Parambrata Chattopadhyay interview: On men 'still' dominating movie business, low phases and special family in Kolkata

Updated on Sep 14, 2022 09:52 AM IST

In an exclusive chat with Hindustan Times, Paramabrata Chattopadhyay shares his views on the changing workflow in the film industry, whether gender equations have changed, and his upcoming films.

Parambrata Chattopadhyay shares his views on changing gender equations in the film industry, what ails the industry and more in this exclusive chat with Hindustan Times.
Parambrata Chattopadhyay shares his views on changing gender equations in the film industry, what ails the industry and more in this exclusive chat with Hindustan Times.

He is one of the most talented and popular actors in Bengali cinema who has also marked an impressive presence in Hindi films. Parambrata Chattopadhyay is also privileged to call late filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak as his grandad. But, Parambrata has had his share of lows in his life as well. (Also read: Parambrata Chatterjee says the Bengali audience needs to come out of their shells)

In an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times, the Kahaani star opens up about sailing through the low phases of his life, how he views the film industry and gender equations in the industry, and more. Here is an excerpt:

Starting out as Ritwik Ghatak's grandnephew, to establishing your own space in public minds - it must have been some journey. Were there any low points?

Everyone in a freelance industry like ours go through lows, and extreme high points. I have had my share too. I cannot even say the circle is complete. There will be many more lows and highs and lows and hopefully highs again. When I look back I can demarcate which was low phase and which was not, but never realised it was low phase when I was going through those. I was just like ‘why are people misunderstanding me?' Why am I not being able to communicate at the essence of my art to my audience?’ That is how I looked at it. It never felt it is a low phase and bistar se uthna hi nahi (I may not bounce back again). I think it is better to look back at a phase as a low rather than knowing that you are going through a low phase, and feeling even worse.

Trust me, being Ritwik Ghatak's grandson has nothing to do with it because he was a great and revered filmmaker, but not as celebrated or popular in certain circles as Satyajit Ray is. So, I have imbibed certain influences from him as well as many other artists in family. Apart from that, Ritwik Ghatak being nana, has affected any decisions of my career.

Having spent more than two decades in the industry, what changes in the working style have caught your attention?

Making a movie has become quicker and faster process than earlier. While there are many great things (like costs in check with increasing prices of everything), the post-process of making movies is easier but there are few things I miss and few things we have lost. We have lost a certain sense of discipline and decorum on sets, to some extent. That is something we could bring back, the rest of it is all good.

Do you see a change in the gender equations in the film industry? What are the things that you hope changed sooner in this regard?

People have become very aware of gender equations, a lot more than what could be dreamt of 15 years ago. There were jokes that were easily cracked then but now, I would take them as offensive and walk out of the room. A notion has set in, but I am not sure how much gender equality has set in, in actual terms. In our industry, at the end of the day, we make what people are consuming and I do not think the majority of Indian population are completely aware of gender equality and the ideas around or concerning gender equality.

If that would have happened, a lot of the process of making, writing and selling our films would have changed quite drastically. Yes, there are lovely efforts being made but I won't say things have changed, the notion has set in for sure. That is quite an achievement but it is not complete, we have miles to go. Most importantly, what needs to change is that women or female characters matter. Everything is connected to economy. Men still dominate the market in terms of buyers. It is always about (mostly, if not always) who is the male actor in a film. We still have to pin point that it is a female-oriented film, a special category. Why would you need to do that? A woman can be a hero, why do I have to specify it is women-centric, a different genre? A lot has changed, but a lot is yet to change.

Do you want to elaborate on the issues Boudi Canteen talks about?

I do not want to call Boudi Canteen an issue-driven film but it tries to look at the idea of women empowerment through a different prism. We have been talking a lot about women empowerment. I grew up in the 80s and 90s, ever since I have heard about it. But, I think in the course of talking about women empowerment, we lose sight of the realities. We lose sight of the fact that we fall into our own traps while pushing the narratives. That is something I have noticed along with my writers. That is what we have tried to negotiate in a very sweet way in the film.

You recently completed shooting for Boudi Canteen and Mumbai Dairies.

Mumbai Diaries brought about this streak in me that made me face the sinister in me…not sinister, maybe grey. It made me go back (and get) in touch with the grey part of myself. It also made me understand how complex human beings can be if they want to. Boudi Canteen is a feel-good and warm hearted cinema, (it is) the kind of person that I am. With the film, I realised how I have evolved as a director over the past seven or eight films that I have directed.

What keeps you going amid the hectic and crazy schedules of back-to-back films like the ones you are doing right now?

I have my happy place in my house in Kolkata and my pet and people at home, the people I call family. You see, I have a strange situation - my parents died and I haven't married yet so my family essentially means my staff at home. In my case it is a little more than just being benevolent when I call them family. I actually do not have anyone else as family. I have sporadic aunts and uncles (living across the globe) but the one family I go back to and am proud of, is the one in my Kolkata home. Also, I love living in old buildings and after all the hard work that I have done, I have managed to buy an old building in a relatively older part of Calcutta.

I think the contrast to that the energy of Mumbai where I spend lot of time these days. The intent and energy to do something, the proactiveness of people. These two cities inspire me in different ways - Calcutta gives me peace and my creative juices start flowing, you can sit and think in the city. Mumbai gives me the energy to take those ideas to the world. The lovely combination of these two cities that keep me going.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Sweta Kaushal has 13 years of experience covering Bollywood and regional movies, TV shows, national current affairs and social issues.

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