In the last few years, Abhishek Banerjee has emerged as one of the most impressive character actors in Indian cinema. From starting as a supporting actor in films like Stree, Bala and Dream Girl, this year he showed more of his skills, even as a leading man. From Great Wedding Of Munnes to Bhediya, Nazar Andaaz and Qala, the actor has had an amazing line of work in 2022. Recently, Abhishek got into an exclusive conversation with Bollywood Bubble where he opened up about returning for Pitchers 2, the growth of his career, Bhediya box office performance, Stree 2, Dream Girl 2, vampire film in Dinesh Vijan’s horror universe and more. Excerpts from the interview:
How was it being a part of the first season of Pitchers and now coming back with its sequel after 8 years?
“When I first heard about Pitchers, OTT had nothing at the time. It was like a new channel, a new platform, something that many other offers had at that time. You did not understand the reach of it, and even I was not aware much about it. I had just one day of shoot for it, and then suddenly I saw this rage, this storm. The dialogue ‘Tu beer hai’ becoming viral in the corporate world amongst young people and even students. And I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is the future’. My journey as an actor started after Pitchers as people saw me in it, and that’s how I got acting offers. Devashish Makhija saw the first episode and called me to say ‘tu beer hai’. I thought he was just complimenting me on the dialogue, but he said no, that is who I am. And when I realised its truth, that’s when I felt the motivation to pursue acting further. So, when the second season was being made, I was like I had to do it.”
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You are now having multiple releases in a year, especially in the last few months with Bhediya, Pitchers 2, Qala, amongst others. Are you happy and content with the growth of your career?
“For me, as an actor, I see myself working for the next 30-40 years. So, I don’t know what pace should I be following. I know one thing that when you have these interesting parts, you shouldn’t let these opportunities go, and that’s what I have been trying to do. Whatever I have done, it’s mostly with fresh, new filmmakers. Stree was Amar Kaushik’s first film, Dream Girl was Raaj Shaandilya’s first and even Mirzapur was amongst the first original shows on Prime. I just love the energy of fresh new people trying to make their mark. It’s like going to a monastery and I become a monk when on set. So, for me, it’s important for others also to see it like that. But at the same time, I also know when to hit the breaks. If I feel exhausted as an actor, I will take a break. But after Covid, sitting at home makes me anxious.”
But have you got the time to kind of gauge the success that you have gotten?
“I move on from success to failure within a week or 10 days. But that’s how it is. It is great when you get the love. For both Bhediya and Nazar Andaaz, I have got appreciation from the audience as well as from within the industry. I just love that when a big film like Bhediya and a small film like Nazar Andaaz, both get love and appreciation, it just fills me with the belief that maybe whatever I am doing is right and I am on the right path. Every time you are signing a project, you are doubtful if people will love it as they have my previous work. That is a pressure, but every time a project gets love, it is a motivation that I should keep going on this track.”
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While Bhediya was lauded by the critics, commercially it underperformed. Was it a little disheartening?
“I don’t think so. Bhediya is a film which is one of a kind, it is like a stepping stone for Indian cinema. We have not seen this kind of visual effects, we have not seen a big film ending on two creatures and still getting the emotions out, so for me, that is the bigger thing. We know so many great films which have tanked at the box office like Agneepath, Andaz Apna Apna. Growing up, we used to wonder why these films didn’t work. Audience and box-office is something which no one can take a guarantee for, that is something even I am learning. Especially in these times, more than the box office numbers, a film staying in theatres for three weeks is a bigger achievement. It’s almost like tasting success because people are still going for the film. We didn’t do much post-release promotion, so it’s all happening organically. With all this love, the money side doesn’t affect that much. If people would have thrashed the film and still it would have earned Rs 200 crores, maybe the happiness wouldn’t have been as much as it is now. In a way, it is balancing out. And I am sure Bhediya will inspire many other films to be made. If we are able to bring in the audience even after 3 weeks, we must have done something right.”
Almost all of the Bhediya reviews have had your mention separately. There is a separate Abhishek Banerjee appreciation section. When you read those, does it strengthen your belief in your craft?
“As an actor, I always believed in myself. Right from my theatre days, I have never doubted my craft. I am not chasing glory that see how good I can act, I am chasing myself that I can tap those emotions as an actor. But when reviewers show their love, it feels great as being a literature student, even I have analysed great works in English. So, for people going to theatre every week to review a film, for them to remember my performance and appreciate it, it does give a real sense of fulfilment. Every time I am acting, I am waiting to read that.”
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You have two of the biggest sequels in the pipeline with Stree 2 and Dream Girl 2. Does it become a bit nostalgic revisiting them?
“It was a pleasant surprise for me because when Raaj sir told me that Dream Girl 2 is happening and I am going to be a part of it, I was really happy. Simultaneously we will start shooting Stree 2 also, so hopefully in a year’s time, I will have both those releases. I think it’s great to be a part of a franchise as there is already an audience who are waiting for the next part. This is the first time I am going to be in any ‘part 2’. So, for me that itself is an achievement because in web shows I am always dying, be it in Mirzapur or Paatal Lok. People are not letting me be a part of a franchise there. (Laughs)”
But after being the sole connecting point between Stree and Bhediya, will you be a part of the vampire film in the universe too?
“I don’t know. I don’t think one character can be in all the three films. But for now, I have no idea. For now, scripting work is going on that film.”