The Traffic actor REVEALS he rejected Maine Pyaar Kiya which made Salman a star...
Prosenjit Chatterjee is credited with the fact that he almost resurrected an ailing Bengali film industry all by himself. At a time when theatres were running dry, his films brought people back to cinema. He is a megastar in Tollywood and wants to keep it that way. He feels he doesn't have any competition, not even from Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Akshay Kumar. He was last seen in Shanghai which made people ask who is this man! Now he will play a pivotal role in Traffic which is based on a real life story. Here's the actor explaining why he has a league of his own and would like to do films he is interested in.
Have you seen the Malayalam film?
I saw the Malayalam Traffic even before I got offered this film. See, I am filmbuff. If there's a good film made in any language, I try to watch it. Actually, I wanted to buy the rights to make it in Bengali. But then I came to know that somebody has bought the rights already. So I was not interested. Eventually, the film came to me. It's a good subject. Unfortunately, our director passed away who made the Malayalam film too which was terrific. He didn't want to do any kind of compromise here too. It was stuck for a very long time since we had shot the film long back. They wanted me after watching my film Autograph. They wanted to have a star with an aura. It's an interesting character of a star becoming a father.
Do you think a film like this deserved more promotions?
I am an out-station actor, I shouldn't say. I don’t really know the way film gets marketed in Mumbai. They have their own strategy may be. But yes, the promotions were less. Everybody is talking about it. It's a good cinema with a good star cast. It's a film which the people will love to watch it. Manoj (Bajpayee) and others are trying. Trailer got a great response. But unfortunately, the promotions weren't that big. I remember during Shanghai, we promoted it so well.
Would you have done the same role of Dev Kapoor in the Bengali film as well which you intended to make before?
I wouldn't have necessarily acted in the film if I had remade it in Bengali. What I liked about the film was it didn't have a big star cast but it's a cult. It's similar to Autograph in Kolkata. If I had remade it in Bengali, I would have preferred good actors too. You see, when you have big stars in a film, the weight shifts. I wasn't sure if I would have acted in it or not but I liked the film a lot. It would have made a great film in Bengali.
You debuted in Hindi Cinema with Andhiyaan way back in 1990, did a few films and then completely shifted your focus to Bengali Cinema. Why?
I was very clear. When I did Pahlaj Nihalani's film, it wasn't planned. See everybody knows me. When you talk about Bengali Cinema, my name comes first somewhere. That was not the issue. Issue was I never serious about doing Hindi cinema. I was doing Pahlaj's Bengali film Mandira with Sonam and Chunky Pandey. Suddenly, Pahlaj ji was like mere paas ek film hai, David (Dhawan) start kar raha hai. You are a superb actor and you look so fresh. Isko tu kar le. Mumtaz ji ke bete ka role tu kar le. But I was honest about one thing, I have started Bengali cinema from the scratch. My films used to do silver jubilee, golden jubilee. The industry and audience were putting money on me because I was number one. I can't take a risk and be number two or three here. Now when Shanghai was offered to me, I am not coming now as that star Prosenjit, not even in Kolkata. Because in Kolkata, these youngsters are doing great job. But when my name comes, it is a position in a completely different league. Now I don't have that challenge that I have to come here and be number one or two. Shah Rukh, Salman and Akshay are not competition to me. Whatever I have learnt as an actor, I will come here and do it. I am doing the same in Bengali cinema also.
I have read somewhere that you rejected Maine Pyaar Kiya and Saajan, two movies that catapulted Salman Khan to huge stardom. Is that true?
I was selected officially Maine Pyaar Kiya. Salman wasn't even there. He wasn't serious about acting then. He was more into the technical side. They got the print of Amar Shangi to Mumbai. They watched the film and invited me here. I was here for 6-7 days and gave auditions as well. Fortunately but unfortunately, I couldn't do the film.
You are 53 and the Khans of Bollywood too are in their 50s. But the difference here is you have graduated to doing content-driven meaningful cinemas while they are still doing movies they did for over two decades now.
It completely differs from man to man. It's a personal choice. I think Salman, Shah Rukh and others, may be they want to do but can't. May be because their stakes are too high. And there is an audience to watch those films as well. Otherwise how do we get that kind of collection. But they are trying to do something different. I mean Akshay is doing a great job. People are trying. Bajrangi isn't an usual Salman film. For me, I was very clear about few things in life. I will not go against the calendar and the watch. I will not fight it. I knew from the start I will create my own brand keeping in mind, whatever way I look, even today I can do a character who is 35. It doesn't matter to me because of the way I have maintained myself.
Shankhacheel won the National Award for Best Film in Bengali. But the selections this year were mired by controversies. What was your reaction to that?
Jury has to be respected here. You see, when we go for a competition where you have judges, their mental status change. Respect their judgment. May be they thought this year they will focus on mainstream and they have done it. Of course, there was strong buzz in Kolkata that why am I not getting a National Award when all my films like Money Manush, Baishe Shrabon, Jatishwar and now Shankhacheel are winning it. But then Soumitra Chatterjee, who has done maximum number of films with Satyajit Ray and is one of the finest actors in India, got his National Award when he was nearing 70. So we have to go on doing good work. If it has to come, it will.
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