Bengal’s reigning superstar Prosenjit Chatterjee can’t believe President Pranab Mukherjee is gone. “I am at home sitting in disbelief. Because of the lockdown I cannot be with Pranabda’s family. I know his daughter very well. But I can’t be calling her at this time when she is bereaved. Nor can I express my grief and gratitude properly.”
Why gratitude? “Because he was so many things to me in so many ways. He was a truly enlightened spirit. Every time I met him, even if it was for just five minutes because of his busy schedule, I would come away with something special from him. He was a truly enlightened artiste, the kind of artiste we don’t find that often in politics.”
Shy to say so himself, Prosenjit’s work was highly admired by Mr Mukherjee. “Yes, that’s true. He loved me, and he loved my work. He tried to watch my films as much as possible. I had arranged a show of my film 2017 film Jaatishwar at the Rashtrapati Bhawan. Pranabda saw it and he couldn’t stop asking me questions about it. ‘How could you do it? How did you do it?’ etc etc. He was always very encouraging always kind.”
Prosenjit made it a point to meet Mr Mukherjee every time he came to Kolkata.“His schedules would be jampacked. But he would still make time for me. I felt very honoured every time I met him. I remember at the centenary celebration of Indian cinema in Chennai in 2013 I received my award for my contribution to Indian cinema from Pranabda and Jayalalithaji. It couldn’t get any better for me.”
Shouldn’t Bengal plan a major tribute for Pranab Mukherjee?
Prosenjit affirms. “Of course! Mamata Didi(Bengal’s Chief Minister) is a huge fan of Pranabda. I am sure she has plans. Of course it’s special loss for Bengal. We were proud of him as he was the first Indian president from Bengal. But Pranabda did not belong to anyone place or community. Every Indian loved him. Just like they loved President Abdul Kalaam. I was in Kodaikanaal when President Kalaam died.I could see the nation grieved. But Tamil Nadu grieved harder.”
Would Prosenjit like to play Pranab Mukherjee? “I’d love to. No other actor knew him as well as I did. At the risk of sounding immodest, I must say I feel no actor is more qualified than me to play him.”