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Mayaa: Tollywood’s Kamaleswar Mukherjee and Gaurav Chakrabarty Discuss Their Upcoming Film – TheFantasyTimes

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By Jitin Gambhir

Tollywood | Kamaleswar Mukherjee and Gaurav Chakrabarty talk about their upcoming release Mayaa

Raajhorshee De’s upcoming film, titled “No,” is a gripping thriller that takes place in the 1990s while exploring themes that resonate with the present day. It is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, written by Ebong Ipsita and Raajhorshee De. The film is produced by Debdas Banerjee and Rohit Banerjee, and boasts a talented cast of 19 members. Set to release in theaters next month, t2 had the opportunity to speak with lead actors Kamaleswar Mukherjee and Gaurav Chakrabarty, who play the roles of Duncan and Macbeth, respectively.

When asked about the appeal of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Kamaleswar shares that the themes of guilt and existential crisis are universal and relatable to all. He specifically mentions the line from Macbeth, “It is a tale. Told by an idiot…” as the key line that resonates with him and inspires his perspective on life. Gaurav, on the other hand, expresses his excitement at being chosen to play the iconic role of Macbeth, considering it a great opportunity for any actor.

Both actors discuss the process of analyzing and understanding their respective characters. Kamaleswar mentions that his character, Duncan, has been given a new shade in this film adaptation. He describes Duncan as authoritarian, a womanizer, and a revengeful individual, while still maintaining the essence of the original Shakespearean character. Gaurav explains that director Raajhorshee was clear about the background and personality of his character, Michael. He focused on portraying Michael authentically, paying attention to his dialect, mannerisms, and overall demeanor.

The actors also discuss the challenges they faced while playing their roles. Kamaleswar, coming from a theater background, had to be cautious about not going overboard with his portrayal of Darbar, inspired by Duncan. Gaurav emphasizes the importance of portraying Michael realistically and avoiding caricature-like performances. He also mentions the challenge of balancing the influence of past actors while bringing freshness to the character.

When asked about the relevance of Macbeth in today’s world, Kamaleswar highlights the timeless nature of Shakespeare’s characters, rooted in basic human psychology and behavior. He compares them to epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata, which continue to be relevant over time. Gaurav agrees, stating that Shakespeare’s stories speak of universal truths that remain valid across generations.

Regarding the contemporary aspects explored in this film adaptation of Macbeth, Kamaleswar mentions that the film delves into the underworld, which he believes sets it apart from previous adaptations. Gaurav, on the other hand, approached his role as Michael without the burden of playing a Shakespearean character, focusing solely on portraying the character as envisioned by the director.

Both actors reflect on the most challenging scenes they had to film. Kamaleswar mentions the difficulty of acting alongside talented co-stars and striving to communicate effectively through his performance. Gaurav reveals that the climax scene, featuring an iconic monologue from Macbeth, was particularly challenging as he had to convince himself and execute it flawlessly.

Gaurav shares his preparation process for playing Macbeth, which involved studying the character’s diction and researching how he would carry himself. As an instinctive actor, Gaurav prefers to be in character between action and cut, focusing on the external aspects of the role while understanding the character’s mindset.

In terms of the shoot, Kamaleswar’s scenes mostly took place in a mansion, so he did not face any significant challenges. However, he acknowledges that some locations presented difficulties, which the production team successfully managed. He praises Raajhorshee’s handling of the scripting and screenwriting, as well as the captivating music in the film.

Overall, the actors express their enthusiasm for being part of this unique adaptation of Macbeth and their dedication to portraying their respective characters authentically. They are excited for the audience to witness the film and judge their performances.

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Raajhorshee De’s upcoming film No is a thriller set in the ’90s, exploring a time period extending to the present. A Bengali adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeththe film written by Ebong Ipsita and Raajhorshee De and produced by Debdas Banerjee and Rohit Banerjee, has 19 cast members and is set to release in theatres next month. Ahead of its release, t2 caught up with cast members Kamaleswar Mukherjee and Gaurav Chakrabarty, playing the lead roles of Duncan (Darbar Sharma) and Macbeth (Michael) in the film, respectively. Excerpts.

Kamaleswar, what about this Shakespearean classic (Macbeth) appeals to you the most?

Macbeth deals with guilt, and that is universal. It also explores existential crisis, which we all suffer from… existential crisis and alienation. Macbeth also bears it. So, the line in Macbeth: “It is a tale. Told by an idiot…” is the key line that inspires the philosophy of life from Macbeth’s point of view, who is suffering from some existential crisis and that really appeals to me.

Gaurav, what appealed to you about this film?

What appealed to me the most when I heard the script is that I have been chosen to play Macbeth and I think that’s a huge opportunity for any actor and that sort of pulled me towards this project. That is the sole reason I said ‘yes’ to the film. I was thankful that Raajhorshee offered Macbeth to me. It is once in a lifetime that one gets to play Macbeth.

How did you analyse the characters (Duncan and Macbeth) you are playing in this film?

Completion: The character of Duncan is authoritarian, but in this film, it has got a new shade also. He is a womaniser and a lech and is a very revengeful, vindictive kind of person. The roots of it are there in the Shakespearean play. In this film, Duncan has been reimagined as Darbar Sharma. Definitely a curious character to play as it has many different shades.

Gaurav: Raajhorshee was very clear about where this character is coming from and what he wanted from the character. He explained what kind of a guy this Michael is. It is an adaptation. So, it is rooted in our culture, yet it is a direct adaptation. How he speaks. There is a certain dialect. There is a certain way he walks and talks. I tried to do my best.

What were the challenges of playing the role?

