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|April 04, 1997||
"If the motivation is strong enough, I'll fly to the moon"
Still dressed in his night clothes and sporting a hep stubble, Rahul Bose greets you with a questioning look. "We were supposed to meet today?"
Bose, for the uninitiated, is the advertising whizkid who gave up a promising career as the creative director of a reputed advertising agency for what he terms as a 'higher calling'.
And he made his first bow on this higher creative stage when he debuted, last year in Dev Benegal's critically acclaimed film English August, based on the novel by Upamanyu Chatterjee. In the film, Bose played the role of Augustya Sen - a yuppie with a foreign education who finds himself posted as a civil services officer in the desolate town of Madna.
Bose also forms part of the cast of India's first English soap, A Mouthful of Sky, in which he rubs shoulders with the likes of star models Milind Soman, Ranjeev Mulchandani, Kamal Sidhu and the like. And when he stepped out of the serial, the buzz went that Bose was unhappy with the storyline and unwilling to be part of a trashy production.
"You do a role for one year, then move on to another year," says Rahul, who did not in the event opt to renew his one-year contract with the serial. "As far as I'm concerned I did what I could."
He may have left the serial, but he won't hear a word said against the acting abilities of the catwalk models who form the major part of the cast. "I don't understand why models have a stigma attached to them. How many actors do you have today? Five per cent? What of the other 95 per cent? The thing is," Bose argues, "people resent their fame as models, and look for the first excuse to pull them down. Innate jealousy, is what it is."
We leave the conundrum aside and move to a question that has puzzled a whole lot of people in recent times: why, to wit, did he leave a promising career in advertising to venture into the risky realms of celluloid? "Unlike what people thought, I didn't burn out in advertising," Bose says firmly. "I would have been there for another 15-20 years if I hadn't decided to be an actor."
So why the change? "It was a higher calling. When you are young, you think that money is the most important thing. You tend to ignore your inner voice. But the fact is, you can surmount all obstacles if you believe in yourself. I was very satisfied with my achievements in advertising. But now I don't wish to achieve anything. I just want to act to the best of my abilities."
So where did this acting bug bite him? "I was acting in school and college plays for a very long time," he recalls. "But professionally, I did my first play with Rahul Da Cunha's Topsy Turvey after that I have acted in seven plays in all. At present, I'm working on a play written by Don Nigro called Seascape with sharks and dancer. It is a mature love story. We should start performing by September.
"Actually," he continues, "I was spotted by the casting agent of Dev Benegal while performing Are there Tigers in Congo?"
And didn't he feel the teeniest bit inhibited while doing the masturbation scene, and baring his behind in English, August? "If you are in character, then there is no question of me coming into it. You don't even think about it. It is part and parcel of being an actor. If you have certain inhibitions, then you shouldn't be an actor. I wouldn't mind even eating a army of cockroaches if need be, as long as the roaches don't mind," is his reply, tongue firmly in cheek.
Why, I wonder, has this higher calling of his not taken him in the direction of Hindi films? "I have got terrible offers. Language doesn't bother me if the role is good, be it Marathi or Peruvian I'll do the film. But as of now I haven't got a good Hindi film offer."
Commenting on public tastes, Bose chuckles as he recalls something that happened while he was shooting for English August. "We were shooting in a barber's shop. The barber asked me who is the heroine of the film? I said there is no heroine. He then asked me how many fight sequences are in the film? I said there are no fights. Totally perplexed, he then asked me how many songs are there in the film? I said there are no songs. Getting thoroughly frustrated he asked, who is the villain? I said there is no villain. With a smile on his face the barber turned to his assistant and said, Oh, they must be making a documentary."
Ask him if his private life has been affected by his celebrity status, and he says, "I'm not a celebrity. I'm the same as before. I'm not about to subjugate my life to match the expectations of others."
Bose does not share the prevailing pessimism about the declining standards of cinema. "It is all cyclical, there is a low phase and a high phase. I mean look at politics today, all over the world it is going through a low phase - sometime back we had great leaders like the Mahatma, Gorbachev, King, etc. Now it is a low, but again a time will come when we will have great leaders. Look at fashion, bellbottoms came and went and came again. Midis came and went. The same is true of our film industry - if good films are not being made now, then they will be made in the future."
Among those good films waiting to be made, he hopes, is two English films he has been signed for. And will he, I ask as I prepare to leave, chase a Bollywood belle around the trees at some stage in his career? He shrugs: "If the character has the motivation to dance round trees, then I will dance round trees. If the motivation is strong enough, then I'll fly to the moon."
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