Interview: Bangla Movie Actor Shaheb Bhattacharjee - "Directors are welcome to push me to any limit as actor" (WBRi Exlcusive)

Indian Kolkata Bangla Movie Actress Suchandra Vaanya and Actor Saheb Bhattacharya [WBRI]]
Bengali actress Suchandra Vaanya and actor Saheb Bhattacharya in a still from "Not a dirty Film" (2015)

Saheb Bhattacharjee is one of the most prominent faces among the younger generation of Bengali film industry. The young turk of Tollywood is currently busy promoting his upcoming new Bangla movie Not a Dirty Film’ which is based on the porn racket operating under the cover of massage parlors in Kolkata. Shaheb recently talked to Washington Bangla Radio correspondent Jyoti Prakash Mandal and spoke at length about the film, his take on porn rackets and more.

Bengali Movie actor Saheb Bhattacharya

WBRi: Tell us about the character you play in Not a Dirty Film.

Shaheb:  “ Not a dirty Film” basically deals with porn racket under the garb of friendship clubs and massage parlors in West Bengal, particularly in Kolkata. Apart from porn industry we have shown other wrongdoings in the society like fake astrologers and self-proclaimed spiritual leaders.

People want to avail of these services and in the process often get victimized and sometimes they cannot even know about it. We wanted to portray how people are easily trapped by these con artists. So to tell all these things in the form of a story, a victim was needed and I play that victim in the film.

I play a young college going guy who spends most of his time having fun with his friends. He, like many other urban guys of this generation, parties a lot, hangs out with friends and is very active in social networking sites. And while doing all these he falls into a trap which turns his life upside down.

WBRi: What kind of research did you conduct to get into the skin of this character?

Shaheb: When I was approached with the script I first wanted to judge the credibility of such a story. During my initial research I was shocked to know that India has the dubious distinction of having the second highest porn viewership in Asia, coming in only next to Pakistan. And In the world statistics India comes in sixth position. So this bad culture is tightening its grip every day.

We all know that whoever has access to porn watches it but not many people are willing to talk about it in the open. And this enormous demand of porn is encouraging a section of people to obtain sexually explicit videos by nefarious means.

Our research was directed to how these rackets are working and how people are being made victims by these rackets. Most of the research was done by our director Ranadeep and he has done it commendably. The research has unearthed a lot of hard-hitting facts and those have been portrayed very well in the movie.

WBRi: We often come to know about explicit videos of different people getting leaked which often include celebrities besides ordinary people. Have you taken any reference from any such real life incidents?

Shaheb: Most such cases are related to big celebrities but in our film an ordinary guy is the victim. And the ordinary people who fall victim to such rackets are extremely difficult to track. They often change their addresses or take up a new identity to avoid social stigma.

Therefore I had to build up most of my character. And this was in fact the most challenging part of this role. This movie also shows what the parents of such victims go through and how helpless they become along with the victim; they too often do not know how to handle the situation. It offers a way of handling such unfortunate situations as well.

WBRi: We have often seen fake porn websites, photos and videos of celebrities floating around where celebrity look-alikes or computer generated superposition has been used. Have you ever come close to being such a victim ? Have you ever been used in such a way ?

Watch: Not a Dirty Film (2015) Full HD Bengali Movie Trailer

Shaheb: No, fortunately no such thing has happened with me yet and thankfully this has not affected Tollywood so far. But yes we have to be  aware of  these evils because such things can mar our images and make us known for wrong reasons. Whenever we come across such malpractice, whoever it is directed at, we should strongly protest against it because not protesting against such victimisation is equivalent to encouraging it and that cannot be allowed.

WBRi: Often cine stars and pop icons in western countries deliberately release sexually explicit videos as promotional stunts. What is your take on this culture?

Shaheb: Yes sexually explicit videos are now often being used as promotional stunts in the west. But we, people here in West Bengal, are still far away from that kind of mind-set. I personally feel that such kind of activities for the sake of promotion is completely unethical no matter how much business it brings.

WBRi: “Not a Dirty Film” is the story of a victim of a porn racket. Will it send a message of caution to potential victims?

Shaheb Bhattacharya Bangla Movie Actor

Shaheb: If we study sexually explicit MMS being circulated (often called leaked MMS), we will see that most of them are either the boy video shooting the girl or vice versa. And also there are videos showing the intimate moments of couples being captured through a hidden camera without the knowledge of the couples. These videos end up in porn sites and the rackets dealing with them are earning millions from these videos. We have tried to explore these areas in the film and after watching this movie the younger generation will be more aware of what may lie ahead. They will  think twice before clicking intimate pictures with their partners which may be leaked in case of a break-up ("revenge porn"). They will be more aware of hidden cameras before having sex in some hotel or lodge rooms once they see this movie. We have blended entertainment and awareness in equal proportion.

WBRi: Please share some memorable moments during the making of the film.

Shaheb: We have a lot of memorable moments during the shooting of the film. The members of our unit are almost of  the same age and that contributed a lot to the fun factor on the sets. During the shoot of a sequence on the sea beach at Digha, a high tide suddenly emerged from nowhere and we had to run away to escape it. The electrical wiring got drenched in the water and short circuits happened. It was quite fun.

Another funny thing happened on the day when I and Mumtaz were supposed to shoot for an intimate scene. It was being shot at the late hours of the day and we were already doing overtime. But as soon as we tried to get intimate Mumtaz started laughing and when she was not laughing it was me who started doing so. Numerous takes were cancelled because of our laughter. The producer was furious over the delay. Ranadeep seemed confused. But finally after twenty takes we managed to complete the scene and were happy with the shot. I share a good friendship with Mumtaz and it shows in our chemistry on screen. This shot is one of the high points of the film.

WBRi: What will be your message to the audience about this movie?

Shaheb: This movie has been designed in such a way that it would appeal to both multiplex and single screen audiences in smaller towns. This film has real facts, real characters and realistic treatment. The style of the narrative  is very interesting. It would not disappoint you. So please come and watch the movie. Bengali cinema needs your support.

WBRi: How would you define your journey from Topshe in Feluda series to Nil in Not a Dirty Film?

Shaheb:  It has been a beautiful journey. There were both success and failure but I enjoyed every moment of this journey. I have understood that the biggest challenge for an actor is to get out of type-cast roles and achieve variation.

For the last couple of years I am trying to challenge myself a variety of roles. I have done a negative role in the film Bheetu for the first time and it has been widely appreciated. The role of a married guy in the movie Khaad was also a first for me. In “Not a Dirty Film” I have tried to come out from the chocolate-boy image and have tried to present the bold and passionate sides of me . I am now open to any kind of experimentation by the directors. They are most welcome  to push  me to any limit as an actor.