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Parambrata Chattopadhyay: I try not to cast myself

  • Published at 02:49 am October 18th, 2020
Parambrata Chattopadhyay
Parambrata Chattopadhyay as a street smart cabby in Tiki-Taka

Actor Parambrata Chattopadhyay has been directing for about a decade now. His latest directorial venture, Tiki-Taka, where he also starred, was released last month on Zee5 Global. A comedy of errors, the film underscores a football crazy Kolkata that mistakes an African drug peddler for a world-famous athlete. Speaking to Dhaka Tribune’s Showtime Editor Sadia Khalid about his experience of directing and producing the film, the actor shares the hurdles of wearing three hats for the same project

Your recent film Tiki-Taka is about football, not Taka.

It is also about Taka. The story is about an African named Khelechi coming to Kolkata. He comes here on a mission but his goal changes as football crazed Kolkata deems him as a famous footballer. How a football match helps him reach his goal with the help of a yellow cab driver, Raju, played by myself and a journalist named Bonnie is the throughline of the plot.

Here you were the director/producer and lead. We’ve seen you play multiple roles in films before. Does it help your performance because you are that much more into the film or does sit burden you with too many concerns?

Both, and to equal degrees. It becomes a little bit easier for me to contribute whole heartedly to the film because then the creative ownership lies with me. It gets much easier to take decisions pertaining to all aspects of the film. But to be able to do all of this at the same time, you kind of have to take multi-tasking to a different level. That can get quite stressful at times. You tend to become a control freak to some degree.

You’ve directed 9 films/shows so far. You starred in seven and wrote seven of those. Do you write with yourself in mind for the lead or does that casting decision come further along the way?

The decision comes much later. I want to put it out there that I try to not cast myself. I enjoy directing so much, if I also act, the pressure is really a lot. But since my primary identity is as an actor, people presume that I will star in my projects. So, the producers or the platforms demand it from me. In most cases, I have to agree to act.

Does the level of difficulty in juggling these roles vary from one project to another?

I did a  Zee5 original series called Sharate Aaj. It was so massive. It was the first Bangla language film shot entirely in UK. Aritra Sen, like my partner and brother, took a lot of the directing burden on his shoulders. We became co-runners.

Also Read: Parambrata Chatterjee: Our identity as Bangalis is above religious divide

If the character is close to my real self- urban, middle or upper middle class, speaks Bangla/English/Hindi, then directing becomes relatively easier. But in Tiki-Taka, Raju is a bit too different from who I am. He’s a street-smart cabby, a swindler. I was once again lucky to have Aritra, and Rohan Ghosh, who is the writer of the film. I had them both on set as associate directors. Otherwise it would be very stressful. 

We’ve seen you direct films and shows since 2011. Do you feel you have evolved as a director over the years?

Oh yes. Of course. Every individual evolves; right? We evolve as people and as artists, irrespective of what the medium is. Our artistic self is an extension of us.

When you direct, do you feel an added pressure because you’re related to Ritwik Ghatak?

I seriously don’t remember that consciously when I direct (laughs). In this subcontinent, we believe in iconoclasticism. If you are related to someone so famous, it’s only natural it will come up all the time. I’m very fortunate that the fact that Ritwik Ghatak is my grandfather, was known a lot later, after I was already established as an actor. Otherwise it would create problems, especially in our culture. I respect him dearly. I grew up watching his films. Maybe subconsciously he is there, just like other great directors I admire.

After watching the film, I feel the internet wasn’t taken into account. One person just claims to be a huge footballer and no one cares to check whether he is really who he says he is. Was it set in the past?

We thought about it a lot while writing the script. We are talking about a time when the world didn’t yet become online. I can remember even back in 2013, we didn’t have the habit of googling everyone. In India, this happened around 2016 when mobile data became extremely cheap. Watching cinema, web series, matches on the phone became a regular thing. People believed more in word of mouth back in 2012. On top of that, our characters, out of desperation, act hot-headedly, and irrationally; except Raju, who keeps his cool and pulls the strings.

It goes to show how the media can invent truth. 

News is now sensation based. Bonnie needed to keep her job, so she told her bosses this story. They didn’t bother about fact checking. Break the news first was their priority. 

You directed big names like Saswata Chatterjee, Paran Banerjee, and more in this film. How were they as co-stars? 

They have the best comic timing and sensibilities. They’re some of the finest comic actors in the country. They love working in this genre. I didn’t even have to direct them other than explain the shot division. If I didn’t say cut, they could make a whole film out of a scene just by improvising.

We’ll see you in another Zee5 series soon, Black Widows, with Swastika Mukherjee and Raima Sen. 

It’s the official Hindi adaptation of a Finish series. Lots of Bollywood heavyweights are starring as well in this dark comedy.

You’re also starring in another Bangladeshi film now. 

I’m waiting for the release of Shabnam Ferdousi’s Ajob Karkhana. I believe it will be a fantastic film. I don’t think there has ever been a research of Bangla folk songs of this magnitude before. It’s a favourite character of mine. We finished dubbing right before the lockdown. Hopefully we’ll get to see it soon.