Shaheb Bhattacharjee is part of a new age in Bengali movies, which are being released directly on OTT services. The current COVID-19 situation has led SVF to decide to release the Joydeep Mukherjee-helmed ‘Detective’ on Hoichoi. Based on Rabindranath Tagore’s story, Anirban Bhattacharya appears as the titular Detective – Mahim Chandra. Fascinated by tales of Sherlock Holmes, sleuthing is Anirban’s, first love. However, he finds his life upended when he crosses paths with Shaheb’s Manmoth.
Shaheb Bhattacharjee joins the team at Expresso today to share some thoughts about the film.
Expresso: How are you spending your lockdown days?
Shaheb Bhattacharjee: Well, I am watching a lot of films, trying to cook new dishes, and engaging myself in different activities. I am not able to visit my parents a lot because of the lockdown. And with shoot resuming, it has become all the more difficult to meet them. Hence I am learning all the dishes from YouTube and trying to make the best of this time.
Expresso: How is your character like in the film Detective?
Shaheb Bhattacharjee: I am playing Manmoth Majumdar in this film. He is an educated boy who takes part in the struggle for freedom. He is a very dedicated revolutionary and works very hard for the cause. However, he has this hidden sorrow related to the love of his life. And this is also his weakness. So you see Manmoth is torn between these two sides of his character. Sometimes he is the strong revolutionary, and sometimes he is the weak romantic—his main aim to kill Mahim Chandra, who is an Indian detective working for the British Police. However, Manmoth’s personal life gets involved in this mission, and he has to encounter a series of troubles.
Expresso: What impressed you about the character that you readily agreed to do the film?
Shaheb Bhattacharjee: Firstly, this is the first Bengali film which is releasing on an OTT platform. I wanted to be a part of that. The story is very new because this is a thriller wrapped in comedy, which is very unlike the kind of thrillers we have seen before.
Expresso: Is there any similarity between Manmoth and Shaheb?
Shaheb Bhattacharjee: To be very honest, there isn’t any similarity. This is always an exciting challenge for actors to play characters, very unlike their real nature. Manmoth is a character from the time of Bengal Partition in 1905. Therefore, the way people spoke that time, their body language, etc. was much softer. We have to keep in mind these things when we are trying to be that character. Dialogues have to been spoken in unadulterated Bengali, and we have to remove all the urban-ness that we have imbibed with time.
Expresso: How was your experience of working with Joydeep Mukherjee?
Shaheb Bhattacharjee: I am working with him after a good 11 years. I feel he is the most appropriate director for this film. He has a fantastic sense of humour, which has helped in creating specific nuances for the film. He would give us some detailed inputs that would be very helpful.
Expresso: How did you groom yourself for the shoot and what is your best memory from it?
Shaheb Bhattacharjee: Well I am a theatre artist hence I am used to these kinds of grooming on a day to day basis. Working on dialogue pronunciation, body language etc., we do it all the time. As for my best memory, I think we were shooting the climax of this scene in Bantala. There was a particular dialogue exchange between Isha and Anirban and both of them simply couldn’t stop laughing while rehearsing the scene as well as during the takes. This eventually leads to a good laugh for the entire crew. So yes as far as I can recall this was my best memory from the shoot.
Expresso: What do you feel about digital promotion?
Shaheb Bhattacharjee: Honestly, I don’t think it is a challenge that the pandemic has imposed on us, but rather the future of film promotion. If a film has quality content, then promotion through the digital platform is the best way to go about it.
Expresso: The audience will see Detective as the first Bengali film to get an OTT release on Hoichoi. How do you feel about it, and what would you like to tell the audience?
Shaheb Bhattacharjee: I think this is a big step. Detective was shot in only 12 days, and now it is getting an OTT release. I feel it is a very promising avenue that has been opened to future filmmakers, and a lot of low-budget films can be made and released now. Our viewers can also comfortably sit at home, enjoy movies at their leisure, and not spend too much money on popcorn!
Expresso: In your opinion, what is the best character that you have played?
Shaheb Bhattacharjee: I played the role of a Naxalite in Iti Mrinalini. It was the first film I worked in and is therefore very close to my heart.
Expresso: A character that you would want to play.
Shaheb Bhattacharjee: I think someday I would love to do an out and out action film.
Expresso: After a long time, the audience saw you on the small screen in Lockdown Diaries. How did you feel about it?
Shaheb Bhattacharjee: The approach towards working for television is very different from that of film. And I was doing something for TV after almost a decade. So yes initially it was a little difficult for me to adjust. But after Lockdown Diaries released I realized that television has a massive reach, which was definitely a warm feeling.
Expresso: Do you still miss the stage?
Shaheb Bhattacharjee: Yes. A lot. I was working on some plays before, which have been stalled due to the pandemic.
Expresso: What are your upcoming projects?
Shaheb Bhattacharjee: Well, I have another film getting an OTT release coming up. I am eagerly waiting for the release of Apoharan and Bhorer Pakhi, which couldn’t happen because of the lockdown.