Nov 17, 2010 (CalcuttaTube): An actor who can befit in any stage of performance, such a man is Debshankar Haldar. He is a very common face in Bengali telesoaps, and is also seen in Bengali cinema. There is a never-ending quest among theater lovers and his fans to explore the secrets of his acting dexterity. On a face to face discussion with CalcuttaTube journalist Shrabanti Basu the stage stalwart shares his experiences and thoughts.
CalcuttaTube: Your father Abhay Haldar being a famous actor of Bengali jatra and your brother Amiya Haldar being an actor in ‘Bahurupi’, how did you look at acting from the beginning? Did you always want to be an actor?
Debshankar Haldar: My coming into acting was not planned. It happens in many cases that if you have actors at home, you want to do the same. However, it was different for me. I wanted to do something other than acting. I have wanted to become a sportsman, or a writer. At times I also thought of doing politics that will bring welfare to mankind.
I was acquainted with this world of acting, because of my father. I was often told by many people that I should try acting too as my father was into it. This very thing was repulsive for me. I did not want to be an actor just because my father was.
I acted in plays in school, college, and in my neighborhood and came into theatre. After I finished college, I wanted to explore this art. That was why I joined Nandikar. Though, at that time I was not sure if I should continue with acting. I was open to do other things, as well. With time, I got more and more involved with this and became a theater persona.
CalcuttaTube: You joined Nandikar in 1986…….
Debshankar Haldar: Yes, I took part in a theatre workshop. They were looking for youngsters. I had to take a test, and appear in an interview. I never thought that I would pass. But I did.
CalcuttaTube: In Nandikar, most of the time you acted in second lead roles. Your first lead role was in the play ‘Gotroheen’….
Debshankar Haldar: I joined Nandikar with the intention of learning theatre. I am still a student of theatre. I do not believe in discrimination between roles. All roles are equal. However, there is difference between actors. A good actor can express effectively even though the role is small. In my earlier days in Nandikar, I have acted in small roles. Later I was offered more important roles that actors look forward to. I have always prepared myself for everything and have worked as substitute actor, too.
Before ‘Gotroheen’ I acted in the play ‘Shesh Shakkhatkar’ in 1988 with Rudraprasad Sengupta, Swatilekha Sengupta, Gautam Haldar. All the four characters in the play were important. My training in Nandikar went from ’86 to ‘87 and in about a year I worked in ‘Shesh Shakkhatkar’. It was my first important role.
After that I again did smaller roles in Nandikar. I never paid much heed to all these.
Then I did a lead role in ‘Winkle Twinkle’ which did extremely good. After that I was offered lead roles. May be people thought I would not accept other roles. Though, I have acted in smaller roles even after that both in Nandikar and outside.
CalcuttaTube: You are the secretary of Nandikar. You have also worked as office secretary, done many back stage jobs, and chores. How did all these contribute in understanding theatre?
Debshankar Haldar: In my early days in Nandikar, I have done many jobs. Besides acting, I have learnt direction, how to write a play, do workshops, handle lights, sets, make-up, etc. I have sold tickets at counters, done ironing, auditing, accounting. I have tried everything, even stuffs that are not directly related to the art form.
I actually wanted to try everything associated with theatre. Many times, people asked me for help. In situations, when there was no else to do a chore or take care of something I would do it. I have not learnt to escape from any situations. Also, I have never belittled any job.
The thing is that when you are associated with something very deeply, it helps you to develop another view towards that thing. For me, it has always been positive.
But I knew that I was there to do acting. So, even when I did all other things, I was still focused in my arena. Doing organizational works and acting in many important roles went on simultaneously.
I am too busy now to work regularly with lights, sets, etc or do chores. Nobody asks me to do these anymore. Probably they love me too much for that. But I don’t mind doing them.
CalcuttaTube: You have worked in many different theatre groups outside Nandikar. How important is it for an actor? How did it help you grow as an actor and theatre worker?
Debshankar Haldar: If I worked in only one group, I would be exercising my skills one way. My exercise in theatre is now different. When I work in many different plays with different people, it works as a very good exercise for me. It helps me explore those characters more, live in them more than virtually.
This is all very challenging and has developed me as an actor, made me sharper. If I have any sharpness in me, I owe it all to these practices and exercises.
CalcuttaTube: When you are acting with someone from a theatre group outside, how do you bridge the gap between your co-actors? We hardly ever see any gap.
Debshankar Haldar: I do not think so. This communication varies between actors. With some, the ‘game of acting’ works well. With some, it is not so good.
The chemistry between co-actors does not depend on whether I know them, or they belong to an outside group or my own. Acting deals with a plethora of unknown things. The character I am exploring is not known to me either.
CalcuttaTube: How do you choose your roles?
Debshankar Haldar: I have not consciously chosen every role. I have rejected many roles because I did not like the plays or those roles. When you start working in a play, at the beginning you do not always understand what you are supposed to do. You develop a clearer idea with the advancement of the project.
