Prosenjit Chatterjee has a few conditions before signing an ensemble film. The actor says that the director either needs to give him a powerful character or a strong reason behind casting him. Filmmaker Srijit Mukherjee gave Prosenjit both in his upcoming Bengali film, Zulfiqar, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra. The actor will be seen in the titular role, which draws inspiration from the character of Roman general Julius Caesar. “Today, everyone (read filmmakers) knows that I am in no rush to do films. In fact, I am willing to sit back at home if I don’t get an exciting character. This film brings together a number of actors from the Bengali film fraternity. All the actors (Dev, Jisshu Sengupta, Parambrata Chatterjee and Ankush and others) came together in support of good cinema by keeping their egos aside. We want this film to draw equal fan following for all the actors including me so that it creates a box-office record which is better than what any Bollywood film has so far got on the opening day in West Bengal,” says the actor.
The Moner Manush actor also admits that the film has strengthened the bond between the actors, which will help the Bengali film industry in the long run. He adds that the actors are trying to bridge the gap between commercial and middle-of-the-road cinema through this ensemble film. “I have always admired the works of Mani Ratnam. He targets both classes and masses with his content. This film too will be trying the same,” says Prosenjit, who first worked with Srijit in his debut film Autograph (2010). This will be the actor’s fifth film with Srijit, the others being 22 e Srabon, Mishawr Rahasya and Jaatiswar.
Interestingly, Julius Caesar’s character has a brief presence in the original text. Prosenjit informs that the director has added background information on the character. The actor also says that he tried to create a larger-than-life image of the character on screen. “When Srijit narrated the script to me, he told me that he wanted to tap the star image of Prosenjit. It’s a take on two of Shakespeare’s most famous plays. Here, Caesar’s character is an underworld don but I won’t call it a dark film,” says Prosenjit, who is presently busy dubbing for two Hindi films.
Prosenjit, who has worked with the likes of Tapan Sinha, Tarun Majumdar, Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Rituparno Ghosh to Gautam Ghose, shares that it’s really interesting the way Srijit has named the characters in the ensemble drama. “We don’t get to see too many Muslim protagonists in our films. But most of the characters in this film are Muslims. We also have a few Hindu and one Christian character. It’s a fascinating amalgamation,” he observes.
However, Prosenjit’s Bengali television show, Mahanayak, which is based on Uttam Kumar’s life, has failed to garner high TRPs. So much so, that the show’s time slot has now been pushed to 11 pm from 7.30 pm. Even yesteryear actresses such as Sabitri Chatterjee and Supriya Devi, who have worked with Uttam Kumar, too have expressed their dissatisfaction with the content of the show. However, Prosenjit, who plays the titular role on the show, goes on a defensive mode about the show’s content. “We are happy with the new time slot. The serial is meant for matured urban audience. I was in San Francisco recently and was surprised to see the reaction of the young girls. They regularly watch the show. I have gone on record saying that the show is not entirely based on Uttam Kumar’s life. We have borrowed some episodes from his life. Whatever may be the TRPs, I will never stop experimenting,” he smiles.
The actor also informs that he is yet to sign any new film, as doctors has advised him rest given that he has been shooting for 400 days at a stretch. “I was shooting back-to-back projects since October 2015. Now, I am taking rest and reading scripts,” says Prosenjit, who will also be seen in Srijit’s new Kakababu film, which will be the first 3D Bengali film.
Watch the song Ek Purono Masjide from Zulfiqar: