Saswata Chatterjee, who played the role of Bob Biswas in 'Kahaani'.
While accepting the character of Bob Biswas, the amiable, namoshkar-greeting contract killer in ‘Kahaani’, Bengali actor Saswata Chatterjee thought it was a small role and had no idea it would turn out to be such a rage. As Bob’s fame went viral and commentators from innumerable social network sites started sharing their thoughts on why they loved him (the new Gabbar Singh, one site announced), Saswata himself was away in hometown Kolkata, slipping into normal life and routine.
“Bob Biswas was like just any other role for me. All Sujoy (Ghosh, director) told me was to be polite. I found that more interesting because how can a killer be polite? I think that worked with the audience. Bob is an unusual depiction of a killer,” says Saswata, modestly.
By his own admission, his role in 2011 Bengali film ‘Rang Milanti’ was far more substantial and satisfactory than Bob Biswas. “Bob has an edge only because it’s a character with universal appeal.”
Post Kahaani, Saswata’s life has changed. He has never before given so many interviews in his career and at one point, he confesses, he just felt like shutting himself up. “It’s good to know and see that people recognise you on the streets. But you can only take popularity to an extent. After that, you want your home and your privacy.”
Saswata’s father, actor Subhendu Chatterjee, was a household name in Bengali movies but the atmosphere at their own home was never one in which acting was encouraged as much as expected in a film family. For a long time, Saswata led an uncertain life, meandering around playing football, as most Bengalis do. The transition point came when his father, aware of what his son has been up to, asked him, “So, what is your plan in life? What will you do after I am no more?”
And Saswata, surprised at such a sudden question about life and death, muttered, “Acting.”
His father responded, “Your mother can cook. She has learnt it. Similarly, you have to learn acting. Just by saying acting you won’t become an actor.”
That’s when Saswata entered theatre, cut his teeth in it before taking up roles in television shows and Bengali films. Although Saswata has never tried entering Bollywood, ‘Kahaani’s success might, he is hoping, get him more roles. But not that he is banking on such offers. “My priority is Bengali films. I am an actor from Kolkata and I enjoy films here. But ‘Kahaani’ has taken me to other parts of the country where normally I wouldn’t have reached. So, why only Bollywood, offers can come from any industry.”
Even if Bollywood happens, Saswata may not be keen on leaving the spiritual chaos of Kolkata for a stressful life in Mumbai. “Kolkata is roots. This is where you want to live. For the purpose of work, you might travel the world but you come back home, don’t you?” Then, as an afterthought, he adds with a smile, “If Bollywood has something good for me, I am always available. Bollywood guarantees fame, success and money, but home is where you can actually sit down and enjoy that fame, success and money.”