Interview with Anjan Dutta
Amrita Bazar Patrika on 9th March 1996.
A intimate conversation with actor -singer Anjan Dutta now also a well known director who is one of the most distinguished persona in Bengal's intellectual circle since 1979.This was published in Amrita Bazar Patrika on 9th March 1996.
Anjan Dutta needs no introduction today.The actor who made his debut in Mrinal Sen's Chalchitra way back in 1979 when he was a post graduate student of English Literature in Calcutta University.Then came Budhadev Dasgupta's Grihajudha.And from then onwards there is no looking back for him.In recent years he has added another feather to his cap.After being an actor for seventeen years Dutta has taken the world of music by storm too.In a candid interview with Somen Sengupta the actor , one time writer,poet,lyricist,composer & singer reveals all about his life & works.
Since there is no biography available on you please tell us something about your childhood.
I was born n Calcutta nearly 40 years ago & had my primary education in this city.Then I went to Darjeeling & got admission in St Paul's school.In my school days I was related with different kind of cultural activities & I was very interested in cinema & music.It was always my dream to work in films not particularly as an actor but as a director or something else.
So when you came to films it was not just an accident.
Never. After my school I came back to Calcutta & had been admitted to Calcutta University for MA IN English Literature.Here my concept & dream about acting started to flower.
How did you get your first break ?
When we were doing MA in Calcutta University we staged a drama at university campus.It was highly eulogized from all corners.Mrinal Sen saw my acting & selected me for his next film Chalchitra. It was 1979.In the same year I received another offer from Budhadev Dasgupta for his film Grihajudha where Mamata Shankar,Goutam Ghosh were my co-stars.
You have worked with young generation directors like Budhadeb Dasgupta,Nebyendu Chatterjee & Ashok Viswanathan. What is your experience with them ?
They all are different kind of people with their own perspective.
Even after working with these great directors you are still not a very famous actor.How would you like to explain this ?
True – I have not received the recognition which I really deserved. I do not know why.There may be some limitation in myself but I feel I deserve more.Actually in our industry there is painful division between art films & commercial filmswhich should not exist.Once you are in so called art films you will be marked for that & it is very difficult then to find a place in commercial films.
But people like Mithun Chakravarty & Ranjit Mallik also started their career in Mrinal Sen's film as you did. The they went on to become superstar in the so called commercial films.What went wrong with you ?
I admire Mithun & Ranjit Mallik for their credit.People like Soumitra Chatterjee & Biplab Chatterjee are also very good example.Actually becoming a star actor was never my motto.I loved cinema & wished to relate myself with it. I did several ad film & many other things but I had never tried acting.I wished to durect film but nobody financed me because my channels are not that strong.
Are you happy with your acting career ?
No – I ma very unhappy & disaapointed.I think my 14 years in so called art films was simply worthless.It gave me neither reputation nor money although I tried my best & the out was certainly way above average.I think this realization comes to all actors & actress who work in this kind of films. Nobody is benefitted from this kind of films except the director himself. He get national & international awards & makes a sure provision for his next film.But what about the players & technicians – nothing. Frankly I have calculated that my earning from cinema is not more than Rs 8000 a year that means less than Rs 1000 a month.
So you are upset with so called art film ?
Yes because there no proper remuneration for deserving people. For the film Shilpi I went to village & learnt how to run a tenth ( handloom ) & tried my best but the film ran less than seven days in Nandan. What is the end result ?
So as I have said just now these kind of films are only films for director's sake.When Naseeruddin Shah came out of art film circle & blamed the directors of misusing his talent everyone castigated him.Even I had thought at that time that perhaps he is not doing the right thing.
But now we all are realizing that he was right.Art film has no ompact on the masses & no one makes film to change the society. As an actor I feel reaching out to the people is very important which is hardly possible if you work in so called award winning films.
Acting is my passion but I will never back in the world where I wasted 17 valuable years of my life. Just now I have completed my work with Aparna Sen's next film.
In how many film you have acted so far ?
So far I played the major roles in nine films which include Mrinal Sen's Chalchitra,Kharij, Anatarin, Ek din Acahnak,Maha prithivi Budhadeb Dasgupta's Griha judha ,Nabendur Chatter's Shilip & Ashok Vishwanathan's Sunya theke suru. I also acted in two international films The city of Joy & La Nuit Bengali ( Bengali nights ) based on a novel by Maitreyee Devi.Both were made in Calcutta. I did 2 major tele serials which are Charitraheen ( Sarat Chatterjee's classic novel ) & another in a hindi serial named Aranyak based on Bhubhuti Bandopadhay's novel ( yet to be telecast ). Apart from all these I acted in many tele serials & films.
Is your realization regarding the director of art films applicable to Mrinal Sen ?
Mrinal Sen as a human being is very very honest. He always asks people about their needs & essentials. I have to say this about him & nothing more.
Have you any grievances for not getting a chance to be in Satyajit Ray's film ?
