‘Want to explore OTT more’

Veteran actor Aanjjan Srivastav, who has a huge body of work spanning theatre, film and web series, is keen to work in the Bengali film industry which remains his top priority. In conversation with Souvik Ghosh at Loafer’s Cafe in Kolkata, Srivastav, who helmed popular TV shows like Wagle Ki Duniya in late 80s and acted in films like Salaam Bombay! and Mississippi Masala, shares about his interests at the age of 74, bonding with Bengali film directors, censorship and more…
Q. How does it feel coming back to Kolkata?
A. It’s my birthplace. It’s the best place for me. Everyone wants to return to their birthplace.
Q. What is the purpose of your Kolkata visit this time?
A. I came here for the creative art for which Kolkata is known. I am in search of a director with whom I could work on any project, be it a film or a short film or a web show, in any language. I especially want to work more on Bengali cinema. I don’t get a similar fire anywhere other than Kolkata. I am coming here frequently to keep the fire alive.
Q. Are you in touch with any Bengali director?
A. I am in touch with Goutam-da (Goutam Ghose) or Sandip (Sandip Ray). They would reach out to me if there is any work. But I haven’t worked with Kaushik-da (Kaushik Ganguly) or any other new director in the past, so I don’t have any such communication with them. I am keen to work here on a reasonable budget.
Q. You met Goutam Ghose. What did you discuss with him?
A. We talked about theatre, progress on IPTA (Indian People’s Theatre Association) et al. We have enlivened our memories.
Q. Are you open to working with new age directors, for example Goutam Ghose’s son Ishaan Ghose whose debut film Jhilli received critical acclaim?
A. Of course I want to work with them, especially those who are working in the digital world. I am keen to work on projects which are based on good stories.
Q. How would you analyse the present situation of the theatre world?
A. I am associated with IPTA whose plays give me the kick. I keep track of the works happening in the theatre world of Bihar or Kerala.
Q. You have a huge body of work in theatre and films. How do you view the OTT medium which is so dominant now?
A. I want to work on OTT more, be it any language. A number of new filmmakers are working on OTT. I have watched Panchayat which, I felt, was of high quality. I am interested in working on these kinds of web shows. OTT gives more exposure to characters so the creation is wide.
Q. Back in the 1980s, the Rajiv Gandhi government had banned one of your projects. Have films always attracted the incumbent’s wrath?
A. It was always there but not to the extent as we see now. Back then, people used to understand after an explanation. As per the current trend across the world, governments want to omit history to establish their perspective. It has become a policy in all countries now. It is tough to ban web shows though. It is easier for creative directors and producers to get through their works. I don’t think Bengali films are censored as much as Hindi films do get.
Q. How much omission of the Mughal era from textbooks can impact films which are reliant on history in some cases?
A. The Government is interfering and will continue to do so in films. Nothing will improve unless people wake up. (TWF)