Interview: Abhishek Banerjee says he 'felt bad' when people recognised Divyendu Sharma but not him
Abhishek Banerjee in a long, exclusive conversation with Hindustan Times talked about what has changed for him after the success of his film Bhediya. The Amar Kaushik directorial also had Varun Sharma and Kriti Sanon.
Abhishek Banerjee was undoubtfully the soul of the recently released film Bhediya with his great comic timing. Starring Varun Dhawan and Kriti Sanon, a big chunk of the film relied on the able shoulders of Abhishek. Reflecting on the reception of Bhediya, Abhishek told Hindustan Times exclusively that it has been the best compliment of his career.
He said, “I was a new boy on the block. I think I have now gotten the trust of the audience with the kind of reception I am getting for Bhediya. This sealed the deal for me. Now I am stress-free. Pehle doubt hota tha ‘Yeh role denge na? will they cast me? do people like me? Will I get an acting job?’ This fear was there because this is what I am here for. I have left everything behind and come to Bombay to become a big screen actor. I have seen myself as a celluloid actor.”
Recognition is subjective for actors. How much does it mean to Abhishek? He answered, “Recognition is a big thing because as an actor you have to change your look completely. I was left wondering how I make them realise that I am the same guy in Stree and Paatal Lok.”
But, isn’t it an added advantage for an actor to mask themselves under new characters? “I would have said that if I was in some other country. In India, you need recognition to start getting roles. That’s how producers see it,” Abhishek added.
He went on to explain, “For the kind of industry, we are in, recognition is important. But I used to be thrilled even when people used to not recognize me. It was happening since my theatre days. I remember I used to play the character of a cop in a play called Hawalat. Divyendu Sharma was also a part of the drama. I used to come out of the auditorium wearing my ordinary clothes and people used not to recognize me. But they would recognise Divyendu or the other guys. I used to feel very bad. I was like ‘Why can’t they recognise me? I had a very good role’.”
“My theatre teacher told me ‘That’s a great thing. It shows that you can disguise yourself completely into the character’. I love shape-shifting now. But, of course, who doesn’t love recognition? It’s going to give you responsible work. It feels amazing now that people are relating to me when they are seeing me in Bhediya. I feel a sense of achievement with this.”
Abhishek once called himself a ‘semi-famous’ actor. Has anything changed for him after the success of Behdiya? “Oh yes, I totally feel I am famous. Now people are clapping on my scene. I said ‘semi-famous’ because we actors forget that India is a huge country. When you are in Bombay or within the film circle, you start feeling you are famous because you meet people who know about us. When you travel to rural parts of India, you will realise how many years you need to give to the industry for those people to know you. I read it somewhere that Shah Rukh Khan said ‘Jab tak mujhe harr ek watchman nahi janenge, tab tak mai apne aap ko famous nahin manunga.’ This is exactly what I feel.”
Abhishek was born in the railway town, of Kharagpur to a middle-class family. He completed his studies from Kendriya Vidyalaya and kept shuffling between places like Kolkata, Delhi, Chennai and now Mumbai, thanks to his father who was in Central Industrial Security Force (CISF). Every time he visits his hometown, even for a short weekend trip, Abhishek gets mobbed by his loved ones. “Now my dad calls me and tells me that apparently everyone in Kharagpur knows about me. He says I am famous there. From the carpenters to the electricians, everyone knows him as Abhishek ke papa and he gets treated nicely.”