December 25 is a special day for Dev. It’s his birthday and his new Bengali film, Arshinagar, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, also hits the theatres. Dev, who started with potboilers in 2006, has gradually moved to meaningful cinema. “I don’t celebrate my birthdays but I am sure my family, especially my sister and brother-in-law, will plan something grand. However, I am looking forward to the release of my film,” says Dev. Excerpts from a chat with the actor...
Arshinagar is releasing on your birthday.
That makes the occasion even more special. Birthdays are special to everyone. I am sure audiences will watch this film. There are so many wow factors in this film. The film is in verses. It’s a musical and has been shot in Broadway-style like Chicago and West Side Story.
What was your initial reaction when Aparna Sen offered you to play Romeo in Arshinagar?
Seriously, I thought she would cast me in a small role. She had offered me a small role in the Bengali film Goynar Baksho (2013) but I refused it. So, when this script came my way, I asked Rinadi (Aparna Sen) if I was playing Tayeb (the antagonist, played by Jisshu Sengupta). I was elated to know that I was being offered Romeo.
Aparna Sen is known as a hard taskmaster.
I always wanted to work with Rinadi (read Aparna Sen). Had I been asked in any interview even a few years ago who are the directors I wish to work with, I would have named Rinadi. It’s an honour for any actor to work with her. I knew whatever time I get to spend with her, I will definitely learn something. I am completely a director’s actor. She is so active even at 70.
And who are the other Bengali directors you have always wanted to work with?
Srijit Mukherji, Kaushik Ganguly and Shiboprosad Mukhopadhyay.
Romeo and Juliet is a celebrated Shakespearean tragedy.
It’s a literary masterpiece. It has been adapted time and again on celluloid in almost every language. I am surprised we took so long to adapt it in Bengali.
Arshinagar is a musical. Don’t you think it will be difficult for the audiences to understand the film?
Audiences are not fools. If a film doesn’t work then we need to accept that we did something wrong. Unless we try out something new, how will we know if it will work or not.
These days we get to watch a lot of meaningful Bengali films. At this stage, what matters more to you — box office success or critical acclaim?
Box office is very important. If my character gets critical acclaim, but the film fails at the box office, it won’t serve the purpose. I will rather want my films to run and let the audiences complain that I am a bad actor. I have received criticisms all my life. (Laughs out loud)
Which film has been the turning point of your career?
I think Chander Pahar (2013). After that film, the directors started trusting me as an actor. Once these films work at the box office and you also manage to get appreciated for your acting, then the directors start trusting you. Buno Haansh (2014) too got critical acclaim. In these films, you need to become a character. You cannot behave or act like a hero in these films. Directors such as Srijit (Mukherji) and Kaushikda (Kaushik Ganguly) are known for making sensible and good cinema and when such directors ask you to work in their films, it feels good. What do commercial films mean? Films that make money at the box office. So, if we can make a film on an original story, which also works at the box office, then it’s the best deal. My effort is towards making the semi-urban audiences watch Buno Haansh and at the same time making the city audiences should watch Shudhu Tomari Jonno (2015). This won’t happen overnight.
Does criticism affect you?
I am completely dedicated to my profession. I support good films like Dhumketu. I believe if I charge a huge remuneration, then this film won’t happen. So, I thought of producing it. I have said in my earlier interviews that at some point you need to return the favours the industry has done to you. I will commit mistakes but I am trying. I am going out of my comfort zone, and doing films such as Buno Haansh, Arshinagar and Dhumketu. And trust me, these films don’t pay me like the potboilers I do. With time and experience I have understood that a superstar has his own limitations. But if you can become both a character actor and a superstar, then you live for a longer time. For example: I played Shankar in Chander Pahar and this character will forever remain etched in the memory of the audience. So, whenever one will think of Chander Pahar, they will remember Shankar and not me. I want to live in those characters. I am maintaining a balance and doing both sensible films and potboilers.