'No actor knew him as well as I did.'
Bengal's reigning superstar Prosenjit Chatterjee cannot believe former President Pranab Mukherjee has passed away.
"I am at home, sitting in disbelief," he tells Subhash K Jha.
"I cannot be with Pranabda's family because of the lockdown. 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," he adds.
"Because he was so many things to me in so many ways. 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 we don't find that often in politics."
Prosenjit's work was admired by Mr Mukherjee.
"He loved me and my work. He tried to watch my films as much as possible. I had arranged a show of my 2017 film Jaatishwar at Rashtrapati Bhawan. Pranabda/em> saw it and could not 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 met Mr Mukherjee every time he came to Kolkata.
"His schedules would be jam-packed, 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 tribute for Pranab Mukherjee?
"Of course!" he exclaims. "Mamata Didi (West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee) is a huge fan of Pranabda. I am sure she has plans. Of course, it is a special loss for Bengal."
"We were proud of him as he was the first President from Bengal. But Pranabda did not belong to any one place or community. Every Indian loved him, just like they loved President Abdul Kalam. I was in Kodaikanal when President Kalam died. I could see the nation grieved, but Tamil Nadu grieved harder."
Would Prosenjit like to play Pranab Mukherjee in a movie?
"I would love to. No actor knew him as well as I did. At the risk of sounding immodest, I must say I feel no actor is more qualified to play him than me."