Balancing act

Actor Joy Sengupta straddles films and theatre with equal ease and passion.

Written by Shoma A. Chatterji | Mumbai | Published: September 2, 2011 5:15:49 pm

Actor Joy Sengupta straddles films and theatre with equal ease and passion.

How would you describe your relationship with contemporary Bengali cinema?

I enjoyed working in Patal Ghar based on a novel by Sirsendu Mukhopadhyay. My character was Bhootnath Nandy,a crazy scientist. Bhootnath discovers a diary penned by another mad scientist,Aghore Sen,who died 150 years ago. It gave me the chance to work with Soumitra Chatterjee,a legend. Gautam Haldar’s debut film Bhalo Theko had me in a small but significant role of an ambitious young man who chooses a Ph.D. in US over marrying his girlfriend. It was Vidya Balan’s debut film. In Anjan Das’ Jara Bristitey Bhijechhilo,I played the poet Joy Goswami. I had to understand the tradition of Bengali poetry. I heard audiotapes of Goswami’s poems to get into the skin of my character. My latest film Kagojer Bou is directed by Bappaditya Bandopadhyay. I play a suave,sophisticated corporate honcho who is a determined womaniser with neither principles nor morals. It was tough because Bappadiyta does not write a script.

Wasn’t Chaturango,your first film,based on a Tagore story?

Right. It was also my first film with director Suman Mukhopadhyay. The movie,the story and the character were challenging. It was not easy but the director and my co-actors were very helpful. I read the original novel in Bengali and another diary of Sribilash.

You are doing two Bengali films right now.

Yes. I am working in Tabe Tai Hoke directed by Saugata Ray Burman and Bhalo Meye Kharap Meye directed by Tamal Dasgupta. In Bhalo Meye …,I play Samir Sen,a successful barrister who takes up the case of the rape of a bar girl. Everyone thinks he has taken it up because it involves a social issue but in reality,he has a different axe to grind. I have wonderful co-stars like Ananya Chatterjee,Sreelekha Mitra and Shilajit in the movie.

What about Tabe Tai Hoke?

I play Amartya,a royal heir of an aristocratic family,who is facing a financial crunch. He is also a qualified psychiatrist educated in London. He is a blend of the feudal and the liberal,his conventional feudal backdrop spills into a progressive education. He lives in his village mansion with his urban wife played by Swastika Mukherjee. The marriage teeters on a razor’s edge. It is a triangular love story targetted at the mainstream audience. My wife is torn between the two men in her life — her husband and a crazy young painter who comes in as a house-guest in their home.

Coming to theatre,you have also won accolades for Sammy,a famous play.

Sammy was written by Partap Sharma, directed by Lillette Dubey and I played the title role in it. I had to essay the role of Mahatma Gandhi over a five-decade span — from 26 to 74 years. Sammy was an abusive term used for Indians in South Africa during the British regime. It was an amazing learning experience and changed me as a person. I had to lose 16 kgs for the role. We staged the play at the Belgian Arts Festival,and also in the USA and UK. I won the National Award for Best Actor in Theatre at the Mahindra Excellence Awards in 2006 for my performance. Theatre is my life,cinema is my passion.

As an actor,what differences do you find between theatre and cinema?

The craft of acting has been derived from theatre. The degree differs. An actor needs to contribute much more in theatre than in cinema. The response too is immediate and instant on stage whereas in movies,the actor needs to be patient. He also has to constantly adjust to camera angles,lighting etc. Cinema is a medium that works in totality — camera,editing,sound,silence —everything is determined by factors external to the actor. So for a theatre artiste,who is fluid on stage,it is a different challenge to capture and translate these moments technically on screen. An actor must be honest and I’m honest to the core as far as my work is concerned.

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