Article Bengali

Revisiting Mithun Chakraborty's significant works in Bengali cinema — birthday special

The superstar, who celebrates his birthday today (16 June), has a vast body of work in Bengali cinema, including the National Award-winning Mrigaya (1976), his debut directed by Mrinal Sen.

Roushni Sarkar

Mithun Chakraborty, the superstar of the 1980s and 1990s Hindi films, has had a rollercoaster career path. The Disco Dancer (1982) actor was whimsical, not afraid to take risks. A staunch Naxalite in his early life and originally known as Gouranga, Chakraborty joined the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune to escape poverty. He caught the attention of the legendary Mrinal Sen and bagged his first National Award for his debut role of a tribal hunter implicated in a murder case in Sen’s film Mrigaya (1976).

Chakraborty did not wait for similar art-house film offers to come in his way, neither was he focused on delivering award winning performances in meaningful roles. He straightaway shifted to mainstream commercial films and delivered hits one after the other. He is often cited as the 'Other Amitabh' or 'Gharibon Ka Amitabh' or the downmarket star, but he definitely turned into an icon as the 1980s Disco King who emulated the styles of Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson’s pelvic thrusts in his dance numbers and had a tremendous mass appeal.

The intense actor of Mrigaya did not mind taking up roles and films based on stories that were far from reality and often defied all logical explanations. With films such as Shera (1999), Military Raaj (1998), Muqadar (1996), Maa Kasam (1985), Chakraborty intended to present sheer entertainment and succeeded a great deal.

Though Chakraborty’s glorious journey mostly covers Hindi films, there are some significant Bengali films that contributed to the exceptional actor that he is. Chakraborty, who has 350 films to his credits and has the record of having his own films clashing at the box office, appeared more in Bengali films in the later phase of his career.

In Disco Dancer (1982)

He debuted in the Bengali film industry with Ashim Chatterjee’s Bansari in 1978. In the same year, he appeared in Aurobindo Mukherjee’s Nadi Theke Sagare alongside Soumitra Chatterjee, Sandhya Roy, Debasree Roy, Rabi Ghosh and Anup Kumar. The script of the film was written by Sunil Gangopadhyay and the film turned out to be a major hit. After Troyee in 1981, Chakraborty was roped in for Shakti Samanta’s Anyay Abichar in 1985. In this film, he played the role of Ghanshyam who gets caught in the battle between good and evil. Chakraborty shared screen space with Nutan, Utpal Dutta, Golam Mustafa and Asit Sen in the film.

Anyay Abichar is also considered to be one of the successful Bengali ventures of Samanta and the film’s commercial profit prompted Samanta to cast him again in Andha Bichar in 1990. Needless to say that Chakraborty fit well in his comfortable genre of an action thriller and etched out the role of a small town young man who struggles hard to deal with his father’s imprisonment for a fraud and to put his family and love life together.

In 1992, Chakraborty was cast in Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s Tahader Katha which received the National Award for Best Feature Film in Bengali and also fetched Chakraborty the second National Award for Best Actor of his career. In this film, Chakraborty turns into an embodiment of the post-independence delusions, alienation and existential crisis. He plays the role of a freedom fighter who gets released from prison after serving 11 years for murdering a British officer. His own ideals, old memories haunt him on the backdrop of a fragmented social political structure while his family tries to compromise and make peace with the present.

Chakraborty then featured in Bhagyadevata in 1995 and took a long break from Bengali films till he got cast in Chaka in 2000. In 2001, National Award winning filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh cast him in Titli as a superstar caught in the web of old romance, nostalgia and complexities of amorous relationships. Chakraborty received rave reviews and prestigious nominations for his performance in Titli which also featured Aparna Sen and Konkona Sensharma.

Bhagyadevata (1995)

From 2002 onwards, Chakraborty chose more Bengali film scripts than before. He consecutively acted in Bangali Babu (2002), Ferari Fauj (2002), Guru (2003), Santrash (2003), Rasta (2003), Swapne Dakha Rajkonya (2004), Barood (2004), Coolie (2004) and many more in coming years.

Most of these films were again commercial films to entertain the masses that created a new image of the beloved ‘Mithun Da’ in Bengal. In films such as MLA Fatakeshto (2006), Mahasangram (2006), Minister Fatakeshto (2007) and Mahaguru (2007), he played the typical angry young man, who also happens to be the uplifter of moral rights.

Chakraborty again essayed a challenging role in Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s Kalpurursh in 2005, sharing screen with Rahul Bose, Laboni Sarkar, Sudipta Chakraborty and Sameera Reddy. He played both the realistic and fantastical personas of his character with command and emoting helplessness, loneliness and affection towards his son coupled with his wisdom acquired through his lifelong experiences.

Among his last few performances, his acts in Gaurav Pandey’s Shukno Lanka (2010) and Suman Ghosh’s Nobel Chor (2012) added to his abilities as a multifaceted actor. While Shukno Lanka echoes a lot from his personal life, in Nobel Chor, Chakraborty excels in the character of a peasant who tries to sell of Tagore’s stolen Nobel Prize. About his performance in Shukno Lanka, a critic on IBNLive.com once commented, “Shukno Lanka is a model lesson on some [of the] best acting we have seen recently in Bengali cinema. Mithun Chakraborty proves again that he is, perhaps, the best actor in the country today who puts everything and some more, into every role he plays...”.

Shukno Lanka (2010)

Chakraborty, along with his social works as a Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament and his entrepreneurial initiatives, is still surprising his fans every year with a new avatar. His last film of this year was Nitish Roy’s science fiction thriller Jole Jongole in which he plays a mad scientist. However, he is far away from self-promotion and doesn’t follow the tactics of several leading ‘stars’ of the industry to retain his position in the industry.  

A statement made by him on a television ,Seedhi Baat in 2009 explains his philosophy well enough: “An actor cannot be on top all the time. At some point, you will have to come down the charts. If you get addicted to fame, it will kill you.”

 

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