The idea basically germinated after reading Virag Mishra’s post on Brijender Kala. We always write posts on films, the lead actors, their directors. But there are many strokes of colour on the canvas which complete the painting. Actors who have a screen presence of not even 1/10th of that of the protagonist but are indispensable to the film.
The best example is perhaps actor Judy Dench who holds the record for winning for winning an Oscar ( best actor in a supporting role – female ) for a record 8 minute role in the film Shakespeare in love (1998). Salim-Javed were famous for creating such characters. They would have just one line in the entire film (Sambha in Sholay) or be part of just a gag ( Bob Christo’s character in Mr. India), but they would be remembered and talked about till date.
The recently released film Kahaani definitely had one such character. He might have had a total of just 5 lines in the film – 3 out of which would have been the signature “Nomoshkar – Ek Minute”. Yes you got it right – the LIC agent Bob Biswas.
No matter what the audience took out along with it from the film – the twist at the end, Vidya’s performance, the contrasting characteristics of Kolkata the city; all had one thing in common to praise about – the character of Bob Biswas. Within minutes the social networking sites got flooded with mentions of this new found villain in Bollywood. Comparisons were drawn with Gabbar Singh and Mogambo. Suddenly Rajnikant jokes found a new competitor. “Nomoshkar – Ek Minute” had beome a rage.
The facebook page of Bob Biswas is perhaps the best example in brevity when it comes to describing the person.”There’s no psychopathic laughter. No twitching. No punch dialogue. He is the friendly neighbourhood hired assassin. He is Bob Biswas.”
But this ‘Friendly Neighbourhood Assasin’ was as much the actor’s creation as the writers’. As the director Sujoy Ghosh puts it “I told him just one thing. I want your character to look like a Bineeta Baangali ( good natured Bengali middle class person ). After that everything from the dress to the gait to the smile was his creation.” He further adds, “He is a commoner whose face will get lost in the crowd. Thats why I always show him emerging from the crowd”.
And what a commoner he is. One who insures life in the day and takes them at night !
The actor behind this maverick character is veteran Bengali actor Saswata Chatterjee .Saswata has been in Bengali cinema for quite sometime doing character roles. Over the years the actor has put on both age and weight, lost hair, won recognition, but what has definitely stayed on is that ‘Bineeta Baangali’ facial characteristic. The same characteristic that got him his first role ever in Sandip Ray’s adaptation of his father’s immortal sleuth series, Feluda, as Topshe – the detective’s materanl nephew. The film was Baksha Rahasya .
Years later Sandip Ray re-visited Feluda. Though the choice of the protagonist remained the same (Sabhyasachi Chakraborty), he needed a younger face for Topshe this time. Enter Parambrata Chatterjee – our very own Satyuki or ‘Rana’. Incidentally Topshe was his debut role as well.
Now Parambrata has been around for a quite some time now. In a short span of time he has worked with the biggest names in the industry – Rituparno Ghosh and Anjan Dutt to name a few. Though 30 plus in age he still has those boyish charms intact and an obvious choice for the kind of roles people have for Sharman Joshi over here – sweet and vulnerable boy next door who can also show amazing layers of maturity in acting when required.
Talking about the character of Satyuki what Sujoy Ghosh wanted to show was that even a boy can fall in love with an elder woman even though she is pregnant. ” That s why I made her fix the computer at the police station so that she can become a hero in his eyes”, says Sujoy.
It really becomes a problem for the makers when they set the story in a non-hindi speaking city. It is difficult to decide where to draw the line when it comes to choice of language in dialogues. Instead of speaking in native and using subtitles the actors just tweak the Hindi a little bit. But it still sounds more authentic in Kahaani as compared to some other Bolly films set in Bengal (Devdas, Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se). That was primarily because Bengali Actors were cast and they spoke Hindi as they actually do in real life with no reverence for ‘ka’ and ‘ki’ while speaking.
And since Parmabrata had the maximum spoken part after Vidya in the film, I would say he did a commendable job. Because sometimes this device can backfire by making the scenes unintentionally funny at places where they are not required. There was an earnestness in his face which showed that he actually cared for this lady. Especially the part where he can’t help looking at her endearingly or reminisce about her while returning back home in bus at nights. There was also a sense of honesty and grit which any new entrant in Police Department has before those values get dilluted by harsh realities of the system. You don’t feel that you are missing a ‘Hero’ in the film when Parmabrata is around.
Kudos to the makers for being brave enough and casting local actors for the roles instead of known faces from Bollywood who would have pretended to be Bengali and stereotyped their characters. Kudos to these actors as well for pulling it off brilliantly. I hope it encourages other film makers to take a similar call when required.