Indian actor Parambrata Chatterjee is not just a versatile actor. He regularly writes, directs and produces films and TV shows. In the new Zee5 show ‘Sharate Aaj,’ which was released on February 21, he takes on the role of the showrunner. He wrote, produced and starred in this series about the perceived identity and religious divide among London dwelling Bangladeshis and Indian Bangalis. Parambrata talked to Dhaka Tribune Showtime’s Sadia Khalid about ‘Sharate Aaj’ where he plays a Bangladeshi who must navigate through this labyrinth of misconceptions and indignation.
This autumn story is being released in spring. Why is that?
The release date was not my decision. I wanted to tell a story set in autumn. In London, the autumn is very different. There are so many Bangalis there. The autumn that we see in Bangladesh, doesn’t happen in England. The leaves turn a brilliant red. It’s not too cold, yet the cold weather starts to set in. Having that beauty in the background, I wanted to tell a story of Bangalis. If there’s a city where a huge number of Bangalis live outside of Bengal, it’s London. Even though they become entwined with the city after living there for a while, they are scattered loners really. Their internal politics and misunderstanding came up in this story.
You are credited as the creator of this series. What extent of involvement did that require from you?
Created by is an internationally used term for the showrunner of a series. It’s a supreme post. There is no direct translation for that term in Bangla. So, we used the term “srijone” (created by) instead. There are no quantifiable set of tasks. The director was Aritra Sen.
So you wrote the script and produced the show?
Yes. The script is mine.
We see some clash between Hindus and Muslims in London in this series. Would you like to elaborate on that?
It’s not really a Hindu-Muslim clash. Although it might appear as such. What the story wants to depict is that our identity as Bangalis is above religious divide. Our collective history creates this identity. That’s what I wanted to express here.
But there are troublesome people everywhere. On one side we see Islamic fundamentalists. On the other hand, there’s a strange indignation towards Bangalis from different backgrounds. I can sense it as a Bangali and I’m quite vocal about it. Some people support my stance while some others object.
I’ve noticed that Bangalis from West Bengal have this indignation towards Bangladeshis sometimes. Conversely, the Islamic fundamentalists are raising havoc. We see it in the subcontinent and the whole world is a victim of their exploits.
Aside from the positive aspects (of Bangalis in London), we explored these two types of crisis in this show. It is a quest to overcome these tribulations and embrace our dual identity.
You completed your Masters from England. Did that fact influence you to base this story there?
Yes, of course. Both Aritra and I have a long connection with England. We both did our Masters in England. He is a little younger than me. We are very familiar with the social structure, the demography, the weather, the curious cosmopolitan culture of that place. It played a huge part in setting up the background. We couldn’t do the same with say America.
The story of “Shorote Aaj” revolves around a terror attack at a popular Durga Puja venue. What compelled you to tell this story?
I didn’t want the crisis to be blown out of proportions. I didn’t want this problem to surpass the Bangali community and enter a wider demographic. I wanted to keep the crisis of Bangalis within Bangalis. That’s why I chose this occasion.
You starred in “Bhuban Majhi” back in 2017. Are you starring in any other Bangladeshi films soon?
I’m acting in a film in Bangladesh this March. The director is Shabnam Ferdousi. I don’t know what title they decided for that film yet. The last Bangladeshi film I worked in was “Shonibar Bikel” (“Saturday Afternoon” by Mostofa Sarwar Farooki, opposite Nusrat Imrose Tisha). I’m eagerly waiting for its release.