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November 24, 1999


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Not quite a babumoshai

Shoma A Chatterji

Chiranjeet If there is anyone in Calcutta's Tollygunje who can offer Shatrughan Sinha competition in blabbering away on the subject of I, Me and Myself, there is one name that inevitably comes up in every discussion: Chiranjeet.

Unlike Shotgun though, Chiranjeet is right in the middle of his career. He is doing reasonably well. He has the confidence of carrying the mantle of direction, acting, screenplay and production on his square shoulders. He has the guts (arrogance?) to go on record saying that Uttam Kumar is a bygone phenomenon. Above all, he has the courage of laughing in the face of utter failure when for the first time, a film produced, directed and acted in by him, turned out a box office turkey.

This, when a few weeks before the release of this film Bhoy (a cheap plagiarised version of Agnisakshi), he claimed to this writer that he was considering applying for an entry into the Guinness Book of World Records because he had discovered the formula of making a commercially successful film every single time!

That's Chiranjeet for you. Not very young, but still a heart-throb for many Bengali teenagers. Not strikingly handsome. Yet, macho in a very Bengali way. From Uttam Kumar to Biswajeet to Pradeep Kumar to Tapas Paul and Prasenjeet, all the celluloid babumoshais have had 'soft,' even effeminate looks.

Chiranjeet is different. There is nothing effeminate about him. Therefore, he appeals to all those who fell in love with the Big B. And the younger generation which goes ga-ga over Shahrukh Khan. When he smiles, Chiranjeet is charm personified. He is big by Bengali standards. And his dress-sense resembles that of Govinda's. Which is surprising considering he comes from an artistic family and was himself a good artist at one time.

"Deepak Chakravarty. That's my real name," he declares. "I changed it to Chiranjeet at the behest of director Ranjan Mazumdar. Some astrologer had suggested that I begin my new career with a name that starts with the letter C. I also dropped my surname. In the beginning, it created a bit of confusion. Later, it was accepted."

Having dropped out of engineering after the fifth year, Chiranjeet helped his famous puppeteer father, the late Shailo Chakravarty, in his innumerable public shows. "Then, I began compering for television programmes and switched over to news almost by accident. When films happened, I changed my name and this change in name has, in a manner of speaking, changed my entire life," says Chiranjeet, very happy at whatever he has achieved.

He made news when he went to the Press against Aparna Sen during the shooting of her film Sati in which he was supposed to play a major role. He was a newcomer, and naturally, Aparna dropped him at once.

The film got made, but Chiranjeet seems to be carrying some kind of a stigma. Much though he wants to work with serious filmmakers in the art film circuit, much though they are familiar both with him and his work, they have till date, refrained from taking him in their films.

He is sad about this, but sorry? Never. He is quite comfortably saddled in commercial Bengali cinema. Phiriye Dao, Sansar Sangram, Ghar Jamai, Kencho Khudte Shaap are all blockbusters in Bengal.

"I think it was my stint with the stage that gave me the confidence of facing the camera. I did this role of a scientist in Prabhat Roy's Agnisnaan who loses his mind when his fiancee is accidentally killed in his own lab. It was a wonderful role. They had initially shot two different climaxes for the film. It remains one of my best roles till date," says Chiranjeet.

Then there was Boba Shanai in which he played a man who marries just to sell his wife off for large sums of money. "The film flopped because my audience wants me to do clean films sans sex, may be, with a bit of violence," he analyses.

Chiranjeet is aware of the brickbats the Indo-Bangladesh co-production Beder Meye Jyotsna received a few years ago. People made fun of it, but the film delivered the goods. The frontbenchers liked it and watched it again and again. "So, what popularity is one talking about? What does the word acceptance mean?" he asks.

Though he does not do much theatre or tele-serials these days, Chiranjeet acknowledges that the stage is a wonderful ground for honing acting skills. "I might fall back on television if film roles stop coming. But right now, it's films I am looking forward to," he says.

Chiranjeet with Debasree Roy Whatever happened to Debanjali, the film being produced by Debasree Roy's production house? He had a very good role -- that of a doctor who migrates from the city to the village to treat a girl who is believed to be possessed.

"I really do not know. But this is an occupational hazard all of us must learn to take in our stride," explains the actor. "My ideal role would be like the one Dharmendra played in the Hrishikesh Mukherjee film, Satyakaam.This man made no compromises on his values of honesty and integrity in a society that was getting increasingly corrupt."

He clarifies, however, that he never imitates or is influenced by a single actor. "I idolise Dilip Kumar, Uttam Kumar and Naseeruddin Shah. They are unique in their own way. But I just take a little from them. Like, I take on certain gestures, styles, manners of speech, body language from Gregory Peck, Gene Hackman, Tom Cruise and Al Pacino, all of whom are serious, intense actors," says Chiranjeet.

Throughout the interview, he made passing references to the Big B. Many of the characters he plays, both in films and on stage, are a throwback on the angry man of Bollywood, the Bachchan. Chiranjeet, however, does not agree to copying Amitabh.

Ironically, if any Bengali actor could have ever carried the image of Amitabh, it would have to be Chiranjeet.

May be, the comparison with Shotgun was wrong.

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