Actor Abhishek Banerjee wouldn’t have been an actor had it not been for the internet. He was in fact one of the busiest actors during the pandemic. In an interview with Outlook, Banerjee mentions about the challenges of doing short films in his recently released anthology ‘Ankahi Kahaniya’ and the difficulties he had while remembering lines for his role as a lawyer in the upcoming film ‘Rashmi Rocket’. Excerpts:
On playing the role of a lawyer in ‘Rashmi Rocket’…
I had to actually memorize a lot of lines. For me that was the most difficult hurdle. Somewhere I connected with the lawyer because I felt that all lawyers are performers because they rehearse their lines. They are doing shadow practice and mirror practice. I had to rehearse the lines well, but at the same time I had to keep in mind that it doesn’t look rehearsed. I also spoke to a few lawyers to understand how they think, what they think and why they fight a particular case. This made me understand the mindset of a lawyer.
You have played all kinds of roles starting from a migrant labourer to the ironing boy, how do you choose your role?
As you have just mentioned that I have done all kinds of roles starting from a migrant labourer to an ironing man, I had to pick up something that my parents will be proud of (laughs). So, playing a lawyer in ‘Rashmi Rocket’ was a big thing for me. My mother often comments on what kind of clothes I am wearing for the films. Actually, I am not very choosy. I pick up whatever that comes my way and the best available character that comes my way. I don’t think much. But this much clarity I have that I am not going to do the same kind of roles again and again. But to say that I won’t do comedy or negative shades, that is not my process of choosing a role. In fact, I love doing different genres as long as it is interesting. Another thing is that I need to have faith in the filmmaker.
You have done plenty of short films too, the recent being ‘Ankahi Kahaniya’, what are the challenges of working in a short film?
Sometimes it is difficult to adjust to the speed that you are working at because you are basically shooting for just seven days. But when you are shooting a longer format, you can take your own time to understand the character that you are playing and craft the character accordingly through the process of shooting. In a short film, the preparation before coming to the shoot becomes more important. Knowing the character beforehand and the back-story of the character helps in connecting the dots.
How has OTT helped when it came to getting roles?
I am an actor because of the internet medium. The reach of films through OTT is tremendous. My first job as an actor which made me popular amongst the young crowd was ‘Pitchers’ where I played a one scene role. And the dialogue of the show becomes viral and everywhere I go people start talking to me and they say the same line. Then came ‘Stree’ and after two months ‘Mirzapur’ was released. That is when I realised that OTT is like wildfire. It is something which we did not expect to grow so fast and it has grown beyond our imagination and the pandemic has given us a bigger audience. I am very thankful that we have another medium which can support us as an actor. Most importantly, OTT helps us in exploring ourselves as actors. In commercial films, it is like you get roles based on commercial success. Those kinds of barriers are not there in OTT. It is a game changer for us.
On being a part of ‘Rashmi Rocket’, which is a film where the main role is of a female actor…
We are changing stereotypes and the whole definition of a hero. The hero can be anybody. During my theatre days, there was no concept of heroin or hero or a male and female lead. There is a concept of the protagonist. So, those notions never played in my mind whether it is a female oriented film or a male oriented film. I am just happy to act. We need to really understand that the whole concept of hero is not just masculine.