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Interview Hindi

Kolkata is the artiste town of India, says Hussain Dalal on shooting for #Homecoming

Directed by Soumyajit Majumdar, the film's plot revolves around the reunion of a group of theatre artistes after a decade.

Hussain Dalal

Keyur Seta

Not often do you find a Hindi movie based on theatre artistes. Filmmaker Soumyajit Majumdar’s SonyLIV movie #Homecoming is based on a group of people who once used to run a theatre company in Kolkata until life took them in different directions.

The subject was a major reason why Hussain Dalal agreed to do the film. “It was very personal for me,” he told Cinestaan.com. “I have done theatre for 15 or 18 years. The bond you have in a theatre company is like family. And I think nobody has made a film about what happens to the lives of people who do theatre in India because it doesn’t pay. So you have to constantly do other things to keep the dream alive. You either keep your dream alive or keep yourself alive. That I really liked.”

Revealing a little more about the subject, he said, “They [the friends] are all coming back in a reunion 10 years later on the night of Durga Puja. It’s about how old memories and differences, everything comes back full circle that one night.”

Hussain Dalal's character was the rock star of the group a decade ago. “He went into the real world but did not become a rock star and he has the disappointment that comes with that,” the actor explained. “There is pain and love he and his girl [ex-girlfriend played by Sayani Gupta] feel. They used to be lovers and she went on to become very successful. It’s about how they separated and what went wrong between them and other friends.”

Priyanka Mondal and Sayani Gupta in #Homecoming

Dalal said the city of Kolkata itself is a character in the movie: “Director Soumyajit’s vision was so clear about the culture of Kolkata theatre companies. For me, that is one of the big factors that got me so excited because it was so well designed in the Calcutta theatre scene.”

The film also helped him return to Kolkata, a city of which he has fond memories. “Over the years, because of theatre I have toured Kolkata enough,” he said. “I think it’s a beautifully calm and happy city. I have lived there for two, five or 10 days many times. If there is one artiste town in India, it’s Kolkata. I love the food, the people, the culture.”

#Homecoming also stars Plabita Borthakur, Sohum Majumdar, Tuhina Das, Pujarini Ghosh, Madhurima Ghosh and Priyanka Mondal.

Plabita Borthakur in #Homecoming

Unfortunately, doing theatre alone isn’t enough for artistes to pay their bills, as Hussain Dalal pointed out. Asked what could be done to improve this scenario, he said, “Simplify. Cinema talks about stories that a mass India can understand. We often choose such arty stories in theatre that only the over-educated and elite will understand. So automatically you are making your audience small. The moment you start telling stories of people of the world, the stories will become bigger. So less literature and more entertainment would, perhaps, help. This is what I think, but maybe I am wrong.”

Over the past decade, Dalal has played important characters in films like Margarita With A Straw (2015), A Gentleman (2017), Hichki (2018), Judgementall Hai Kya (2019) and De De Pyaar De (2019). At the same time, he has been a dialogue writer for prominent projects like Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013), 2 States (2014), Dishoom (2016) and Karwaan (2018).

He said he developed both skills in both art forms as a key to survival, to keep the dream of storytelling alive. “As work kept coming, I tried my hand at writing and acting,” he said. “And the more I worked, the better I thought I was getting. I am still in that process of getting a little better every time I do a new job. So it was never a conscious decision to become an actor and a writer. Within that things worked out and god has been kind.”

It wasn’t a big deal for him to develop his Hindi writing skills. “I live in Mumbai. We all speak Hindi,” he said. “The culture in the city has Bambaiya Hindi. My mother and father speak very good Urdu. Most lyrics of songs in the world are in Urdu. Doing theatre also helps. And the more you work, the more you learn. I made mistakes and wrote wrong lines. But a person learns through mistakes.”

Coming back to #Homecoming, one of his best memories of the shoot was having biryani. “We were also sharing stories about our experiences of working with different theatre companies,” he said. “I love talking. We used to chat for hours and hours. Soumyajit, Tushar, Sohum, Sayani and me have sat for eight hours at a stretch and just chatted!”

#Homecoming will be streamed on SonyLIV from 18 February.

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