WBRi Interview: Saswata Chatterjee on Playing Transgender in Barshali Banerjee's LGBT Bengali Film "Jenana"

By J P Mandal and Asmita Mukherjee, WBRINN

New Bangla Movie JENANA

Kolkata, March 12 (Washington Bangla Radio) - The very versatile actor  Saswata Chatterjee is making news almost every day for his screen avatars. No other actor in Bengali film industry can match the range of roles Saswata has done. The actor is now looking forward to the release of his next venture Barshali Banerjee directed Jenana where he plays a member of the transgender community.  Saswata Chatterjee spoke to Washington Bangla Radio correspondent  Jyoti Prakash Mandal about his role in the film, his personal views on transgender community,  dream role and more.

Read: Jenana - new Bengali movie complete preview and back story

WBRi: You play a member of the transgender community in this film. Has your perception of the community changed from what it was before after doing this role?

Saswata: Honestly speaking, No . Enacting this role has not changed my perception towards the community much. It is not easy to change the perception which we had been bearing in our minds for ages.  Don’t  I have a sense of insecurity when a group of transgenders approach  me? Don’t  I avoid them consciously ? The answer is ‘Yes I do’. This perception has been seeded in all of us for generations and this will not get out easily.

WBRi: What made you give positive nod to the role in spite of such reservations towards the transgender community?

Saswata: When I was approached  by Barshali (director) I was really moved by her passion. What amazed me was that such a young director is trying to make a movie on such a controversial topic. Even the producers were so passionate about making the film that I felt that they should be supported. Also this is a kind of role I have never done before and may be would never get to do again. So I decided to say yes to the movie.

WBRi: How much potential  you saw in debutante director Barshali?

Saswata:  It is often said that the choice of subject tells a lot about the potential and depth of a director. Barshali has proved it once again. I have seen very few debutant directors of  her age having so much technical knowledge. The passion and excitement can be seen in her whenever you take a look at her. Though I have not watched  the entire movie, but I still strongly feel that this movie will make people talk a lot. It may even change the thought process of the people towards the transgender community.

WBRi: This movie is releasing at a time when the transgenders are being recognized as third gender and being given access to jobs, education and other facilities. What is your view on that?

Saswata: I have heard about the provisions being made for the members of  the transgender community but I really doubt how far that is going to work for them. Are we really going to see them doing government jobs in near future? I am not talking about one in a thousand case. Would they be accepted in masses by us? And even if they get jobs would they be allowed to continue those smoothly without facing teasing and harassment ? When we will find them no more at the traffic signals knocking at the window panes of the cars then only we can be sure that they have been accepted in the mainstream of the society.

Read: JENANA - Actors Saswata Chatterjee, Priyanka Sarkar & Sankar Chakraborty Paste Posters of Barshali Chatterjee's Transgender Film

WBRi: This film also deals with the fact that some males hide their real sexual identity and disguise themselves as transgenders for earning money.  What do you have to say about that?

Saswata:  A few such exceptional cases may be there but I do not think anyone born as a man would like to live as a transgender. There may be some kind of compulsion in every individual case for taking such steps. If  I imagine myself as one of those guys who might have a bunch of girlfriends in his life, I just can’t see myself wanting to live the life of a transgender. Surely the few doing this do not represent the whole community.

WBRi: Do you want to say that the issue the film deals with is quite unrealistic?

Saswata: It is not really unrealistic but I would rather say that the character is unique. Also If the audience get nothing new outside reality in movies why would they watch it? Yes some aspects of the plot have been developed for the cinematic adaptation and those may not be a rip off from the real life.

WBRi: What is going to be the USP of the film?

Saswata:  The unique story is going to be the USP of the film. This story will shock the audience and will shed light on many untold things about the community.

WBRi: What was the most challenging part of doing this movie?

Saswata: The most challenging part while doing this movie was satisfying the director at every step. Barshali was so particular about every little thing that making her satisfy with those was the biggest challenge for every unit member.

WBRi: Was Barshali a very hard taskmaster?

Saswata: I won’t call her hard taskmaster. Actually she was so passionate about this movie that she never wanted to compromise with her visualization. She wanted perfection in every minute detailing. This is her first child and she cared for her baby like a highly possessive mother. These are all but virtues of a director.

WBRi: You were the most senior and experienced star in the unit. Have you ever given her some inputs or tips about the making  of the film?

Saswata: I actually never try to give any input to anyone during shoot. I want everyone to have his or her own creative freedom and never interfere in it. No matter how less experienced and how much novice the person is. As an actor I try to do what I am told to do.

WBRi: You have played so many characters over the years and we have seen you getting so deep into the skin of those characters. Have you ever lived any character after the shoot is over?

Saswata: No, I generally do not live my character after the film is over but there was an exception. I lived my character from Ritwick Gahatak’s bio pic ‘Meghe Dahaka Tara’ where I play the legend himself. I portrayed a character which people know very well and many know him even better than me. Rwitick Ghatak was such a larger than life figure. I knew that any mistake about portraying him would draw huge criticism. So I gave my best in living the character day and night. As a result I got merged in it so much that I actually had its hangover for many weeks after the shoot was over.

WBRi: If you are asked to choose another bio pic whose bio pic would you like to do?

Saswata: I somewhere cherish the desire to play Uttam Kumar in his bio pic. I would really like to do the bio pic if I get an opportunity. There are not many characters in the Bengali film industry which may be as colourful as him. But portraying the biggest icon of  all time of the industry is no mean feat. To portray his trademark style, mannerism, his way of smiling, his way of looking and the way he talked to people is something next to impossible. No one can match his charisma and charm. I know that I can never do justice to portray him on screen and so I may never have enough confidence to give it a try even if such an offer comes to my way. So this desire will remain a desire forever.

WBRi: What else is keeping you busy these days?

Saswata: I am currently doing the second installment of Shabor directed by Arindam Sil which has been tentatively titled as ‘Eagoler Chokh’. I will be in Mumbai for a considerable time to shoot for Anurag Basu’s "Jagga Jassos" which stars Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone. Please do not ask me about the role I play in the film. You will know when the right time arrives.