Abir Chatterjee is almost completely identified with the classic detective Byomkesh Bakshi following two films on Byomkesh directed by Anjan Dutt. Abaar Byomkesh has recently been acquired by Databazaar Media for screening, streaming, telecasting and DVD sales for the North American and Canadian markets. Every Bengali over the age of 30 is fond of this detective. Readers will recall that the first Byomkesh film, namely Byomkesh Bakshi by Dutt had also been acquired by Databazaar Media.
Does Anjan give you a brief before he begins to shoot?
The only ‘brief’ we were given as a team was that we would all have to fare better than we did the last time for Byomkesh Bakshi. This time, almost the entire film was shot on location and this needed a different slant, a different approach. We shot a lot of scenes in the forests of Dooars. This was one of the major differences between Byomkesh Bakshi and Abaar Byomkesh that do not matter when you reading the books but it matters a great deal when you are placing it on celluloid.
What differences did you have to put into the character from the first film?
Quite a few in fact. In Abaar Byomkesh – Chitrachor, Byomkesh is shown having come to the hilly place of Dooars to recuperate from an illness that almost took his life. So, Anjan-da was clear about Byomkesh looking leaner than he did earlier. In the original, Saradindu Bandopadhyay speaks about a tribal belt but Anjan-da relocated it in the Dooars. It was tough because I am a foodie and love to eat.
You’ve been put on a slimming binge for some of your films, right?
Right. I had to do workouts before shooting of Baishey Srabon began because Srijit, the director, was strict about this. I had to lose even more weight for a wonderful serial Proloy Aaschhe directed by Raj Chakraborty in which I play a conscientious police officer. Anjan-da had said that he wanted a lean look, not a muscular look and I am in agreement with the concept. It suited me fine and I look quite lean in the film.
Abaar Byomkesh explores the husband-wife relationship between Byomkesh and his wife Satyabati quite a great deal. Satyabati was hardly a part of the scenario in Byomkesh Bakshi. Comment?
I think it is a good thing because it adds that touch of reality to the character of Byomkesh highlighting that behind that serious mask of detection, sharp intelligence and powers of observation, he is a normal man with a normal relationship with his wife who is very caring of him during his convalescence. We see Byomkesh solving crimes and at the same time, arguing and squabbling with his wife like a normal husband who is denied his smoke and delectable food.
How much of Byomkesh Bakshi entered into Abir Chatterjee?
Come to think of it, quite a lot in fact. I feel very proud and am eternally grateful to Anjan-da for having chosen me over many others to essay this immortal character from Bengali literature. The Byomkesh series is not just a crime series. It is considered to be a brilliant piece of literature like Doyle’s series on Sherlock Holmes. To be able to play the character on screen is a matter of great pride and prestige. On the other hand, is the happiness that has come from the positive feedback from the audience that has accepted me as Byomkesh Bakshi. Considering I am relatively new – Byomkesh Bakshi was my second film, it is a matter of honour for me. At the same time, there is a pressure that works on me to perform with responsibility towards my director, towards the character and finally, towards my audience. It has changed me as a person. I am more confident as an actor. Perhaps, I am a better person too.