PROSENJIT: AUTOGRAPH demanded three layers within a single man (Interview)

Prosenjit-Chaterjee-Srijit-MukherjeeCalcutta Tube/Kolkata: Over the past few years, Prosenjit, the numero uno of Bengali cinema is steadily extending the parameters of the famous and colourful and kitsch Poshenjit image to explore alternate avenues in screen performance. Autograph, directed by Srijit Mukherjee, is a classic example. Autograph is also a model for contemporary Bengali cinema’s salability at the box office. It is a big box office hit though it is not really a mainstream film in the popular sense of ‘mainstream.’ But let us hear it from the star himself.

Let us hear of the character you have portrayed in Autograph.
It is a very complex character that demanded me to essay three layers within a single man. One is Arun Chatterjee, the man behind the superstar. The second is Arun Chatterjee, the superstar. The third one is the superstar he is playing in Aajker Nayak, the film-within-the-film directed by Shubhobroto Mitra (Indraneil Sengupta), an aspiring director who wants to remake Satyajit Ray’s Nayak (1966).

Were you influenced by Arindam Mukherjee’s character played by Uttam Kumar in Satyajit Ray’s Nayak in any way?
No, I took care to consciously flesh out Arun Chatterjee so that it was a completely different enactment from what Uttam Kumar did in Nayak. He played a superstar in a film when he was already a superstar in real life. His performance came out of his interpretation and Ray’s direction. The superstar reflected in Nayak, in 1966, created a world of his imagination and lived within it, insulated from the real world outside the world of his creation. Arindam Mukherjee fits this description.

In what way is your take on Arun Chatterjee different?
The superstar of today is more grounded. Stars do not live in a magic world any more. We are flexible to the demands life makes on us though the limitations to occupying public space still remains a road-block. We participate in pre-release talk shows on television and radio, make live appearances, the works. This brings us closer to our audience. It helps keep our heads in the right place. We cannot afford to move around wearing an imaginary halo around our heads. I interpreted Arun Chatterjee, of course in keeping with what Srijit had conceived, keeping this reality in mind.

Srijit is a totally new to direction. Didn’t you have doubts about accepting the project?
I had three days to go through the script. I liked it and gave myself another two days and could not find a single flaw. My friends Moni Shrikant and Shreekant Mohta who represent Sri Venkatesh Films were breaking their heads for a solid script for seven months and Autograph was among these. It was too good a script to miss out on. I had confidence that a youngster who could write such a good script would be able to direct the film equally well. The decision was made.

So are you happy with Srijit’s direction?
Of course! He is an extremely focussed young man. Srijit has executed the film exactly as it reads in his script. He has not compromised to market demands at any point. The music is a big hit. The hottest number amaake amaar moto thaakte dao literally carries the spirit of loneliness at the core of the superstar. Everyone who has watched the film loved the dream scene. Beside a three-day shoot in Ramoji Rao’s studio in Hyderabad where we shot some scenes inside an aircraft to simulate an international flight, the entire shooting was done in Kolkata. Interestingly, some scenes were actually shot at Uttam Mancha in the southern parts of Kolkata, a theatre named after Uttam Kumar.

Shoma A. Chatterji

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