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Article Bengali

He's one of the few directors who can understand an actor’s psychology: Riddhi Sen on Anjan Dutt

Sen shared some of the defining moments of his life with Dutt that contributed immensely to the actor and personality he is today.

Anjan Dutt and Riddhi Sen in the play Taraye Taraye

Roushni Sarkar

Multifaceted artiste Anjan Dutta made his debut as an actor with Mrinal Sen’s Chaalchitra in 1981 and won the Best Newcomer Actor award at the Venice Film Festival. He is one of the pioneering figures of alternative Bengali music. He appeared in various prestigious films by Sen and other prominent directors before made his first Hindi film Bada Din (1998). In 2012, he received the National Award - Special Jury prize for his directorial venture Ranjana Ami Ar Ashbona (2011).

National Award-winning actor Riddhi Sen has had a long association with the artiste from his early days. Apart from his onscreen debut, the actor has shared stage with the veteran artiste in plays Life of Galileo and Taraye Taraye, and had close interactions over the years.

Anjan Dutt

Dutt celebrated his 66th birthday on 19 January.

Sen shared some of the defining moments of his life with Dutt that contributed immensely to the actor and personality he is today. Sen also revealed lot of unknown anedotes about the artiste.

In Sen's own words...

My first work in front of the camera was with Anjan Dutt. I was six years old when I did a telefilm with him called Babar Christmas. Good telefilms were made during those days and he also made quite a few. Babar Christmas was an interesting project through which he kind of paid homage to Bicycle Thieves (1948). I feel good directors around the world have a knack to deal well with kids. I feel the same about him. I was thoroughly pampered throughout the shoot. I remember, I was gifted two boxes of cakes before we started shooting in Flury’s. The way he made the child me enact the emotional sequences was incredible.

Naturally, I did not have any idea about the director or the actor he was then. All I can say is that I loved the man. Whoever has worked with Anjan da, will agree with the fact that he literally pampers his actors. He is one of the few directors who can understand an actor’s psychology. When an actor reaches the shooting floor or the stage, he or she also carries certain psychological baggage with him or her. As actors, we are hardly given the space or time to come out of those zones and prepare for our roles. However, Anjan da has the ability to fathom that in and out.

As a kid, I understood that unconsciously. The opportunity came again when I was in class 8. He got inspired by Swapna Sandhani’s Macbeth and decided to return to theatre after a long break. Then he staged Life of Galileo and I performed the young Andrea in it. That entire phase was very important for me. When I was in class 3, I could not sit for an exam because I contracted small pox. During that time, my mother first introduced me to all the classic films. A door to the most favourite sphere of my life was opened then. I got into a similar kind of phase when we were doing Life of Galileo.

During the days of rehearsals, he used to call me at his place and arrange for a screening every evening. He not only made me watch those films, but also made sure to discuss and talk about them. He also used to tell stories from his days of theatre in Germany and receiving an award in Berlin. He would also talk about his struggles and way of looking at art. He understands film politics extremely well. In those days, I had my first exposure to Martin Scorsese, and other films such as Philadelphia (1993), Scent Of A Woman (1992) etc. From that time onwards, I started watching film with a fresh perspective. Anjan da taught me how to understand the language of film, rather than merely watching it.

Apart from my parents, the person I would like to give credit for helping me in growing into the person I am is Anjan da. In my home, I was always encouraged to ask questions to people irrespective of their age. While we were doing the play, I realised its value even more. I got severely scolded by Anjan da for not raising questions to my fellow senior artistes. I learnt the importance of being curious then even more. I have hardly been scolded by anyone, but that reproach was very important for me. This was something that I took away as a human being not just as an actor.

I became quite close to him during those days and then we crossed each other’s path recently when we acted together for Swapna Sandhani’s Taraye Taraye (a play on the life of Van Gogh, adapted from a novel by Srijato Bandopadhyay). Now I am 20 and we interact as co-actors. I think the underlying connection between us in these past years got majorly reflected in the play. I find the rehearsal phase of staging a play very beautiful. While we were rehearsing for Taraye Taraye, Anjan da would always stay longer after the rehearsals got over.

Anjan Dutt and Riddhi Sen in the play Taraye Taraye

Whenever he works with a team or his actors, he is not merely a professional actor or director. He doesn’t come and leave as soon as he gets done with his work. He invests his interests in other actors’ characters, set design and every single aspect of a project. He interacts with everybody and shares his personal stories. He can create a family. I have heard other actors, who have acted with him, saying the same. He submits his entire soul and loves to share his journey of his past years with everybody even at this age.

Anjan da writes and composes songs and sings as well. There are a lot of people who can talk at length about him as a director. My personal opinion is he is one of the finest actors of the Indian film industry. The sad story is no one could utilise him properly when he stepped into the film industry. He himself says that he was forced to get into music and direction because he did not receive his due recognition as an actor. I think there is a lot to learn from him as an actor and common people are hardly aware of it. I have seen the audience being surprised after watching him in Taraye Taraye. Fortunately, now he is getting interesting roles.

I really appreciate his collaboration with the younger generation. He generally works with a young crew and makes sure to mingle with them not as someone from the past generation. While working with my father in Taraye Taraye, he said that he really enjoys working with younger artistes. He has recently worked in many films with Srijit Mukherjee and also with Pratim D Gupta. A lot of veteran artistes cannot move ahead from their own period of time but Anjan da is an exception in this regard. He allows the younger generation to interfere in his life as well his in professional life. He learns from them and corrects them as well. I don’t think there are better mentors for acting than Kaushik Sen and Anjan Dutta in Kolkata.

— As told to Roushni Sarkar