Parambrata Chatterjee is known to Hindi film audiences for his roles in Kahaani (2012) and Pari (2018). In Bengal, the actor has been a household name ever since he appeared in the TV serial Half Chocolate, about aspiring teenage musicians, in 1999. For the grand-nephew of the legendary Ritwik Ghatak, the turn towards acting may have been accidental, but as he prepares for his fourth movie as a director, he says he is finally enjoying what he has “always wanted to do”.
Sonar Pahar is scheduled to be released on July 10. The movie is about an elderly woman who has a tense relationship with her son and finds some succour from her friendship with a little boy. The movie stars legendary actor Tanuja and Jisshu Sengupta as her son. The cast includes Soumitra Chatterjee.
Tanuja wasn’t the first name that came to Parambrata Chatterjee when casting for the pivotal role. “I had been toying with some other names when someone suggested Tanuja’s name and I lapped it up,” he said. “Sometimes when we look at a elderly person after a long time, we compare her to her younger self. We reflect on how she has aged. Tanuja, who has always had this youthful screen avatar in Bengali cinema, was perfect in that sense. She is someone who has never been concerned with stardom, who is perfectly comfortable with her wrinkles and grey hair. She looks real. And I wanted to capture that, evoke this sense of passing of time in my audiences when they watch her play an elderly character.”
Everything about the film, from the background score to the setting and the cinematography, had to be “natural”, Chatterjee said. Tanuja’s look was a part of this “organic process”.
Sonar Pahar is a far more personal film than the ones previously directed by Chatterjee. He started out with television films in 2006, and made his feature debut with Jiyo Kaka in 2011. Sonar Pahar is based on his relationship with his mother. “Films based on real premises are always drawn from our own experiences, what we have seen and done in our own lives,” Chatterjee observed. “Even then, some films are more personal than the others.”
Chatterjee grew up with heavy doses of films by the Bengali trinity Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak and Mrinal Sen and international cinema before going on to discover mainstream cinema. “I discovered popular films much later in life, unlike most of my peers,” he said. His taste in cinema is eclectic, with an admiration for Emir Kusturica, Tapan Sinha, Balraj Sahni and Aamir Khan. And he does not believe in pushing himself as an actor.
Which may be why Chatterjee is not seen that frequently in non-Bengali films. “I am not selective about the work that I could do in Bombay, but the industry works differently,” he observed. “You have to be there and seen to be part of big projects. I am based in Calcutta with other interests, and while there have been smaller films coming my way, I am not particularly interested in pushing myself for these roles.”
Unless, of course, a film like Pari comes his way. “Kahaani was undeniably a major life event for me, and now I know there are people who recognise me for Pari as well,” he said. “Something like this is definitely worth my while.”