Many times, I have accepted to do a play, because I could not refuse requests of my friends. But at the same time, those roles had scopes where I could express myself. With some plays, I was not so sure at the beginning, but later they turned out to be really good.
A role has to fulfill my artistic demands, and I like them to generate some kind of fun in the story.
CalcuttaTube: Please share something on your acting. Mohit Chattopadhyay has said that when you act, it feels like you are reacting to your co-actors and not just acting.
Debshankar Haldar: Yes, Mohit da has said that. I think every actor has to react. In Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Shesher Kobita’, Amit Ray says that he is like a mirror and captures image of incidents happening around him.
This is true for every people. When something happens in front you, you reflect that image within yourself. That is what we need to capture in our acting.
Mohit da has said an extremely precious thing. He is a poet, so he said it that way. It is not so easy for me to understand things the way he does. I try to do my best.
CalcuttaTube: You are acting in about eight nine plays and you are so different in each of them. How do you do that?
Debshankar Haldar: I am actually acting in eleven plays.
I am a human being who tries to be different everywhere. I maintain a basic structure, however. But if everyone wants a different me in every play, then someday I will probably have to walk on my hands instead of on my feet.
People are different in the inside just as they are on the outside. Different characters have different temperaments. You have to reach to that. If you get a good grip over the temperaments of different roles, then one character will be different than the other.
CalcuttaTube: You have to carry the properties of the characters you play which are all different. How do you shift from one to another?
Debshankar Haldar: I really cannot tell. Let me cite an example that I often say. In our daily lives, people play different roles. The same person can be seen in different role models. When I see my mother talking to my father in the morning over a cup of tea, she acts like a lover. Then when she wakes me up from sleep, she acts like a mother. Later in the day, when she is in the office, she acts like a boss, but when she sees her boss she becomes a subordinate, and if she gets in a brawl on the way home she becomes an angry woman. So the same person performs different roles. The thing is that we just react to different incidents.
With sets, background music, lights, etc in a play, when something takes place on stage, something happens inside me too, that I cannot capture in words.
CalcuttaTube: ….Even your voice is so distinguished, when you are acting in a play….
Debshankar Haldar: I think actors should do that. Theatre evolved from ‘jatra’, or the other way round. ‘Jatra’ was called ‘pala’ or ‘gaan’ here.
In theatre, or jatra, hearing is as important as visualizing. An audience in a far away seat cannot always see the minute details of expressions, so you have to reach out through your voice in that case. You should carry that characterization there too. I try it my way.
CalcuttaTube: There is a hue and cry about Debshankar Haldar being overused. What would you comment on that?
Debshankar Haldar: I don’t have much to say on this. May be they all love me, that is why they are concerned about me. I do not know what is the limit or definition of ‘many’. There is no definite definition written anywhere. It varies from person to person, it can be one exercise a year, one in four years, one in your entire life and some say they would like to do one each day.
CalcuttaTube: ….So it is not a matter of concern to you?
Debshankar Haldar: It is sometimes. Time is always a factor. When friends or people I know, request me to do plays and I accept, I get worried and tired when I think of how to put so many things in my schedule. This is of course a factor. Otherwise, an actor should always be happy to traverse in so many different characters at the same time.
CalcuttaTube: What are your hobbies?
Debshankar Haldar: Nothing in particular. I just do things in spur of the moment. I like to write, but cannot always afford the time required. I like sports esp. cricket, football and often play in my neighborhood. I wanted to become a sportsman, somehow it did not happen. So I like to replenish it that way. I also love to watch sports.
CalcuttaTube: What about direction?
Debshankar Haldar: I have worked with children. I may also direct grown-ups too some time soon. However, I am in no hurry.
CalcuttaTube: You have worked with children’s theatre in Nandikar. Please share something on that.
Debshankar Haldar: When I started doing theatre in Nandikar, I wanted to do something other than a job or give tuitions. So I worked in different workshops, school programs, etc. It is always a great experience working with children. They do not have inhibitions and are easy to work with. Kids are very good actors, actresses. They easily pick things up. It also helps an actor to be around children and watch them. I loved working with them, I wrote children’s plays. I still sometimes work with kids, whenever I find time.
CalcuttaTube: Please share something in ‘Ei Sohor, Ei Somoy’ where you had a portion to play that you did without any rehearsals.
Debshankar Haldar: It was an improvisation on stage. Reading newspapers gave me an idea about contemporary time. I liked to do kind of a jugglery with different bits of news, information. In fact I was hooked to it. I did that instantaneously on stage. It was a challenge for me. I made my own dialogues, talked about different things and then would come to the point I had started from. I was successful in coming back to my original point of discussion. In college I was involved in politics and was used to deliver speeches. May be that helped.
CalcuttaTube: Please say something for your fans.
Debshankar Haldar: I am glad that they have found something in me to be a fan of, and sometimes I blush when I think that I too have fans. I am a fan of all my fans.
Videos/ Photos: Shrabanti Basu