Have the desire to play Feluda: Dev

After ‘Byomkesh O Durgo Rahasya’, he might not play the iconic sleuth again, but like every Bengali actor he harbours the dream to portray Feluda

Have the desire to play Feluda: Dev

He is one actor-producer in the Bengali film industry who has often been on the receiving end of criticism. So, when Dev announced that he was playing Byomkesh Bakshi, one of the most popular Bengali literary sleuths, he knew negative comments would flood his inbox. But Dev enjoys pushing his limits. Dev’s candidness is also evident in his outspoken nature. He admitted his stubbornness in pursuing the role when Srijit Mukherji denied any plans to cast him as Byomkesh. Dev’s frankness shines through, showcasing his strong will. In an interview with ‘Millennium Post’, Dev revealed his knack for understanding audience taste and how he’s like a curious child, always eager to prove himself.

‘Byomkesh O Durgo Rahasya’ has all the ingredients of a commercial film.

Be it the casting or the canvas, I wanted ‘Byomkesh O Durgo Rahasya’ to be different from all the films made so far on the famed sleuth. Several films have been made on Byomkesh, so ours needed to be different to make the audience come to the theatres. I haven’t done the film to please my ego or prove how big a star I am, but to make good content.

Do you think ‘Byomkesh O Durgo Rahasya’ is a risky project for you?

Yes, it is. For Abir Chatterjee and Anirban Bhattacharya, Byomkesh has been a safe project, but not for me. The audience will step into the theatres to find out if Dev can at all play Byomkesh, but in doing so, they might fall in love with me as Byomkesh. This is one of the most difficult projects of my life, but then I love challenges.

Several actors have played Byomkesh over the years. Who is your favourite?

I loved Rajit Kapur. I also found Abir and Anirban extremely comfortable as Byomkesh. Of course, there’s a lot of admiration for how Uttam Kumar played the sleuth in ‘Chiriakhana’. He is the best.

Will you do another Byomkesh Bakshi film?

I don’t want to. I liked the story of ‘Durgo Rahasya’ and that’s why I agreed.

When Srijit Mukherji saw the trailer for ‘Byomkesh O Durgo Rahasya’, what was his reaction?

He said if a film needs to be made on ‘Durgo Rahasya’, this should be the exact canvas. As an actor, I am childlike and always eager to prove myself. So, when Srijit liked the trailer, it meant a lot to me.

There’s a lot of talk about you wanting to do Feluda.

I share a good bond with Babu da (director Sandip Ray). So, I wanted him to come for the trailer launch given that Satyajit Ray first brought Byomkesh to the big screen in ‘Chiriakhana’ (1967). I don’t want to limit myself. So, as an actor, I do have the desire to play Feluda. I expressed my desire to Babu Da a year ago. Having said so, Indraneil (Sengupta) is fantastic as Feluda.

You are experimenting with every film. Do considerations about your image and anticipated audience reactions still influence your creative choices or are you now primarily focused on pursuing artistic directions that resonate with your personal creative desires?

Recognition comes only with success, but even in my failures, there’s hard work. ‘Kacher Manush’ had a brilliant social message, but we tend to talk about ‘Projapoti’ or ‘Tonic’ more. Having worked for 17 years, there’s an innate hunger to do all kinds of cinema. Also, you need to think about the audience because, at the end of the day, they will purchase tickets to watch the film. I’m also conscious of not repeating myself. Given the gamut of films in all languages we are being exposed to, it’s important to step out of your comfort zone and try. I think I am the only actor-producer in Bengal, who doesn’t shy away from releasing a film despite the deluge of Hindi releases. I know that the maximum number of shows will be allotted to Hindi or Hollywood films, but I need to keep trying to better my content and make a space in this competition. Otherwise, there’s no point in cribbing because our films are not doing well.

How do you, who is immensely successful, effectively navigate and cope with moments of failure?

Not all Fridays are the same. So, not all films will do well and deliver a box office hit like ‘Projapoti’, but ‘Byomkesh O Durgo Rahasya’ might create a new audience. So, whenever I have failed, instead of overthinking, I have tried to find out the areas where I should improve and work on them. Overthinking will take me backward, but I have come a long way. So, I need to work on my loopholes rather than overthink my shortcomings and do nothing about them. I have trained my mind not to sit and crib. We need to understand that today, the audience decides to watch a film the moment a trailer is out. So, we need to be prepared for failure. But how we handle failure and put it to use in our work matters the most. And just like success, failures are also part of life.

To what extent is it fair for directors and actors to shift blame onto the audience for a film’s underperformance at the box office? Shouldn’t the focus primarily remain on enhancing the content and its appeal, rather than placing the blame on the viewers?

I believe every five years, the ‘taste’ of the audience changes. So, if they change, we also need to change. Therefore, it’s important to present them with content that suits their palate. For me, I’ll never blame the audience but rather learn from my mistakes. ‘Kacher Manush’ didn’t do the kind of business we desired during Durga Puja 2022. But that shouldn’t demotivate me. Rather, I am coming with ‘Bagha Jatin’, a film made on a huge canvas, this puja. Also, let’s understand from the audience’s point of view. If four family members watch a film, imagine the kind of investment they are making. They need to pay for tickets, popcorn and then travel to the multiplex. For a middle-class family, watching a film is like making an investment. So, we can’t blame them. Rather, we should present content that they would be willing to only watch in theatres.

There’s hardly an actor in the Bengali film industry who will not want to play Byomkesh Bakshi or Feluda. So, when Srijit Mukherji couldn’t visualise you as Byomkesh in ‘Durgo Rahasya’, were you adamant to prove yourself?

I won’t lie. 99 percent was stubbornness. The remaining one present was the constant perusal of Shyam Sundar Dey, who was convinced that I would do well as Byomkesh. I can say I’m one of the most hardworking actors. After 17 years of working in the industry, if you are rejected, even without being asked for an audition and that, too, on a public forum, it got me thinking. But then, I’ll always be grateful to Srijit if ‘Byomkesh O Durgo Rahasya’ does well. He was the first person who told me that I wouldn’t look like Byomkesh. But then, he has every right to reject it. He is one of the most acclaimed directors of our time. However, I wished he could have rejected me after a screen test, look test or audition. But he isn’t wrong. Srijit writes his scripts and casts actors accordingly. We are working together on our next film.

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