Actor Abhishek Banerjee's struggle to be a figure on the screen started a long time back. He was one of those actors who made had made a short appearance in Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's directorial film Rang De Basanti, as one of the students who auditioned for Sue's film in the movie.
When he gained fame post the success of Stree, he Googled to know if he was famous enough to have a Wikipedia page. Sadly, he had a namesake, who was already a famous figure in Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's nephew, Abhishek Bannerjee.
In India, good old fashioned practise of nepotism may or may not make you popular, but you will definitely have a Wikipedia page about you. But this actor hails from a family of paramilitary forces.
During an exclusive telephonic interaction with International Business Times, the actor shared that he cursed himself for having such a common name. (Incidentally, the PR who connected IBT to the actor was also named Abhishek.)
It began with two of us asking each other 'how are you' (twice). (Laughs.)
Have you grown fond of villainous roles?
You asking whether I'm fond of it? No no, I yeah, no I don't think I'm fond of it, but maybe I like playing such characters, I don't have any apprehensions about it, I like to go all out, and I think that's why people like to cast me something like that maybe. But abhi tak toh, (till now) it's very like, you know Karan Anshuman was a friend, who cast me as Compounder, (Mirzapur, Amazon Prime Video), I could never think of myself as a compounder and Shoojit sir is a well-wisher who thought of casting me, and Devashish Makhija had seen one comedy short film and the cast, I don't know how they all came to the idea, but I am thankful to them.
But Google says that you worked as a screenwriter, casting director, founder of Casting Bay?
No no no, I started as a casting director, the screenwriter is a piece of wrong information which is somehow on Google. Pari Screenwriting is not me, it's my namesake.
When I google-searched your name, the first person who came up was Mamata Bannerjee's nephew.
I know! How do I put it...The first time I searched my name on Google was after Stree, I thought that my face, my photos will appear now that I'm an actor, finally! Then suddenly I see this gentleman's face and I was like there's already one famous Abhishek Bannerjee, then I was cursing my name because there are so many Abhisheks in this country. It was a thing in the 80s all the parents wanted to name their son Abhishek...
Even Amitabh Bachchan...
Yes, Amitabh Bachchan's son and the entire country became a mad fan. I feel isiliye hua, and I feel really bad yaar.
Did you grow up in Kolkata or in some other city?
No no. I only did my KGs. I never got to work in Kolkata. I grew up in Delhi and Chennai.
That's why because in Kolkata, Abhishek Bannerjee's posters are everywhere, so he is famous.
Oh really. Okay.
So here's the thing. I will tell you, for me, my entire family stays in Kharagpur. Entire family...my mom's side, my dad's side. My dad was a paramilitary force officer, he used to get transferred. I used to stay in Delhi, then Chennai. Delhi was my theatre, Delhi was my learning, my college, then I came to Bombay, then I started looking for acting jobs, I didn't get them, then I started into casting, somehow casting worked for me. Then one fine day they auditioned me for Stree, and I got the part.
In Pataal Lok you are an underbelly? So are you in Mirzapur?
No no, I don't mind, because sometimes what happens in these characters na, it becomes more challenging, and there's a way, there's a pattern which we have seen people perform. We have been seeing this since the revolution of cinemas happened. Great actors have performed them and people keep talking about them. These kinds of are great challenges for new-age actors because I think most of the cynical parts have been playing brilliantly. So what new can you bring to the table? I think that will be my search always.
Do you think the Hindi film industry has become new kinds of characters?
Yes, I think the audience loves them. See what happened to Mirzapur, I never thought people would ask me to hold the Compounder famous smile and then be photographed. I understand asking for a photograph with an actor, but to associate with a weapon, to associate and acknowledge, that's a part of that character. I was completely surprised.
After Stree, Dream Girl, Bala, where you have managed to outshine actors such as Rajkummar Rao, Ayushmann Khurrana, aren't you looking for opportunities where you could be the lead?
Of course, I think any actor would like to play protagonist, that's what happens when you start theatres, and even in school, you always want to play Robinhood, no one wants to play Robinhood's gang members, so that's always an actor's dream, I think it also depends how well you have crafted and pulled off what you have been given. So I hope in years to come, I am able to build that trust on makers.
Do you want to direct a film?
Yes. So I thought about it, there's some part of me which tells me that I should direct someday, but I think the director's chair, that's the most demanding job in totality. You know, with acting, cinematography, music, you need to have a really really good brain to become a good director. So I feel, I need to evolve as a director I don't know whether I will be able to tell a story. Shooting scenes, editing them and putting together, of course, that is a technical part of the direction, but directors need to be good storytellers. So I want to first understand whether I'm that great a storyteller or not. Maybe then I can start with short films and then why not.