu told us that we are not making a biopic here. This film is about Chittagong Uprising. It’s not about just one character-Surjyoda or Kalpana Dutta (played by Deepika Padukone). So, Ashu was okay if we took very little creative liberty in our portrayal of these characters.

As far as we know, Surjyo Sen’s physical structure is different from yours…

You want to say I look fat? Surjyoda wasn’t a very heavy person; rather he was scrawny. But Ashu didn’t want to go into that zone with him because there wasn’t adequate visuals on his body language and the  way he looked.

How comfortable were you shooting in dhoti-kurta, instead of designer suits?

We are actors…tying dhoti, etc are not difficult for us. As it is, I love wearing dhoti…I am very comfortable in it.

A freedom fighter is known for his sacrifices. Did you sacrifice anything for this film?

I made a very big sacrifice…I shaved my stubble, which I feel very naked without. But I did it all for the cause of cinema and after being pressed by my director.

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