His face is vaguely familiar. You know you have seen him but you can’t place him. If you have taken a look at the Begum Jaan poster, you’ll recognise him. He’s the guy in a banian and dhoti, holding a lathi in the poster. Suddenly, you put his face on movies you have seen: Shanghai, I am Kalam, Shor in the City and a bunch of others. You still don’t know his name though. Meet Pitobash Tripathy.
I meet him on a hot summer’s day and his face is beaming as cameras flash all around him at a private bungalow in Versova. “The biggest aspect that hooked me for Begum Jaan was that it had such a big star cast. There are 18 actors who play 18 different characters in the film. Every character was so well written that each character has its own graph in the film. Surjeet the character that I am playing in this film is a caretaker who doubles up as a pimp,” says Pitobash on Begum Jaan.
A historical drama film set in the 1940s during the partition of India and Pakistan, Begum Jaan was an intense movie, physically and emotionally, for all the people involved in it. The entire cast underwent an extensive 30-day workshop in Mumbai before starting the shoot around this time last year in Jharkhand. From shooting in extremely humid conditions to improvising their own scenes, Pitobash and the other actors left no stone unturned to give Begum Jaan their very best.
One incident, in particular, stands out in Tripathy’s mind. “There was this romantic scene where I am romancing Gauahar Khan in a dry river. In the scene I am topless, and Gauahar and I are sleeping on one particular rock. It was 48 degrees and the rock is completely dry. When we stepped on it, the skin peeled off our feet. We shot that scene for three hours. All the skin on my back was burned. The worst part was that Gauhar’s bangle broke into pieces and on them pierced my back in the last shot of the scene. I tried to remove it and got a big cut on my back. They say that actors put sweat and blood in their acting. This is so true in my case with Begum Jaan.”
That didn’t mean the set was bereft of humour. Ila Arun and Srijit Mukherji (the director) made sure of that. “Whenever there was a break in shooting, Ila Arun used to play music and start dancing on the set itself. There was this very emotional scene that we were doing that when the cut happened she started playing ‘DJ wale babu’ song on the set and was dancing with the white widowed sari on her and then everyone joined her in dance as well.” Mukherji wanted all his actresses to be without make-up. He would make sure of that by sitting with tissue papers in his hand rubbing them on actresses’ faces when they would come on set.
While he is all excited for Begum Jaan, Pitobash will be next seen with Sridevi in Mom and Raveena Tandon in T for Taj Mahal. There’s also an international sitcom titled ‘Metropark’ scheduled to release later this year.