Actor Subrat Dutta recently won the best actor award at the prestigious Cairo film festival. The talented Subrat Dutta who has the extreme flexibility to change himself according to the character talks to CalcuttaTube in an intimate interview.
Calcutta Tube: Congratulations for winning the best actor award for ‘Madholal Keep Walking’ at the Cairo Film Festival. How does it feel?
Subrat Dutta: It is truly an honor to win the best actor award at the prestigious Cairo film festival. There were 17 films from different countries. I really missed attending this much popular film festival.
Calcutta Tube: Is there any important anecdote during the making of ‘Madholal Keep Walking’ that would like to share with us?
Subrat Dutta: I was a little bit surprised when offered the role, since the character was 10 years older than me. I was not even sure if I would be selected as a cast. But director Jai Tank chose for the role, since he thought I had that kind of look. I was not sure how things would work out. He worked on my look, as he had said. The film had a limited budget and we had to complete shooting for the film in 27 days. Due to my changed look people did not recognize me when we were shooting for the film which was a blessing. Else shooting in certain locations would have been difficult.
Calcutta Tube: Your looks and expressions immensely vary from one film to another. How do you make it possible? Even the stills from your films represent the character you are playing, and not Subrat Dutta. You stills are always of the characters, and not yourself. How do you do that? And how difficult is that?
Subrat Dutta: It is not much a matter of difficulty. In my three-year schooling at the National School Of Drama I was taught to be a ‘liquid’ that takes the shape of the container. An actor has to fit into the mold of a character. When I am acting in a character, the person Subrat Dutta does not exist. The NSD has immensely helped me to master this process of liquidification. I have been much inspired by seniors like Om Puri, Pankaj Kapoor. And it is not just my looks that changes with films, my inner soul does, too. When I am acting, it cannot think of changing my looks, gestures, moves, etc individually. But if I change my inner self to the character’s, things become easier…….
Calcutta Tube: ……A lot of times when actors act in a role, they represent the character. But the still pictures look like the actors themselves. But you never look Subrat Dutta.
Subrat Dutta: Once Shyam Benegal asked for a photo of mine. When I showed him some stills from some of my films, he said that he could not see me anywhere in those snaps.
In Agni and Barkha, I did the role of Yavakri and had to shave half of my head. A lady found hard to believe that I was cast in that role, since I looked so big on the stage, acc. to her. I had to take my cap off to prove that it was me!
Calcutta Tube: You have studied Zoology Honors, Marketing Management. So how did you think coming into acting?
Subrat Dutta: I did not actually plan anything. It just happened. I used to do ‘jatra’ (popular theatre) out of passion. It was those youthful days, when there was a passion inside that strongly sought vents. I realized that the stage is an excellent medium of expression. So, when I came across an ad about the NSD offering an workshop in Baharampur, I attended it. I learnt a lot of basics, which was a good start. I was previously missing an institute where the art could be mastered. Personally I prefered not going to any individual. I even thought of joining the Rabindra Bharati University, but finally I did not. The school did not appeal to me much from the outside. My friend Gautam was be a student there. He excels in mime. When I talked to him about joining the acting school there, he did not encourage me either. Instead, he suggested that I join the NSD, where I was selected there at the first chance.
Calcutta Tube: You are from Bankura. How much exposure to acting or performing arts does one get in the suburbs?
Subrat Dutta: There is nothing much really. Even, people would look down you if you are an actor or doing theatre. Most of the time, they think that one goes into acting when there are no other alleys are closed down. So, it was nothing glorious. We may have had one full length play performed annually, or a few more shows of jatra, but performing arts was not cultivated in a regular basis. However, I would like to mention here that there was a cultural group by Pranati Sengupta, a gradulate from the Viswa Bharati, who ran the PurnaShlok Sanskritik Sanstha. I learnt some Rabindra Nritya, recitation there. It was there I got some books of theatre and realized the vastness of the subject. Though I was studying Zoology at that time, but theatre interested me more than tadpoles, unicelluar organisms- the regular biology stuffs. I also had the hobby of making sketches at that time, which I do no more.
When you are from a small place or from the subarbs, you are always under some sort of pressure and always want to be like a Calcuttan. That same force drove me from Kolkta to Delhi and then finally to London; it is a never ending journey that leads an inquisitive soul from one destination to another. But it is still hard on this very day for the common people who live outside the cultural spheres of a metropolitan city to start a journey. I myself never knew anything about the NSD. I was just lucky enough to see their ad in the newspaper.
In Bankura, it is merely a dream for a common youngster to get a role in a Hindi movie in the Bollywood, or even think about it. Trying to tread along a path so difficult and exceptional makes you noticeable. I do not know how to describe this journey of mine. I think I have always tried to do something new, something different that not many have done before.
Calcutta Tube: What was the reaction of your parents and family, when you took up acting?
