Parambrata Chattopadhyay on mental health: ‘We think someone has to be vilified, some extraneous factors have to be there’
In an interview with Hindustan Times, Parambrata Chattopadhyay opened up about theatrical vs OTT releases, his new film Tiki Taka, nepotism, allegations of drug usage in film industry and the importance of discussing mental health.Updated: Sep 15, 2020, 06:56 IST
Even as theatres across the country remain shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic, Parambrata Chattopadhyay has seen a good mix of theatrical and OTT releases. At the beginning of the year, he saw the release of two big Bengali films - Dwitiyo Purush and Sraboner Dhara, which was followed by the Bengali web series Case Jaundice, Netflix original film Bulbbul and Zee5 original film Tiki Taka.
Parambrata says that there is one fundamental difference between the two mediums. “When it comes to theatrical releases, it is about hitting the nail on the head on its very first day or maybe the second day, at the most. With OTT releases, it is more about sustenance. Once a product is on an OTT platform, it is got to be there. The quality of the product and how you showcase it would ensure that people remain interested in the product,” he says.
His new release, Tiki Taka, sees him return to the director’s chair. Talking about the film, he says, “It is an absolutely rollercoaster ride, fun, full of really hilarious situations which involves two men and the game of football. It is about how an African boy landing up in Kolkata by default is embraced by the city, courtesy the city’s love for football. Raju, the streetsmart cabbie, which is played by me, works as a mediator and in the process, becomes a very dear friend to this boy, Khelechi. The film is about fun, friendship and football.”
While Parambrata initially found it tough to balance between direction and acting, he has now grown accustomed to it. “I have been juggling these two aspects since 2012. I have done quite a bit of work where I have both, directed and acted. To be honest, in the initial days, I used to find it difficult. Then, it became a lot easier because I got used to it. Now, I understand that it is actually quite tough, especially in a film like Tiki Taka where I am playing something which is way beyond my comfort zone. In such cases, it becomes a little tough, but then, it is also the fun of taking up the challenge,” he says.
Parambrata was just a teenager when he was offered a role on a television series. After initially taking acting ‘casually’, he became serious about it. However, he was always inclined towards filmmaking. In 2009, he took a sabbatical from his acting career to study filmmaking in the UK.
“What brought it on was the sheer idea of pursuing the craft in detail. I always wanted to be a filmmaker but I never got an opportunity to study the art. I studied literature and started working straight away after that. There came a point when I realised that maybe I should not follow the traditional path and let things carry on the way they were. I thought to invest a little more time and energy in learning and honing my craft,” he says.
Parambrata does not agree with recent allegations that 99% of Bollywood engages in drug use. “If it is about the film industry, it cannot be just about Bollywood. It has to be about the film industries of the country. Where I come from (the Bengali film industry), I don’t see the practice in 99% of people and neither do I think it is there in Bollywood in 99% of people. It’s really an individual choice. If someone wants to indulge in external stimuli in the form of narcotics, it is their choice. It is illegal and should not be indulged in,” he says.
“A lot of illegal things happen in our country by a lot of rich and famous people, not just in the film industry. People take liberties in every field and break the law. We see it everywhere from politics to administration to sports. If someone wants to go into that and risk their reputation and well-being, it is their choice. But I do not see it in that many people, nor do I think it exists in that many people,” he adds.
Parambrata, who has acted alongside a lot of ‘star kids’ in the Bengali film industry, said that he has never been a victim of nepotism or favouritism. He called it a rather ‘subjective’ debate, as there was no ‘fixed yardstick’ to determine if someone is deserving of a certain position or not.
“Favouritism and nepotism, which seems like it has become the most important topic of the whole country, putting aside other very important topics, exists in various forms, just like illegal practices. It is something that is practiced in all aspects, fields and industries, all over the world. It is not just about the film industry. Yes, of course, if someone deserving is taken off his/her deserving spot because someone undeserving is given that spot, that is extremely unfair. But a) that needs to be proven and b) there needs to be a yardstick that will determine that this person who has got the job...I mean, who decides whether that person is good or bad?,” he asks.
“There is no fixed yardstick. This is a very debatable topic and very subjective. It is something you deal with on an everyday basis. It has almost turned into a political debate. If someone is getting rid of deserving candidates, that is extremely bad and it should not happen. But there is no fixed yardstick to judge that action and also we should be equally respectful and aware of everything that is happening in the country, beside this. It is extremely unfortunate, what is happening right now,” he adds.
On being asked if it is more difficult for celebrities to deal with mental health issues because of the constant scrutiny, Parambrata says that it is a universal issue and the discussion should not be limited to public figures alone. “Only the mental health of people in the spotlight is spoken about. There are thousands of people on the streets who pull a rickshaw or run a little tea shop, who probably go through the same mental crisis, but their mental health is never even looked at,” he points out.
Parambrata says that perhaps mental health is not taken as seriously as it should be. “Mental health is very real, unlike the way we want to believe. We try to kind of skirt the idea of the possibility of mental health or depression being behind major developments. We think that someone has to be vilified, some extraneous factors have to be there. We try to objectify the whole thing and put the blame in a certain spot. Whereas, mental health is something every single individual on this planet goes through. It is just like our physiological health. Sometimes, we have a fever or an upset stomach or a broken arm. It is just like that,” he says.
Emphasising that the conversation on mental health is extremely important, Parambrata says that it should be a larger discussion, instead of focussing only on celebrities. “Mental health is very important. It is the most important thing that we should be talking about right now, unlike the other things that we are talking about. That discussion cannot be limited to celebrities or people in the spotlight. It is a generic and all pervasive situation,” he says.
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