Yes – I have it.It is not because that he was a world famous director or he used to pay a fatty amount for his films.I think my scope to learn the art of cinema would have been enhanced manifold if I would have got a chance to work with him.
So according to you these people ( makers of so called art films ) are hypocrites ?
Not hypocrites…………( silence ) the perfect word should be………..( again silence )….yes there is hypocrisy.
In the age of computers & magic of special effect & all these how far are actors important in cinema ?
Actors are always important because they are the ultimate communicators who communicate the message of the film to the spectators. But in film like Jurassic Park or Aldin actors has nothing to do .Those are exceptions to the rule but generally they are indispensable.Even the character actors enjoy tremendous importance.In Indian film once ( from 1950 to 1967 ) character roles were very important almost at the par with the hero or heroine but now they are not that much important because only the hero or heroine are given more prominence in the story.
Whose film have like since your college & university days ?
I was deeply influenced by western films.So I used to see films by Sam Pekinpah,Frank Capra,Hitchcock.I was ( & still am ) an ardent admire of Guru Dutta's & Raj Kapoor's films.In Bengali films – Asit Sen,Ajay Kar, Satyajit Ray,Tapan Sinha were my favourite.
What do you feel about Suchitra Sen ?
She has an outstanding screen personality & an extremely photogenic face which is very important for any actress but her acting was not exactly spellbinding.She failed to set up any landmark in acting style in Bengali films which Aparna Sen or Madhabi Chakravarty did.She ( Suchitra ) was more glamour doll than a complete actress.I think Madhabi is the best actress that the Bengali film industry has had.She evolved a style of her own which was a trendsetter of sort. But a fantastic actress like Mamata Shankar has not been properly utilized by the film industry.
It is not only Mamata Shankar but also many other people in our batch who have not been utilized yet.Dritiman Chatterjee is the best example.Once Satyajit Ray told me that he is the complete actor.Sunil Mukherjee, Srila Majumdar are also outstanding people who are never utilized properly.
You wrote the script of Mahaprithibi directed by Mrinal Sen .
Yes – I did.
And there was a controversy about this.
I wrote a short story named Dewal in 1990 just after returning from Germany.You know that in 1989 Berlin wall was broken down & it created a terrific impact in my mind & with that at the back of my mind I wrote my story Dewal.During the international film festival held in Calcutta in 1990 Mrinalda read my story & selected it for his next venture.My story was based on a diary of an old lady & there was nothing about the turbulent period of 1970-72.Mrinalbabu changed the story slightly for the sake of the film. When the film was released one Suchitra Bhattacharya who is an upcoming author in these days came with this claim that it is her story & that started all the controversies.Thankfully Mrinal spoke in my favour.
Today you are also a very popular singer, composer & poet. What made you go for this change ?
I have told you earlier that music was always my passion.Whne I was in m school in hill station I was a serious listener to the western music & a great fan of Beatles.So becoming a singer is not a very special honor to me.
Among the Beatles who was your favourite ? Paul McCartney or Lenon ?
Obviously John Lenon.He was a singer in one hand & a poet on the other.Although Paul McCartney ,George Harrison & Ringo Star all were great people too.
So finally you came in music world ?
Yes – Infact after spending so many fruitless years in parallel cinema I was very very upset. I always wished to sing in public gathering but I never had that audacity.But the whole situation changed totally when Suman came into the world of music with his peerless appeal. Things changed overnight. Many people like me got the courage to express their feeling through music & tune.
Did you get any guideline from Suman ?
No –I never went to him for that.He is without any doubt my inspiration but there has been no direct exchange of thoughts.
How will you evaluate Suman's contribution in the world of Bengali music ?
Suman is a phenomenon. His contribution is outstanding.It is only Suman who has been able to lure the young people to listen the Bengali songs. Actually Bengali songs were running 30 years behind the time before Suman's advent. His name will always be remembered. It is not very important that how long people will listen to this song. The important thing is that the revolution which he wrote in his own credit.
He helped so many young singers to come out. But still people mis understood him .He is a man who always projects his all negative qualities and never his positive ones. It is sign of greatness.
All songs of your first album Sunte ki Chao were freshly composed for HMV ?
No – those are old songs written in during the last 10 years. The song Ranjana was an old song based on a teenage love story but after the Babri episode when the question of communal harmony came I changed the song & turned the lover into a muslim. In Bela Bose there was no telephone number initially. I put it just before recording.
Do the character in your songs like Bela Bose, Ranjana, Haripada,Raja,Rama,Mala, Devlina, Marry Ann really have an existence ?
Yes – they are all very much known to me. I know them all but naturally by the same name.
Between Sunte ki chao & Purano Guiter which is your better work ?
I first album had a very innocent appeal which I like a lot.In second one I did a little bit of experiment but still that is a high standard of work as far as recording quality is concerned. Both the albums are doing very well commercially. My next album will come out in August.I will include my new song like Das babur cabin, Mala etc.
