Actor Biplab Banerjee on theatre, television, inpirations

Director Biplab Banerjee
Biplab Banerjee

Sept 29, 2010 (CalcuttaTube): Biplab Banerjee is a well-known actor of Bengali theatre and television and has been associated with eminent group theatres of Kolkata ‘Theatre Workshop’, ‘Chetana’, ‘Tritiyo Sutra’, and ‘Drishyopat’.

Biplab has also created his own niche of audience for his contributions to Bengali theatre both as a director and an actor. His recent play ‘Aandhare Ekela’ (2009) produced by Niva Arts has been selected at the National School of Drama (NSD). His debut directorial venture ‘Neel Mati Lal Kankor’ (2005) based on the life and works of ace Indian sculptor Ramkinkar Baij won the Best Production award for that year by the Govt. of West Bengal. The play was also invited by the ‘Lalit Kala Academy’ in the Golden Jubilee Celebration Ceremony. ‘Sastha Ritu’, ‘Noshto Ashim’ are some of his other works as a director.

The talented actor-director shared his thoughts, views and expectations in an intimate conversation with CalcuttaTube. Read the interview and explore the many horizons of Bengali theatre from the views of this promising theatre personality.

Banerjee is a very well known face on the Bengali television. But his exceptional capabilities are even more flourished in his theatrical works.

A scene from Bengali play Putulnacher Itikatha by Chetana
Biplab Banerjee

Though originally from Kolkata, Biplab spent a lot of time in the city’s suburbs and always took part in cultural activities in local organizations. “The local clubs at that time used to take a lot of interest in cultural events. After I completed school, I came across some theatre groups. My friends were into theatre. With time, I fell in love with this medium. In my initial days, I did not have any formal schooling. But I decided to stick to theatre. It was the time when I again moved back to Kolkata. I attended a theatre workshop and had an opportunity to interact with personas like Manoj Mitra, Pabitra Sarkar, Khaled Chowdhury.  It was my first acquaintance with a lot of information and processes associated with theatre. I used to be associated worked with Theatre Workshop. In 2001, I acted in the play ‘Poka’ (Direction: Ashok Mukherjee) an adaptation of Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis’, for which I was felicitated the Best Actor award by Natya Academy.

“When I worked in ‘Tista Parer Brittanto’ (2000) with Suman Muhopadhyay, I first got the exposure to scientific outlook in theatre. The play was tremendous – so indigenous, yet so universal in its approach. All I had had so far was working experience. I was not much aware of the esthetical, political questions, interactions that could arise in theatre. I also have been influenced by Bratya Basu.

“Later when I directed the play ‘Neel Mati Lal Kankor’ (2005) these knowledge and my experiences so far came handy. But I needed an independent and individual space of my own that I lacked being in any other groups. So I decided to come out of Theatre Workshop. Later, I have acted in quite a few Chetana productions. I have developed an intimate bonding with the group.” recalls Biplab.

Arun Mukhaopadhyay in Bengali play Putulnacher Itikatha by Chetana
Arun Mukhaopadhyay-Biplab Banerjee

Some of Biplab’s important plays as an actor are ‘Bela Abelar Galpo’ (1991; Direction: Ashok Mukherjee; Production: Theatre Workshop; won the Best Play by Govt. of West Bengal Information and Cultural Department, and Shiromani Puraskar), ‘Eka Ebong Eka’ (1994; Direction: Ashok Mukherjee; Theatre Workshop), ‘Gonotobyo’ (1998; Direction: Suman Mukhopadhyay; Production: Chetana; won the Best Play of the year by Govt. of West Bengal Information and Cultural Department), ‘Andhajuger Manush’ (2004; Direction: Ashok Mukherjee; Production: Theatre Workshop; won Best production by Govt, of West Bengal Information and Cultural Department), ‘Babli’ (2005; Direction: Ashok Mukherjee; Production: Drishyapat), ‘Somoy Osomoyer Brittanto’ (Direction: Suman Mukhaopadhyay; Production: Chetana), ‘Nirnoy’ (Direction: Arun Mukhaopadhyay; Production: Chetana). ‘Mephisto’ (2003; Direction: Suman Mukhaopadhyay) is another play with Biplab in the cast that too went to NSD.

“I am originally from theatre; I started doing TV serials much later. I used to have another job. Then I quit and I am a now fulltime actor.”

There exist many theories on acting on stage and screen. Shedding light over this matter, the actor who has worked in a plethora of TV serials says “The difference is in space. But it is acting after all. The interaction between an actor and an audience is at a more intimate level when it is through camera or editing. In theatre the interaction is more direct and live. An actor here communicates more with his momentary actions. In films, this is not so momentary. It goes through cameras, editing, music, and a more realistic background. However, dialogues play an important role in both mediums.

“The difference in these two mediums is not at the core, but in the approach. Both mediums deserve same dedication and are equally artistic. The difference in space results in varied conditions.

“Theatre is more of a combined art where an actor interacts with other crew members, the set and space. In films, an actor interacts more with the director. In certain scenarios, a film is a combined art, in certain cases, it can be individual.

“But is acting after all and personally I do not believe that one is any less or greater than the other.”

Biplab’s very recent plays are ‘Bisarjan’ and ‘Putul Nacher Itikatha’ directed by Suman Mukhopadhyay and Arun Mukhopadhyay respectively.

Contrary to a popular belief that acting on stage is more intense, Biplab says, “There are many good films and TV serials made these days in the Bengali industry and many of these actors do not have theatre background. This is also true for Bollywood. Having experience on stage is not an absolute condition for being a good actor. Acting on screen is nothing easier.

“Among my seniors, are stalwarts like Manoj Mitra, Paran Bandopadhyay and some others who have shown remarkable talent on screen. But not all theatre actors have shown that kind of proficiency. I am extremely fond of Gautam Haldar’s acting on stage. But the spark he shows on stage is not present on screen when it comes through camera. I am sure there is some sort of chemistry about all these things work. But it is a subject for research, discussion or may be controversy.”

Regarding the financial obstacles associated with theatre and the fact that theatre actors often have to find an alternate means of livelihood; the actor says that he does think there is any disgrace or defame in going to television or cinema from theatre. “When you are in theatre, you have to accept the practical problems. Theatre does not give us money. But it gives us something else for which are still here. It may be the different scope of acting, or the kind of roles we do not get to do anywhere else.

“But there is not much monetary remuneration and you have to accept the reality. But if you love this art, you would still do it just out of passion. It is also important to find your own space and balance between the reality and your passion. An artist faces two kinds of reality. One is external one which consists of the society, family, relations, etc and other is ‘personal’ reality. Out of all odds, I have to make time for theatre. Sometimes, I have to cut down my working hours.

“This is all in the context of Bengali theatre. I am not much aware of the larger theatre scenario in India or around the globe. In Kolkata, it is difficult to make theatre your sole profession. But the attitude you show in theatre has to be very professional, even though it is not bringing you money. You have to the show same professionalism in theatre that you show towards television soaps. Theatre gives us something more philosophical,” explains the modest actor.

Talking about the expectations and aspirations regarding theatre, Biplab says, “As a human being, I see the realities associated with theatre the same way as you do. The only difference is that it hurts my emotions more directly than yours. Hence, my reactions and analyses are somewhat different. Theatre has all the elements of real world and it deals with real people. So, whatever meanness and greatness you in the outer world, is present here,” concludes the talented personality of Bengali theatre.

-Shrabanti Basu

Videos : Shrabanti Basu

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