Subrat Dutta: They thought everything would go in vain. They felt at that time, that I had a better future in academics. However they were never much sure about my moves, changing streams from science to commerce and management. They were expecting me to complete the MBA and secure my future. So, when I quit MBA to join the NSD, I startled them once again. For the first time they came to know that about the institution and that acting can be learnt. They were under the popular convention that actor needs to have great built and sharp looks.
The National School Of Drama showed me a new ray of light, when I was wandering my way thorough life.
Calcutta Tube: Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I am sure your story will inspire others.
Subrat Dutta: I will like to share one more thing here. It does not really matter where you come from, may it be a small suburb town or a huge metropolis, in this age of communication one can always reach the goal, if determined and got the abilities. You can reach the moon or be a scientist in the NASA. Things are developing in a very fast pace. When I first started, we did not even have that many scopes in semi-urban areas as we do today. I myself am still in the process of a journey. I have not really reached any ultimate destination.
But there are ample opportunities outside in the world waiting for you and more importantly there are still many good hearted people who still harbour deep respect for others’ hard work. I firmly believe in it.
Calcutta Tube: What is more important in a movie – story and story telling?
Subrat Dutta: They are very much intertwined. The story itself is as important as the story telling. They are more like a wedded couple and you cannot detach them from each other. Each has its own role in making a film enjoyable. Everyone knows the story of Ramayana, but how the story is said at the Ramleela determines its quality. A lot of times in the movies, similar kinds of love stories get repeated. But the style of telling the story – the usage of comedy, tragedy, romance, the precedence of incidents do bring in a lot of difference.
Calcutta Tube: We often read about ranking of actors in different magazines, etc. Does it really exist within the industry, or it is just media created?
Subrat Dutta: The ratings and rankings of actors, as well as of movies, may reflect the choice of a section of the audience. The rating of the media may have some importance, but at the same time, it is not bound to abide by the preference of the audience nationwide. They are more of speculations. At certain periods of time, different actor and stars get acclaimed by their audience. But a certain portion of the audience is not always 100 percent. Ratings and ranking come and go with time…
Calcutta Tube: …So it is not the end of the world………..
Subrat Dutta: Exactly, it is not the end of the world.
Calcutta Tube: What would be your tips or suggestions to the newcomers, who are taking up acting as their profession?
Subrat Dutta: More new faces are streaming in the Bengali film industry than in the Bollywood. I have only one thing to suggest to not only the newcomers, but everyone in general. Learn about your profession and works, before you join an industry. It is a global rule and that way things become easier for everyone. You may choose to go to a school to get some formal training, or may follow your idol, but you need to know about the work you are going to do.
Calcutta Tube: We often hear many professionals say that they have not attended any schoools before coming into the industry and have picked things up with time. So, is that not preferable?
Subrat Dutta: It may be true for a very small percentage. It can never reflect the whole picture. Or if you have celebrity parents, you can afford to that kind of thing. I have seen people with strong financial or family backgrounds who have come to the industry without any prior knowledge and have learnt acting after working in a bunch of films. After giving loads of flops, their every single movie is now a being hit. They have turned into brilliant actors. If the audience are coming to see an actor after more than a dozens of flop movies, I would call that luck.
Calcutta Tube: …Talking of hits, is there any certain chemistry that can be followed to make a movie hit?
Subrat Dutta: When any product is launched in the marlet, there is a lot of research done. A lot of times directors chose to make a movie for which they can convince producers. If a director makes necessary research and plans when making a movie, the film will of course bring back the cost of production, even if it is not a blockbuster. I think a director should always give some serious thinking before making a film and keep the audience in mind. Sometimes, we get too emotional to think about the practicalities associated with the art.
Calcutta Tube: Does every movie need to target an audience? Or a director should think of making a good movie?
Subrat Dutta: Different directors their own ways thinking which is to be respected. Directors like David Dhawan, Satyajit Ray, Buddhabed Dasgupta all have their own set of audience. It is important to know for a director what they are trying to do. It would not make much sense if a filmmaker does not know what he/she wants to do. A film-mkaning involves 24 departments, and the director is the captain of the ship. Everything has to supervised meticulously to make a good movie.
Calcutta Tube: What is the best thing you like about the acting profession and what do dislike the most?
Subrat Dutta: The best thing is that as an actor, I can live many different lives within the span of a single lifetime. I can be Madholal (Madholal Keep Walking) who is 10 years older than I am, and can also get the opportunity to be another person who is 10 years younger than I am (In the film Achin Pakhi by directer Anjan Das with opposite to co-actor Manali).
The disliking about being an actor is that I do not have any guarantee or security in my profession. It requires constant struggle where an actor is always on his/her toes. I would rather call it romanticism than disliking.
Calcutta Tube: What other movies are you working in right now?
Subrat Dutta: I am working in director Ram Gopal Varma’s Raktacharitra. This is my very first movie with him. I am working in director Anjan Das’s Achin Pakhi.