Are you interested in singing in film ?
Why not ? I have recently recorded my songs like calcium & Adbhut bhalo lokta for Aparna Sen's next film.
According to the industry report in last puja your Purano Guiter did better business than Suman's Ghumao Baundule.Do you not feel a certain degree of satisfaction at this ?
It is nice to know that my album has done well but please do not compare with Suman. He is the pioneer thinker of this revolution. If his songs do not work our songs will also fail. He is above all of us.
But should not there be a professional competition?
Yes – there is a certain amount of professional rivalry between us all ( Suman, Nachiketa & myself ).A healthy competition is always there but do not take it otherwise. Suman's output is heavy .The rest of us are not that much powerful.
You sing,compose & write songs simultaneously. In which do you feel your-self most efficient ?
My idea of song is my strong part & I do agree with people that I have limitations in music.It is very much westernized.
You have a habit of putting characters in your songs.
It is because I am from cinema.I always think of a story while writing a song. I do not try to analyse the event which Suman does.I can not because my word power is not as strong as Suman & my flow is not that much strong of him.
Where did you give your first performance ?
My first performance was in the winter of 1993.Padatik arranged my first show at their Circular Road building hall.
And then you got the offer from HMV.
After making a little name for myself one Babul Rahaman of HMV telephoned me & offered me my first album.
What is your opinion of Bengali group songs or Alphabet ?
It is very necessary. All Bengali Alphabet groups like Abhilasha, Chandrabindu,Cactus,Hemanter postman are doing outstandingly. In Bangladesh the culture came much earlier.Big companies like HMV & others must give them a break.I have worked with some of them & I think they all have a very bright future.
Are you happy with your new profession ?
Very much. The respect & reputation that I have gained from it in just two years are unimaginable.
So you will never go back to your root .
I will work in film as director or an actor but never in so called art films.
Enough is enough.
What they think
A public opinion survey on what Anjan Dutta means to the average man
“ Of the very few Anjan films I have seen I remember most vividly Anatarin not because of Mrinal Sen's adaptation of an unique story but Anjan's artistic master piece in the portrayal of a sympathetic yet interactive writs who agrees to listen to a voice unknoen form a confired world “ say Jishnu Kar a management student in north Calcutta.Anjan as a singer Jishnu continues has added voice to the new trend in Bengali song in a more Bengali way. He is simple & very candid.
Mrs Sharmishtha Sen & her son Avik a student of class XII in a suburb near Calcutta are great fans of Anjan who feel his song nevertheless have a leaning towards the western music which directly effects his Bengali songs.Dr Subhendu Chandra thinks Anjan is the appropriate successor of Suman Chatterjee.
His popular number nam amar alibaba based on a life of a child labour touches my heart.Dr Chandra said in his college street apartment.
Moonmoon Sarkar a CA student in Salt lake is of the opinion that Anjan's popularity as a singer is nothing but a culmination of his actor image.” As a singer he is not an unique one “.says Moonmoon.Rajdeep Chatterjee a Msc 1st year student in Presidency College does not agree with Moonmoon.” He is really a good singer with a strong pen in hands”.
Who is Anjan Dutta ? This question came from an young lady doctor Reshmi Kundi in Salt lake city. When she was requested to express her views on him. Oh – he acts in film .Does he ? I remember, she said & the sentence was concluded by saying “ but I do not watch movies.His number like calcium & Mery Ann are really wonderful says Avijit Sengupta as executive in a commercial house in Calcutta.Mrs Sujata Maitra in east Calcutta works in DVC .
She feels Anjan is equally good in acting & singing.Anaya Biswas a computer student in Beleghata says thqat Anjan is such an actor whose talent has not yet been utilized properly.He has fire inside him she emotionally says.Majushree Dey a middle aged house wife in Kalindi Lake town thinks that Anjan is not suitable for so-called romantic films although he is a very powerful actor.Amit,Indranil & Saptarshi all student of class XI feel that
Anjans simple & living lyrics are easily understandable while his performance in so called art film which are not for the masses are not always easy to undersatand says Dilip Maitra a small scale business man in east Calcutta.
Sujoy Kumar Basu a resident from south Calcutta & a final year student of ICWAI likes Anjan Dutta's songs bit not his films.Those are too monotonous , he expressed his dissatisfaction.Sandip Mitra an economic student simply loves Anjan's image as a singer but he claims to like his films equally.
Suprotim Ghosh as M Com student in north Calcutta loves Anjan's Bela Bose he thinks Anjan has limitations in m usic.Dibyendu Saha of Princep Street says that Anjan is a copy cat of western music.
But according to management students Sonali,Sanjukta,Suchishmita & Koyel Anjan is matchless in all section of music.What is wrong in aping western music ? Western music is also equally rich as Indian music “ they argue.
( Interviews by Somen Sengupta & Nabanita Dey )