One needs patience to become a star: Raj Chakraborty

Basking in the success of his debut OTT venture ‘Abar Proloy’, the director emphasises that Bengali commercial cinema must make a comeback

One needs patience to become a star: Raj Chakraborty

At a time when there’s a lot of talk about the decline of Bengali commercial films, director Raj Chakraborty strongly supports commercial cinema. Nowadays, when the Bengali film industry has stopped making big-budget commercial films, Raj, who has always loved making masala movies, strongly believes that this kind of movie needs to come back to keep the industry alive.

“Our films are becoming too focused on urban stories. Commercial films need to be returned. Otherwise, we’ll just keep making small movies and be content with making less money at the box office,” he said.

It was his strong desire to create a full-fledged entertaining project that led him to choose ‘Abar Proloy’ as his debut OTT subject. The story of ‘Proloy’ has always held a special place in Raj’s heart. Whether it was for television, movies or OTT, whenever he felt the urge, he returned to the narrative of ‘Proloy’. For instance, in 2011, he directed a thriller called ‘Proloy Asche’ for TV. Then, in 2013, Raj brought the story to the big screen as ‘Proloy’, drawing inspiration from the life of Barun Biswas, who was a teacher and a social activist. Even though the film didn’t perform exceptionally well at the box office, it has come to be regarded as one of Raj’s finest works.

“After 10 years, I have returned with ‘Abar Proloy’. When I directed ‘Proloy’ in 2013 for the big screen, I wanted the audience to know how I can dabble in other formats of storytelling too. At that time, I was mainly known for directing hardcore commercial films. However, I was typecast. But what I really wanted was to shift the way people saw me. During that period, there weren’t a lot of supporters for me or the movie. People believed I was entering the realm of ‘intellectual’ cinema. Even though not many people caught the film in theaters back then, it slowly gained its own group of fans over time. So, when I considered stepping into the world of OTT, I was certain that I had to go back to Proloy,” said Raj, who is ready to welcome his second baby with wife-actor Subhashree Ganguly soon.

‘Abar Proloy’ brings back Saswata Chatterjee as the no-nonsense cop Animesh Dutta, who has a foul mouth. However, this time around, Raj placed the story in the Sundarbans and dived into the issue of human trafficking: “ ‘Abar Proloy’ needed a huge canvas. Also, I wanted to shatter the conventional patterns of the Bengali web series. Whenever we talk of web series in Bengal, we think of a limited budget and restricted settings. Each episode of ‘Abar Proloy’ looks like a film. Even on OTT, I have aimed for the big screen experience. So, what if you are watching it on mobile? The experience is always larger-than-life.”

It’s hard to believe that Raj shot ‘Abar Proloy’ for 40 days. This stands in stark contrast to the current trend in Bengali cinema where movies are wrapped up also within 10 days. “I don't work that way. I require sufficient time to craft my films and to familiarise myself with the settings and the actors. I prefer to focus on one task at a time and give it my utmost dedication,” said the director-turned-TMC MLA.

With ‘Abar Proloy’, Subhashree has also ventured into production. When asked about the experience of having two producers under one roof, he smiled and shared, “We are two distinct individuals with separate ideas. Yet, we’re committed to supporting one another.” When asked if Subhashree was stringent about the budget on the sets of ‘Abar Proloy’, he revealed, “Not in the slightest. She encouraged me to pursue my vision without constraints because she understood that ‘Abar Proloy’ was my dream project.”

During the press conference of ‘Abar Proloy’, Saswata called Raj a ‘star maker’. From his debut Bengali film, ‘Chiro Dini Tumi Je Amar’, Raj has been introducing fresh faces to the Bengali film industry. Whether it’s Rahul, Priyanka, Nusrat Jahan, Bonny Sengupta, Koushani Mukherjee, Adrit Roy or even Dev, who was introduced as a ‘massy hero’ in his 2009 action film ‘Challenge’, Raj has played a pivotal role in providing these actors their crucial opportunities. “I don't create stars. My focus is on introducing new talent to the Bengali film industry,” he said.

Taking a pause, he further shared, “Whether someone eventually becomes a star or not is determined by their personal journey. Today, we observe that actors are often in a rush. One needs the patience to become a star. You need to wait for the right projects and just can’t go on a film signing spree after a hit.”

In his productions like ‘Noor Jahan’ and ‘Prem Amar 2’, Raj launched Adrit, who later became a household name for his TV series ‘Mithai’. When questioned whether Adrit should have waited for movies, Raj calmly said, “I didn’t know about it. I only found out when the trailer of the serial was released. But it’s his life and journey. If my son was in a similar situation, I would have advised him to wait.”

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