After investigating the conspiracy theory surrounding the death of former prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri in The Tashkent Files, Mithun Chakraborty is back on a quest for the truth.
In Mukul Abhyankar’s web series Bestseller (out on Amazon Prime Video on February 18), the 71-year-old actor plays police officer Lokesh Pramanik. Pramanik is investigating a series of attacks on people related to novelist Tahir Wazir (Arjan Bajwa) and his latest work, inspired by the life of his fan Meetu Mathur (Shruti Haasan).
Among the suspects is a Twitter troll who has an axe to grind with Tahir. The cast includes Gauahar Khan, Sonalee Kulkarni and Satyajeet Dubey.
“There is some connection missing between history and case history,” Pramanik says in the trailer. Chakraborty’s trademark cadences and pronunciation will remind his fans of the attitude that made him a top action star in Hindi films.
Chakraborty promised that Pramanik would be an entertaining character with several shades. “He is a big foodie and will know the name and address of where to get the best kachori, samosa, rasmalai across India,” Chakraborty told Scroll.in. “He will bring this up in between talking about his investigation, but while he’s seemingly talking nonsense, he will actually talk sense and find the truth in any situation.”
Pramanik’s wig, Chakraborty added, was to make him look “hatke” (different).
A leading star in Hindi and Bengali films for over 40 years, Chakraborty now picks roles “only if they tickle or pinch me or give me a kick”.
The Kolkata-born actor acknowledged that he retains his Bengali accent even while speaking Hindi. “Learning Hindustani was one of the first things I did while starting my career in Mumbai,” he said. “I knew that if I could not speak Hindi clearly and convincingly, I wouldn’t be accepted as a national star.”
However, “action and dance have no language” he added. “To these, I added my own style.”
Chakraborty’s enduring legacy as a dancing action star because of films like Surakksha (1979), Disco Dancer (1982) and Kasam Paida Karne Wale Ki (1984) eclipses his work in arthouse cinema.
Chakraborty’s first-ever movie role, as a tribal in Mrinal Sen’s Mrigayaa, won him a National Film Award. Among his best performances in recent times is in the underseen Bengali film Shukno Lanka (2010), in which he plays a small-time actor cast in an international project.
“When I won the National Award, I thought I had become Al Pacino,” Chakraborty said. “But the national award is not an Oscar. This boomeranged on me. So I decided I would first become a superstar and then return to such films, which I did in 1993 with Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s Tahader Katha.”
After three National Film Awards, multiple blockbusters and solid supporting roles in films such as Guru (2007) and OMG – Oh My God! (2012), what does Chakraborty see as his lasting contribution to cinema?
“I was not a conventional-looking hero and yet I broke all barriers,” he said. “My success proves that even your neighbour next door can become a star.”