Completion: Coming from a theatre background, when the word Macbeth is uttered, the dramaturgy in the tragedy of Macbeth overpowers me. But in films, after a certain point, one needs to restrict the acting. So, I had to be very cautious about going overboard with the character of Darbar, which is inspired by the character of Duncan. That was the biggest challenge — to control the dramaturgy in me while playing the role of Darbar.

Gaurav: It is a very raw character. That is what drew me towards the role. His walk and talk were challenging. If it goes slightly wrong, it can become a caricature. It will look like I was trying too hard. I tried to make it as real as possible. This guy is not Bengali. After Utpal Dutt did Maganlal Meghraj, everybody speaks in the same way. If a non-Bengali person speaks Hindi it is always in that way. It has become a trope now. I didn’t want to do that. But there are some things we can’t help as we are inspired by great actors. There was a thin line to it that I had to balance.

Why do you think Macbeth is relevant till today?

Completion: The Shakespearean plays are based on basic human psychology and human behaviour. Every character of Shakespeare has got a social biography which is very relevant and universal over time and that is why Shakespearean classics are repeatedly being staged. Secondly, psychobiographically, it has longitudinal development. Longitudinal story along with the immediate effect of society on that person. So both in terms of nature and nurture, the characters of Shakespeare are relevant not only today but they will be relevant for a long time, like our epics — the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

Gaurav: The world that he spoke of is still valid across ages. This is why people go back to Shakespeare be it in cinema or theatre. He always talks about a universal truth in all his stories and that is what makes him relevant. He has been relevant across generations, we realise that the politics that he spoke of then is valid even today. Which is what makes him so relevant and which is what makes him the great person that he is.

Macbeth has been contemporised many times. What are some of those aspects you explored as actors in this film?

Completion: I don’t know whether Macbeth has been modernised in this form before because this deals with the underworld. I don’t think in this perspective anybody has done the tragedy of Macbeth in the history of cinema as by Raajhorshee.

Gaurav: I did not approach it as playing Macbeth or having a huge responsibility on my shoulder as playing a Shakespearean role. I thought of it as any other role in any other film. The burden of adapting was entirely on Raajhorshee. My job was to portray the character that he wanted me to portray. I stopped thinking of it as Macbeth and only thought of it as Michael. I portrayed Michael. I did not try to think how different it is from Macbeth or how similar it is to him. Also, I did not watch any adaptation because I did not want it to have any effect on my performance. I completely depended on my director.

What was one of your most difficult scenes from this film?

Completion: There are lots of good actors in this film and I consider myself an amateur. To co-act with them, communicating with them through my acting skills was very difficult. I tried working on my shortcomings but it is for the audience to tell whether I did justice to the role or not. Raajhorshee who handled the direction very meticulously was very helpful and cooperative, and all the actors were very cooperative. So I could overcome my shortcomings. But perfection is a thing we always work towards, but we can’t always attend.

Gaurav: In the climax scene, there is a monologue that I had to say and it is directly from Macbeth. I wasn’t convinced initially — why is this guy suddenly talking in English and why is he quoting from the text but Raajhorshee asked me to give him this cinematic liberty. Firstly, getting convinced to do that, and secondly, pulling it off. It is the most iconic monologue from Shakespeare and getting it right was… I was scared that if I am slightly off… people would… I hope our convictions were correct. That was really a difficult scene.

Gaurav, how did you prepare yourself to play Macbeth?

I did have to go through a special preparation when it came to diction, researching and finding how this character would be carrying himself. I am an instinctive actor, so I don’t try and get into the mind space of a particular character. I have always believed in being in character between action and cut. That is how I approach every role. The external bit I had to work on and when it comes to the mindset, of course, I had to realise where this person is coming from and that is the homework I had to do.

Locations chosen for the film also posed some challenges during the shoot. Did you have to face it?

Completion: My scenes were mostly shot in a mansion and I didn’t have to go through these difficulties. But I know and heard some locations were difficult to handle but the unit successfully did it. The scripting and screenwriting were very difficult, which Raajhorshee handled well and the music of the film is also very fascinating.

Gaurav: It was monsoon when we were shooting and the places we were shooting in, I remember, this entire area was water-logged… the lawn and approach to the house. We could hardly hear each other speak. So, the rain posed a huge challenge. That was the climax as well.

Who are your favourite actors out of the many actors who portrayed the characters you are playing on screen?

Gaurav: There are so many but I think Maqbool is the greatest. I think Vishal Bhardwaj made great adaptations and with Irrfan Khan playing the role, there is hardly anything one can say about his approach. Throne of Blood is the first film adaptation of Macbeth that I ever saw. I was a student at FTII then. Toshiro Mifune’s portrayal of Washizu aka Macbeth in Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece of a film has stayed with me.

Completion: Once I saw a BBC feature film where the character of Duncan seemed very interesting to me… Laurence Olivier’s Macbeth and Pankaj Kapur in Maqbool.

Which character of Macbeth interests you the most?

Completion: The character of Lady Macbeth has always been very interesting, whenever I saw different versions of Macbeth.

Gaurav: Definitely, Lady Macbeth! Lady Macbeth is the most intriguing character of Macbeth and it is such a layered one. The layers the character has and the way it has been portrayed in so many adaptations!

Kamaleswar, you have a theatre background. What do you enjoy most — Shakespeare on stage or screen?

The stage gives a different point of view and a lot of things are left to imagination which widens the audience’s vision. At the same time, when we picturise, we get to see from the directorial point of view. It depends on how the director is seeing the film and showing the film to the audience. It gets two different shapes. A lot of plays have been made into films. The play production of Amadeus by Peter Shaffer excited me when I saw it as a play production and excited me differently as a film.

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