Mumbai: Bengali film superstar Prosenjit Chatterjee`s character in `Shanghai` is based on the life of Grigoris Lambrakis, a Greek athlete who was assassinated in 1963 after he turned to political activism.
"In the 1948 Olympics, he had got a long jump silver medal and after that he got into politics. But he had an image like that of a film star in his country," said director Dibakar Banerjee.
Releasing next month, the political thriller is based on `Z`, a 1966 novel by Vassilis Vassilikos on the outrage in Greece following the killing of Lambrakis.
France-based Greek filmmaker Costa Gavras too had made a film by the same name on the novel three years later, where French actor Yves Montand had played the part of the Lambrakis.
"Prosenjit is France`s Montand. The original character is based on the real-life character of that Greek politician," Banerjee said.
Prosenjit plays a firebrand political activist by the name of Dr Ahmedi, around whose death the film is based.
"He is a social activist, but his charisma is nothing less than that of a star. Being attractive and sexy, wherever he goes, people gather around him. He manges to convince people and is a good speaker, so people listen to him," said the director.
On why he chose Prosenjit, who hasn`t done a Hindi film
in the last 20 years, he said basically he needed a sexy leading man.
"Strategically, I needed somebody who is a star but was relatively new to the Hindi film audience," he said.
49-year-old Prosenjit, who has led the Bengali film industry for more than two decades, said he had kept saying no to the director for this role.
"But when I realised that he really wanted me, I had to agree. There are a number of actors who can play that role in Mumbai," he said.
Explaining how in the last few years he has been trying to do different kind of cinema in Bengal, he said `Shanghai` will take him one step ahead as an actor.
Exploring the dark side of politics and corruption, the film is about the dream of turning Indian cities into Shanghai overnight.
It also stars Bollywood actors Abhay Deol, Emraan Hashmi and Kalki Koechlin in pivotal roles.