With a career spanning almost two decades, Parambrata Chattopadhyay is a prominent name not only in the Bengali film industry but also in Bollywood. When he had started out, Parambrata earned a place in the audience’s hearts with his charming portrayal of Topshe, the side-kick of the Bengali sleuth Feluda in Bombaiyer Bombete. Since then, the multifaceted artist, who turned 40 today, has come a long way.
Talking about completing 20 years in the film industry, he said, “When I had started in 2001, I was leading a different life. Subsequently, I moved on to films from television, but at the same time, I also wanted to spend some time training myself. I applied for a scholarship and left for my masters. After I came back, it was a different journey altogether. I balanced many things like acting, directing, producing and working across multiple industries like Bengali and Hindi. So I think I have lived many lives and many careers. It branched out in different ways, and it was quite the journey."
However, donning many hats was never easy. His debut as a director was with Jiyo Kaka (2011).
Explaining how he manages the overlap between his role as a director and as an actor, he says, “The overlap generally happens in two ways. One, in terms of opportunities, when I have to let go of one thing because of the other. The second type of overlap is in terms of creative differences on set when I am working as an actor. As a director, I have a certain vision in my head, and whenever I read a script, I form my own visualizations which sometimes do not align with the vision of the director. However, with time, I have learned to handle that. Before we start filming something, we have several rounds of discussions. The differences are cleared so that I can only operate as an actor and follow the director’s ideas."
The actor-director who also commands an appealing presence on OTT platforms is having the best of both worlds with his recent releases like the Bengali film Tangra Blues, and the ZEE5 web series Black widows. On the power of the digital, he commented, “With the increase in OTT platforms, we have got the chance to work with a diverse range of things, think about different kinds of audiences, and explore mature content, which was implausible even a few years ago. We have come across new faces, new talents and new voices - from sixteen to sixty-five. We have been able to tap into these talents, and that is the best thing this platform has brought into the modern world."
Parambrata has shelled out a number of successful films including Baishe Srabon, Bhooter Bhabishyat, Hemlock Society, Apur Panchali, Kadambari and more. Asked about what his most challenging role has been so far, he replies, “People often think that the characters that are close to your personality are easy to play, and the ones that differ from you, for instance, the characters I played in Hercules, Kaler Rakhal or Chotushkone were challenging because they were not really me. However, that’s absolutely not how it works. The characters that are more like me in terms of behaviour and everything else are the ones where I need to capture the fine nuances which differ the character from me as a person. From that point, my personal favourite would be my performance in Dwitiyo Purush and Bulbbul."
His stardom isn’t just limited to the Bengali film industry, as he has made a noise in Bollywood with productions like Kahaani, Pari, and Bulbbul, and has also featured in a Bangladeshi film, Bhuban Majhi.
When asked about the barriers for Bengali actors trying to work across industries, he says, “I am one of those Bengali actors who have been working in the Hindi film industry and I am very fortunate to be working across industries. There might be a barrier in terms of distribution and audience perception but as an actor, if you command a certain hold over your craft, it really doesn’t matter where you are coming from. There might be a tendency to initially confine you into certain roles depending on where you are coming from, but to some extent, we have been successful in breaking that barrier."
Explaining further, he adds, “Suppose you are making a film in Hindi and the story is based in Kolkata and has Bengali characters in it, the producers will look for someone who has some sort of a national presence but at the same time can also bring in the Bengali nuances to the character. This diversity should not be a problem, it should be celebrated. Having said that, people often consider whatever content is being produced in Hindi is ‘national’, and the rest are ‘regional’. I do not believe in this demarcation."
Parambrata, along with two of his associates, heads a production house, Roadshow Films, which attempts at upholding ordinary tales about ordinary lives, but with a unique bent. Acknowledging the diverse content that the Bengali film industry is producing in recent times, he also shared his insight on how the industry can improve.
“Primarily, we need to improve ticket sales, by which I mean the market size. Unless that improves we will always remain a small-scale industry. We need to come up with a model that will cater to the NRI Bengalis, people staying in Bangladesh, and all of us need to operate together. That is the only way we can expand the market size. Apart from that, these last few years have seen diverse and different kinds of work coming up, which is a wonderful thing," he concludes.