Rajatabha Dutta, the versatile actor has created a niche of audience as well as reached out to the mass through theatre, television series, parallel and mainstream Bengali cinema. The actor in a candid interview with CalcuttaTube shares his thoughts and feelings about his versatile horizons of works.
CalcuttaTube: You have been in the Bengali film industry for quite some time. What has been the transition in all these years?
Rajatabha Dutta: Bengali movies more technically equipped these days. When I started my career around 1995, we did not have many young actors coming in. And even the very few who did come in, were kind of embarassed about it.
I asked an young actor a few days back, if her friends make fun of her for being heroines of Bengali movies. She answered that a lot of her non-Bengali friends watch Bengali movies. These days, the Bengali movies are attracting a lot more audience. The houseful signs outside movie theatres showing Bengali movies bear testimony to the fact. The audience of the Bengali cinema are going crazy for actor Dev. I think Jeet and his music compositions have a lot of contributions to it. Even Bengali movie songs are presently being downloaded more than Hindi songs. The profit margin for Bengali movies are more than Hindi movies, ratio-wise. Overall, Bengali cinema is in a pretty good shape right now. This year (2009), there are 105 Bengali movies being made, ehich is a huge achievement. We never had that many films made annually in the Bengali cinema before. The producers are optimistic about recouping the production cost which makes come forward to invest in the new projects.
CalcuttaTube: Please tell us something about the role you are playing in ‘Rajdrohi’.
Rajatabha Dutta: I am playing the role of a minister in ‘Rajdrohhi’, who is thought to be good person in the beginning but later turns to be an evil one. He kidnaps a scientist to get the formulae he invented.The rest of the story is about the formula. The son of the scientist takes revenge from this minister. It is a good film.
CalcuttaTube: ‘Rajdrohi’ has a science fiction element, computer graphics and new technologies. How different was working in this movie than any other regular movies?
Rajatabha Dutta: This is my second film with director Tapan Banerjee. Working with his is fun and relaxing, for he gives an actor a lot of freedom. A science fiction movie requires a lot more budget than social movies, which is one of the reasons that we do not have sc-fi films in Bengali. A sc- fi has certain requirements that have to be fulfilled to make certain things appear believable on the screen. A film involving technicalities on the other hand reduces the chances of piracy, the biggest challenge the movie industries are facing globally. Hollywood and other film industries are putting a lot of special effects so that they do not generate the same results when they watched outside the theatres.
Consequently, when someone is investing in such films, the profit margins are expected to be higher. This is a bold step taken both by the director and the producer of ‘Rajdrohi’. No one else here has used these kinds of technologies before.
Acting in a couple of scenes were however different, where I had to interact with an invisible man or acting opposite to an unseen personality. With my backgrounds in acting, it was nothing major though. I am used to that kind of thing when giving close shots in front of camera.
Working with Tapan da is always awesome and the subject of the film is very fun and interesting. It was a great experience working in Rajdrohi.
CalcuttaTube: You are a very versatile actor and are very good at portraying different types of characters. Why do we always see you in negative roles in movies?
Rajatabha Dutta: I can answer this question in two different folds. The first one is, when you say that you have seen me portraying different types of roles, you are talking about the works that I have done for the television…..
CalcuttaTube: I have seen you both on the stage and on television…..
Rajatabha Dutta: ….So you are talking the point of view an urban audience. When a movie hits 130 theatres say, five of them are located in urban areas, and the rest of 125 movie halls are in rural areas. The main audience of my mainstream commercial movies are the rural audience. I have started working in the mainstream cinema since 2002. Prior to that, I have worked in parallel movies with directors like Gautam Ghosh, Tapan Sinha, Aparna Sen, Raja Sen. So the fact remains that the audience of the mainstream Bengali cinema are used to seeing to me in negative roles and that is the reason that directors choose me for that particular kind of roles. If some day the rural audience wants to see me in non-negative roles or if the urban audience becomes the majority, producers and directors would cast me in those characters.
I am very often asked this question in a lot of interviews. I am an actor and it does not really matter to me what role I am working in. It is more important to me that whatever role I am doing, I should be the best. I would really hate to hear anyone saying that some other actor could have my role better.
When an actor is cast as a hero uninterruptedly for 25 years, amazingly he is not asked this question.
It is up to my directors and producers to cast me in a role. I am not the one who can take this decision. May be the audience like my work and love me, and that is why I am always asked this question, but truly nothing is in my hands….
CalcuttaTube: …..I am not criticizing you. Whenever I see you in a role, I feel that you are the best and no one else could have been better. As an audience I believe that whatever role you would do, you would do it with the same dexterity…..
Rajatabha Dutta: In mainstream Bengali cinema, we are repeatedly cast in similar types of roles. There may have been instances where an actor has been able to break the boundaries of typecasting, but it mostly depends on directors and producers. It is also very important for the audience to explicitly demand for bringing in new changes, or the industry is not likely to invest that amount of money on an actor. It is all a matter of profit. Investors always have to think of recouping the cost before they take any risks.
But there are always some exceptions. In 2009, I have done quite a few different roles, and they are not negative at all. If the audience accept those works, I will be getting more of those roles in future.
CalcuttaTube: Once again, I am not criticizing you. I am very fond of all your works and have never seen a character played by you that I have not liked. I would like to share something in this context. I have seen your acting in the play ‘Winkle Twinkle’ and I do not have enough words to say in your praise. All I can say is, it was a thrilling experience all throughout the play, esp. the last scene.
Rajatabha Dutta: Thank you. There are so many magical things that can only happen on the stage. And that is the reason, why an actor always tries to continue to act in plays.
CalcuttaTube: You have worked in so many different media; theatre, cinema, television to name a few. How much scope of experiments does each of these media offer?
Rajatabha Dutta: Each medium has potential for experimentation in its very own ways. However, the scope of experimentation varies over time and place. If no one is experimenting with the Bengali cinema right now, the medium will have no such experimentation to offer. Theatre, nowadays, tends to be more of drawing drama. Even though contemporary plays are less experimental compared to the plays of the previous era, theatre still offers more experimentaion than films. Television on the other hand has more potential because of its committed viewership. But we are not having that many experiments there either, because the number of telefilms has gone down.
CalcuttaTube: Have you ever thought of coming into direction?
Rajatabha Dutta: No, I like to see myself as an actor.
Interview by: Shrabanti Basu, CT Reporter, USA