In 2020, when we were deprived of social life and were locked within the boundaries of our homes, Ritwik Bhowmik took the mantle of entertaining us as Radhe in Amazon Prime Video's Bandish Bandits season 1. He played the role of a singer who is torn between preserving the art of classical music and commercial music as well as his traditional grandfather and his modern girlfriend. In just 2 years, Ritwik has established himself as a promising actor and a star in the making. Currently, he is enjoying the success of Maja Ma while gearing up for Bandish Bandits 2 and many other exciting projects.
In an exclusive interview with PeepingMoon.com, Ritwik spoke about Maja Ma, and how the makers made sure that the sentiments of the LGBTQIA+ community. He further opened up about Bandish Bandits being the turning point of his career and dismissed rumours of being approached for the Hindi remake of the Malayalam film Ishq which released as Operation Romeo earlier this year.
Excerpts from the interview:
What was the process you had to go through to play Tejas in Maja Ma?
Since I auditioned for the part, I had to read the script repeatedly to understand the character. While it appears to be a family entertainer, there’s so much more to it. I remember talking to Anand (Tiwari, director) about the possibility of Tejas becoming the villain of the film and how to avoid doing that. He said there’s nothing this boy is doing to hurt someone. He is doing what he feels is right and that’s what most people do. He is just reacting to all those things that are happening around him.
How similar or different are Tejas and Ritwik?
I believe I am a tad bit more open, understanding, and accepting than Tejas. Other than that, we are quite similar.
The portrayal of the LGBTQIA+ community in Indian cinema has often led to controversies. Did this ever bother you?
If the objection comes from the LGBTQIA+ community, then we would be scared but we weren’t scared while making Maja Ma because we were making it with them. There were many organisations and trusts helping us tell the story in the right way and we understand the community better. Now that the film has released, there was nobody would found the portrayal wrong. It is for people to understand that love is universal. When you accept love, you cannot say I accept it only in this form.
Do you feel an LGBTQIA+ person should be signed for a film/show based on them instead of a cisgender one?
It depends. The demand of the script and its treatment is to cast somebody who can do justice to the character physically and emotionally. In Maja Ma, there is a reason why we have Madhuri Dixit in the role of Pallavi Patel. There are so many eyes on her and people who really look up to her and listen to what she has to say. When she says something so important, there are more ears to it. This is the only way to spread the message and bring out more love. I’m glad and proud that ma’am did this film and I was a part of it.
There was a key sequence in Maja Ma where Tejas takes his mother to a place for 'treatment' after discovering her sexual orientation. It was a complex and important scene. What was your reaction to it when you heard it for the first time?
I have cried. You have to visualize a film when you read a script. With Maja Ma, I was immersed in the story. Through the second half, I was in tears.
Is Maja Ma 2 happening?
I hope there’s a Maja Ma 2 happening.
Since Bandish Bandits, you've done OTT shows. Any plans to reach the big screen?
I love the big screen and its experience while growing up. Cinema is an art that is heavily dependent on the economics. The economics of cinema, since 2020, doesn’t support each kind of viewing to be on the big screen. It is completely fair. The audience has to right to choose what they want to see. Right now, the OTT has given people enough choices. Maybe in the future, if I am good enough to support economics, I would love to make it to the big screen too.
There was a rumour that you were offered the Hindi remake of Ishq which released as Operation Romeo this year. Is it true?
This is not true. Once I had spoken to Neeraj (Pandey) sir and had discussions about projects but I wasn’t really offered the film. I don’t know how the news got out.
Has the outsider-insider debate bothered you?
It has never bothered me. I am not coming from a place of complacency and never felt that outsider hoke mujhe hi saare kaam mil rahe hai. For all the years I have worked, I would like to believe that what has worked for me can work for everybody else. Agar dil lagake kaam karoge toh kaam se kaam bante rahega. Everyone is getting equal opportunities. If your heart is in the right place, everything falls into place.
Do success and appreciation make you cautious about choosing the right script?
I don't get cautious while choosing the script but when the film/show is about to release. The feeling that 'ab release ho gaya hai, feedback milega' is what keeps you on the edge of your seat. Thankfully ever since Bandish Bandits has released, I haven’t read a single negative comment. I take decisions on the spot. The time hasn’t come yet when I will have to sit down with my team and have discussions. I hope I continue choosing scripts from my heart because it is giving me good results.
In an interview with PeepingMoon.com, you had spoken about your desire to be a quintessential hero and make people smile and entertain them without imparting too many life lessons or moral values. Is the stand still the same?
Absolutely. Years ago, I tried to make people smile with the buffoonery I did. For the rest of my life, I wish to stick to that. At the end of the day, if I don’t make people smile, there’s no point in being an actor. It is very important to make people think but it is more important to make people smile. I don’t want people to sit with a dictionary to understand what I told through my films. That’s not the zone I want to get into.
Even in a serious film, I want to make people happy. I’m an actor and will have to do different genres throughout my career. I did Whistleblower and those who are interested in that subject felt happy as in the end, the hero wins. That journey needs to affect people.
When did the acting keeda bite you?
In 1996 when I was 4 years old watching Baazigar. When Shah Rukh Khan’s character dies, I was crying and I failed to understand what was happening. My mother explained to me that he is Shah Rukh Khan and he was acting in a film. I am amused and told her I want to be this. When I turned 13, I decided to take up an acting course and she said I expected this from you.
When is Bandish Bandits 2 happening?
As a fan, I am really craving for it to happen but very soon we’ll give good news.
Any plans to venture into South films?
I love South films and have watched Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, and Malayalam films. My current favourite directors are Pushkar-Gayatri and hope to get a chance to work with them really soon.