Never felt like a second citizen of Bollywood: Jisshu U Sengupta

After working alongside top Bollywood stars Vidya Balan, Rani Mukerji, Kangana Ranaut, Deepika Padukone, actor Jisshu U Sengupta is paired with Hindi film icon Kajol in Suprarn S Varma's web series 'The Trial: Pyaar, Kaanoon, Dhoka', which released on Disney+Hotstar on July 14. Ahead of the show's premiere, our correspondent Souvik Ghosh caught up with the actor.

Actor Jisshu U Sengupta is paired with Hindi film icon Kajol in Suprarn S Varma's web series 'The Trial: Pyaar, Kaanoon, Dhoka', which releases on Disney+Hotstar on July 14.
Rani Mukerji, Kangana Ranaut, Deepika Padukone, actor Jisshu U Sengupta is paired with Hindi film icon Kajol in Suprarn S Varma's web series 'The Trial: Pyaar, Kaanoon, Dhoka', which releases on Disney+Hotstar on July 14. Photo courtesy: Avishek Mitra

Connected to India (C to I): How was working with Kajol? Did any of your perceptions towards her changed?

Jisshu U Sengupta: I have never met her before. I worked with her mother Tanuja aunty in a Bengali film. I am a humongous fan of Kajol and it was one of the major reasons I have done 'Trial'. I didn't have any perception about Kajol. As an actress, she is brilliant. She is a beautiful woman, very gracious and a great co-actor to work with. She never makes her co-actor feel of her achievements and a bag of meaty number of hit films. It was like I have known her for ages. We are very good friends now. 

C to I: Unlike your previous roles where you were widely seen as a gentleman, you have played a much shedded character in 'Trial'. How was that exploration?

Jisshu U Sengupta: I have played the role in a nice way. I am a 'good man' in the series. Kajol's character or any other role might think I am bad in the series. On a serious note, we make choices at every juncture of our lives. We choose something because it is good for us. So those choices, which we make in life, might be good for someone or not. These are relatable. It might be the case that the choice is good for me but not for the opposite person. So this series is about the choices which the characters make. Every character in this series is grey at one point or the other. It's a very interesting show which has different layers. 

C to I: Have you ever felt like getting typecast in the roles which you have been doing in Mumbai?

Jisshu U Sengupta: I don't believe in getting typecast. I know how to break it and I have done it many times. 

C to I: How does it feel sharing screen space with huge stars like Kajol, Vidya Balan, Kangana Ranaut et al in films outside Kolkata? 

Jisshu U Sengupta: The experience of working with them has been great. Among all these women, working with Kajol was a huge high for me because I have been a big fan of her. But at the end of the day, the conversations, friendships, camaraderies which we create while working stay back with me. Among all these stars, my friendship has been best with Kajol and Vidya. I am still in touch with Vidya. She is a beautiful soul. This is what we earn. The rest doesn't stay back with me. 

C to I: Did you go through any unlearning process when you ventured into the south Indian industry or Bollywood after working for years in Kolkata?

Jisshu U Sengupta: Kolkata is a very small industry unlike Bombay and Telugu. Work is the same everywhere, the only difference between all these industries is the money power. Back in Kolkata, we can create miracles if we get one-fourth of the time and money which are spent outside. 

C to I: You were a known face in Tollywood when you ventured out into other industries. Did that act as a cushion in your exploration?

Jisshu U Sengupta: I have never felt like a second citizen of Bombay industry. They have never made me feel that. I have worked with all A-lister Bengali directors- Anurag Basu, Shoojit Sircar, Sujoy Ghosh and others- at the start of my Bombay stint. They had cast me being aware of the kinds of work I have done. I was working with Ritu-da (late Rituparno Ghosh, filmmaker) when I got a call from Anurag Basu for 'Barfi!'. Ritu-da had jokingly called Anurag and asked to pay me at par with Bombay stars (laughs). Ritu-da did that. Every director had given me that space. No one treated me as someone who is coming from a smaller industry. Moreover, I have proved as an actor as well. 

C to I: Did you have insecurity in any part of your career?

Jisshu U Sengupta: I felt it in my heydays in Kolkata. When I started my career, I did fourth lead in films. When other actors were launched by top directors and production houses, I never got an opportunity in the first part of my life. From there being the fourth lead, I have proved that I can be a hero or the first lead and make a film hit. So after going through all these, I no longer feel insecure. 

C to I: How do you place two phases of your career- the one with late Rituparno Ghosh and the other in south India and Mumbai?

Jisshu U Sengupta: I will not keep Ritu-da in the frame only because I can't compare him with anyone or anything. He is not a phase for me but life. He is my teacher, father and mother figure. Ritu-da is somewhere else. Whatever I am doing today is because I have learnt so much from him. Whatever I am learning or understanding right now is because of Ritu-da's life lessons. So I am not learning anything new. I am understanding how to receive things. 

C to I: A lot of top Tollywood stars are venturing into Mumbai or south India for films. Do you think it's a brain drain for Kolkata?

Jisshu U Sengupta: I don't think so. A lot of good films are being made. I won't blame the producers and directors only. The single screen halls are far less in West Bengal as compared to south Indian states. It is also the responsibility of the audience as well. Even a poor film there is widely watched by the audience, who won't give an inch of ground to any film of another language. We here give scope to films of all languages that have slowly led to the shrinking of our space. I hope the situation will flourish again. 

C to I: The screening of Bengali films was halted in the state widely when 'Pathaan' released earlier this year. How would you respond to that?

Jisshu U Sengupta: At the end of the day, it's their business. It's better to avoid the release of a film when something like 'Pathaan' is coming. Can a Bengali film gross an average Rs. 10 crore? I think instead of venting anger against the plexes, we should request our Chief Minister to make reservations for Bengali films in the prime time. But will that even ensure business? A businessman will put in money where there is a return. Moreover, we release four-five Bengali films every year during Durga Puja killing each other's business. Why don't we stop it? Have we ever thought of it? We need to introspect as well.