Actor-director Parambrata Chatterjee’s new film Tiki-Taka follows a Senagalese man Khelechi Ajgubi (Emona Enabulu) who is in Kolkata for personal reasons. Khelechi and Ajgubi mean “played” and “strange” respectively in Bengali. In Kolkata, where footballers of African nationality are a fixture in the major football clubs, Khelechi is quickly mistaken to be a football player.
Khelechi gets mixed up with Raju, played by Chatterjee, and journalist Bonnie, played by Ritabhari Chakraborty. “Raju is a street-smart taxi driver, and together with Bonnie, they set Khelechi up as a football player,” Chatterjee told Scroll.in. “The film is essentially a comic take on how a lot of African men don’t even come to play football, but are pulled into the sport in Indian cities like Kolkata, for example, Chima Okorie.”
Football clubs compete to sign Khelechi, and the police get involved. Playing the antagonist is PK (Saswata Chatterjee), a North Kolkata showman who is all about “thumris and mujras and chandeliers”, Parambrata Chatterjee said, “but is involved in a lot of illegal stuff”.
The supporting cast includes Kanchan Mullick, Paran Bandyopadhyay, Kharaj Mukherjee, and Shantilal Mukherjee. Shot in Bengal, and dubbed in Hindi, the film is being streamed in both languages on Zee5 from September 11.
Tiki-Taka is Chatterjee’s fifth film as a director and the second involving football. His 2015 Bengali film Lorai: Play to Live followed an alcoholic coach (Prosenjit Chatterjee) training young footballers in a politically turbulent region of West Bengal.
Assessing himself as a director, Chaterjee observed, “I was always sure of my craft. But initially, I was very nervy and jittery as a director. But I am now a lot calmer and more sure of myself as a filmmaker.”
To viewers of Malayalam films, Tiki-Taka is reminiscent of the 2018 hit Sudani from Nigeria, in which a Nigerian footballer in Kerala strikes a warm friendship with a local Malayali football fan and team manager. “If someone wants to go ahead and bring up comparisons, that’s alright, but our films are very different,” Chatterjee said. “Sudani from Nigeria is a beautiful film, but that goes in a different direction from ours.”
Parambrata Chatterjee’s upcoming films as a director include the Bengali science-fiction film Bonny, which stars him, Koel Mallick and Anjan Dutt. There’s also Abhijan, a biopic of legendary Bengali actor Soumitra Chatterjee.
Abhijan stars Jisshu Sengupta as the younger Soumitra Chatterjee while the actor himself plays his older version, much like Kaushik Ganguly’s Apur Panchali (2013). The film chronicled the life of Subir Banerjee, the child actor who had played Apu in Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali. Banerjee was played by himself and Parambrata Chatterjee.
Chatterjee, who has been in the movies for 18 years, has acted in all sorts of roles in Bengali films. Recent Bengali productions where Chatterjee portrayed roles that were off the beaten track include Samantaral (2017), where he plays a transwoman, and Password (2019), where he portrays a cyber-criminal.
About Samantaral, in which he was particularly good, Chatterjee said, “I tried to strike a balance between being a man who lives up to the codes set up by society in terms of how to act and be like a man, and the woman who is buried deep inside him struggling to come out. There’s not much homework that went into the character. It had more to do with understanding the role in the best possible way I could.”
As an actor, Chaterjee will be starring in the Indian remake of the Finnish series Black Widows for Zee5, and a Hindi series on another streaming platform. Since Kahaani (2012), Chatterjee has found himself typecast as a white knight in Hindi films, a bit like Jisshu Sengupta, his contemporary from Kolkata.
“I exude the vibes of a good, upright, righteous man, which is perhaps why I am always as the good man or good boy in Hindi films,” Chatterjee said about his roles in Kahaani (2013), Pari (2018), and Bulbbul (2020). “In Kolkata, filmmakers have known me for 20 years, so they know my not-so-good side, which is why they can picture me in grayish roles. Hindi filmmakers go by the first impression they get of me. The more I work in Hindi, I figure I will get to play characters with more shades.”