Kolkata/Calcutta Tube: Meet Saswata Chatterjee. He is one of the most talented actors in Bengali films and television today. We have seen him in hundreds of television serials, around a dozen mega soaps and approximately 25 films over the past eight to ten years. He portrayed Byomkesh Bakshi’s Watson in Anjan Dutt’s Byomkesh Bakshi. He looks familiar because he resembles his late father, actor Subhendu Chatterjee.
How do you define the term ‘acting’?
When one is acting, one is pretending to be somebody else, someone he is not in his personal life. Having worked on television for a decade or more, I have disciplined myself to the switch-on-switch-off mode when I must shift from one shoot to another. I practice the same when I am shooting for two films at the same time.
What criteria do you use while accepting a brief?
The prime factor is the role, never mind if it does not occupy much footage in the film. In Anjan Dutt’s Madly Bangalee and Chalo Let’s Go, the footage was not much. But the roles were exceptionally strong. The second is the director. I do not mind new directors. Some of them have a lot of promise. The third is the script. My main objective is that the audience must remember be when it leaves the theatre after the show is over. Money is never of prime importance.
What kind of homework do you put in once you have accepted an assignment?
It depends on the story, the script, the character and the co-actors you are working with in a given project. For the role of Ajit in Byomkesh Bakshi, I had to do a lot of homework because most of the audience is already familiar with the Byomkesh stories and the characters in them. Anjan-da gave me a lot of freedom to explore the character in depth. Arindam Sil helped a lot too. It was Anjan-da’s Bong Connection that actually changed the course of my career. He placed faith in me. When a director does that, it imposes a lot of responsibility on the actor; one wants to put in one’s best. The best thing about Ajan Dutt films is that I cannot compare the one with the others. Each one is unique unto itself. Ajit in Bymokesh Bakshi cannot be compared with the drunken failure in Madly Bangalee. In Chalo Let’s Go, I play another different character. It does not really matter that I am not the hero in these films. What matters is that the audience remembers me for my performance, though I am not the hero.
Which of your works on television are you proud of?
The most favourite ones were two televised recreations of two Uttam Kumar classics. One was Kuhak and the other was Bhranti Bilash based on Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors. As far as serials are concerned, I played Feluda’s nephew Topshe under Sandip Ray’s direction for his series on the adventures of Feluda. It was a great learning experience. Another memorable serial was Ek Akasher Neechey which I also directed for nine long months.
What forthcoming releases are you looking forward to?
The first one is Parambrato’s first film Jiyo Kaka. There is another one coming up called Bhooter Bhabishyat followed by Chaplin, Sudeshna Roy’s Hercules and the Hindi film Kahini that pairs Parambrato and Vidya Balan. I have an important role in Suman Ghosh’s forthcoming Nobel Churi. I am a director’s actor and take his permission even when I want to improvise.
Is your father your icon?
No, Uttam Kumar is my ideal not only for his looks but mainly because of the way he evolved from a really bad actor in his earliest films to mature to a level no one can reach. With that tremendous screen image, he dared to take the risk of working in a film like Khokababur Pratyabartan. In his prime, he did a completely negative role in Baghbondi Khela. There is no one like him till today in Bengali cinema.
Shoma A. Chatterji
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