Bengal has been the home to numerous talents that have fetched not only global attention on the state but have also been important in reshaping its art and culture. One such persona was actor Soumitra Chatterjee, whose demise last November left a permanent void in the world of cinema.
The legendary actor, prior to his unfortunate departure, was a part of a biopic on himself. Titled Abhijaan, the biopic has been helmed by actor-director Parambrata Chattopadhyay. The film, which got pushed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, is set to screen at the London Indian Film Festival on June 26. Ahead of its screening, we spoke to Parambrata who was elated at the film being screened for the first time.
“It feels quite special. When I was studying in England, I used to pass by BFI (British Film Institute) and think that someday, my film would be screened there, too. BFI was always a special place for me, and now the dream is finally on the verge of being real. However, it is slightly disheartening that I won’t be able to attend the premiere in person. Having said that, it is also quite exciting because the film will be screened in front of a lot of people, who will be seeing it for the first time," he said.
However, Parambrata, who had posted a lengthy note on social media mourning the demise of Soumitra Chatterjee, did not find it easy to finish the film without his ‘Udayan Master’ (a reference to the film Hirak Rajar Deshe).
“It wasn’t easy. I had to leave for Himachal for a very long shoot after spending a couple of months in Kolkata, and that was tough for me as my association had grown with my city, and with my home. Amidst that, his illness and subsequent hospitalisation were extremely unfortunate. I was in constant touch with Poulami di (Soumitra Chatterjee’s daughter), and when I heard his condition was stabilising, we were relieved.
“Unfortunately, right before I returned to Kolkata, he passed away. The dubbing for his part was left incomplete. However, our sound designer did an excellent job of using his location sound, which is inherently very unclear and scratchy, and mixing it with other’s dubbed voices to create a seamless result. It made us revisit his scenes plenty of time, and at that moment I couldn’t believe that the man is not there anymore," he said.
Reminiscing about their time together, Parambrata further said, “Sharing a moment from the shoot would be difficult because there was so much to do and so little time. Before the shoot, I met him every week for three months. In the evening, we would converse and that formed the basis of my research. This was the moment when we would share our anecdotes and experiences: ranging from art to cinema. We would discuss poetry, theatre, politics and life in general. There have been innumerable such moments, so recalling one would be doing injustice to the others."
“Soumitra jethu (uncle) had been working for more than 60 years, not only as an actor but as a thespian, a poet, a painter, and a politically conscious human being. He was a different personality altogether," he added.
The theatrical release of Abhijaan is on hold, owing to the pandemic. Abhijaan, which takes its name from a famous film by the legendary actor is Parambrata Chattopadhyay’s 11th directorial venture. It has an ensemble cast of Soumitra Chatterjee, Jisshu Sengupta, Sohini Sengupta, Paoli Dam, Tanushree Chakraborty, Sujan Mukherjee, Prosenjit Chatterjee, Basabdatta Chatterjee, Rudranil Ghosh, Qaushiq Mukherjee, and the director himself.