Abhishek Banerjee talks about language restrictions in Indian cinema and the struggles of typecasting
Why does Indian cinema hold barriers against actors?: Abhishek Banerjee
Actor Abhishek Banerjee has debuted in Tollywood with his latest film Highway, directed by KV Guhan, alongside actors Anand Deverakonda and Saiyami Kher. Talking about it, Banerjee says, “I just really wanted to do a Telugu film, because the industry is doing wonders. I wanted to be involved in the process and understand it. I was getting to play a psycho killer, which I have been avoiding for a long time, but the story was good so I gave it a go. I had a lot of fun doing it!”
Other industries in Indian cinema are also on his radar, as he looks forward to exploring and expanding his horizons: “I will be doing Bengali, Tamil and Malayalam films as well. Language being a barrier for actors is now passé. We are living in a new world where actors can really push their limits. To do that, we have to work in different languages.”
Where does the Stree (2018) actor find this motivation? “The first time I saw The Godfather: Part II (1974), what stayed with me was actor Robert De Niro’s performance as an Italian mobster. He was speaking fluent Italian and nobody in the world would have believed he was American. I always questioned why Indian cinema holds barriers against its actors. Why don’t we see an actor from the north speaking fluent Bengali or Telugu and vice versa? I want to break that barrier. I’ve lived across the country, I understand a lot of languages and it is fulfilling to be able to perform those parts,” the 37-year-old shares.
Banerjee, who started off as a theatre actor then turned a casting director, almost didn’t make it into films. “Somewhere down the line, I lost hope for acting because I wasn’t able to crack any auditions. But I think destiny has its ways. I was discovered by these God-figure like directors who really trusted me,” says the actor, who has done projects like Paatal Lok and Mirzapur.
One thing that Banerjee rues is that Indian cinema often boxes actors into categories: “There’s very less risk taking and a lot of typecasting. It’s very frustrating for an actor to accept that somebody is looking at you one-dimensionally. Thank God there are creators who want to take the risk, which is why I got Paatal Lok. Suddenly people were like ‘Oh wow! You can do serious stuff’. I was embarrassed to think that people can’t believe an actor can do serious as well as comedy roles. I want to prove them all wrong, and I want to keep experimenting with whatever characters I have.”
Ask him about his favourite genre to play and he says, “I prefer dark genres. We usually show the brighter side [of life] with our commercial films, but I believe there are some shows and films which need to tell us about the dark side of our society. It’s not just for entertainment purposes; it also makes the audience think and open up for discussion. Anything that develops a dialogue for the audiences excites me.”