Everyone knows Kharaj Mukherjee. He is one of the best character actors in Bengali cinema today. He is also a gifted singer and can mimic veteran actors like Chhobi Biswas with élan. He has a very interesting role in Premangshu Roy’s Katakuti which has been acquired by Databazaar Media Ventures for DVD and streaming rights on channels. But let us hear it from Kharaj himself.
“Katakuti is a very modern story about relationships and their mutations happening in a global and modern world. Though I generally do not have any rigid choices about my roles as I am not a hero-figure, I liked the one I play in Katakuti. I have done the role of one of lunatics placed in a mental home in Kolkata. The film repeats its underlined message – that a man passionate about anything, be it a person, animal, object or art or science, mainstream society immediately labels him a lunatic without weighing the pros and cons of the loaded term ‘lunatic.’ I play a man so obsessed,” explains Kharaj.
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So what is the character he plays obsessed with? “He is obsessed with the idea of directing films. He looks at the world through his imaginary movie camera, fantasying the inmates and even the doctors and the paramedical staff to be characters in the film he is shooting. He wears a bright red floral bush-shirt with a cap on his head and keeps giving directions from the director’s vocabulary – ‘cut’, ‘camera rolling,’ etc. It is a very interesting cameo but what attracted me to the role is the opportunity of rubbing shoulders and sharing screen space with some of the best actors in films and the stage such as Manoj Mitra and Dwijen Banerjee,” he elaborates.
Few know that Kharaj has been around for a very long time and his name, face and rotund figure has become very familiar only over the past decade. He made his debut in Arabindo Mukherjee’s Hulusthool in 1982 but gained prominence as a cameo actor only in Patal Ghar which bagged the National Award for the Best First Film of a new director in 2003. Among the five favourite films he holds close to his heart are – “Patal Ghar, Bye Bye Bangkok, Chhoye Chhuti, Tarun Majumdar’s Chaander Bari and Shiboprosad Mukhopadhyay’s forthcoming film Accident.”
He is finally playing the lead in Ami Montri Hobo to be released soon followed by a plethora of films like Godaye Gondogol, Antar, Kono Ek Din, Le Halua Le, Nachni, Ektuku Chhoan Lage, Haatchhani and Anindo Banerjee’s Gole Male Pireet Korona “in which I play a cook (thakur) from Odissa,” he sums up, laughing.
Is he saddened by the fact that his director Premangshu Roy did not ask him to sing in Katakuti? “Not at all,” he says. “I am an actor first and last. If someone asks me to sing, I take it as an additional honour, nothing more. If the audience likes my singing, I will get to sing more in my films. But the singing part should suit the character I am playing. Most of the time, it does not,” explains Kharaj.
– Shoma A. Chatterji