For me, choosing a career in films was not wholly accidental. I had been deeply drawn towards acting from a very early age. I came to live in this city, study in this city, and also it so happened that I started visiting the theatre of Calcutta. And it was my good luck that the first play I saw was that of Sisir Kumar Bhaduri, the legendary actor, director and producer. He was the person responsible for changing the face of Bengali theatre. The extraordinary luck was that before watching ordinary theatre, my first glimpse was of a very great actor and his impression on me remained throughout my life.
I was warned that this is a very uncertain profession, that I may end up as a failure, in destitution and poverty. But I must say that the most important thing that drove me to this profession was my own desire to be an actor. And you who are pursuing different kinds of careers now, I can only say that in all walks of life, in order to be successful, you need primarily one thing the four letter word, love. You have to love your job.
ON SATYAJIT RAY
After many many trials I finally met Sisir Kumar Bhaduri and got an opportunity to work with him. In his company I realised what an actors business should be, what theatre means and what artistic pursuits are made of.
After that, I was lucky to be spotted by Satyajit Ray. When he was looking for someone to play the role of Apu in Aparajito, a friend of mine took me to Satyajit Ray. The very first impression was rather unusual because as soon as I entered his room, before being introduced, he immediately said, Oh, you are too tall for the role. But I was impressed because I immediately knew how focussed he was with his work. I wasnt selected for the role and you may presume I was disappointed. Well, not so because I had already seen Pather Panchali and was so moved that I knew that here is a great filmmaker who knows his business and must have been right in not selecting me for the role.
But after Aparajito, he contacted me and asked me if I was still interested in acting in films. I said only if I get a chance with you as I didnt have a very good opinion of the general Bengali cinema of the time. He said he was thinking of making the third part of the trilogy. He started asking me questions. Later I found out that this was his method of assessing a newcomer, his diction, voice and command over the language.
I found out much later that he decided to cast me in Apur Sansar because he felt I could do justice. For me it was a great break. But it also required a lot of perseverance. I had to prepare myself. I had to study and see films, improve the quality of my voice, diction. It was not the glamour that loomed before me but the mission to be able to establish a kind of acting that till then Bengali cinema had not known, which is based on life and reality. I can assure you I got the opportunity to realise my dreams not only through diligence but because I dared to dream and dared to follow my dream.
STAGE VS CINEMA
I loved both. Both are the same interpretation and characterisation of human beings. The responsibility of directing and bringing together a play on stage excites me the most.
My poetry is based on the way I have lived my life, with my feet firmly on the ground. Since my birth I have seen my father and Dadu act. They were with a theatre troupe so acting was encouraged. Poetry writing started much later, with my recitations. My mother influenced me a lot in poetry writing. Instead of singing lullabies, she would recite poems of Tagores Shishu to us. Then, when I grew up while in school, I started writing.
I am a middle class Bengali boy. I grew up in Kankinara and studied in Sri Aurobindo Vidya Mandir. To come from there and aspire to be a fashion designer was unthinkable. To watch films, my father and I would travel in a rickety bus to come to the city, to Tiger Cinema. During these trips I passed by St Xaviers College where I would see boys and girls dressed fabulously. The facade of the school and the aura made it my quest to study in Xaviers. I happened to be good in mathematics, which really was the last nail in my coffin because it meant I had to study science. My quest fell short.
Everyone is a star because everyone is special in their own way. Sometimes very sensitive teachers can see it. I am very grateful to my English teacher who told my parents that I should be doing something creative like writing or drama. My biggest dilemma was being a good student and a career in science was the obvious choice. But I knew I didnt want that. I knew that I wanted to be a fashion designer. Unfortunately, there was no t2 with a fashion column and no fashion magazines in the city! So while I did maths to keep my father happy, I was cutting his socks to dress up my sisters dolls!
In India, for parents who want their children to own three villas, smile from every billboard and drive a Mercedes Benz, the best option you have is to make your child a cricketer. He does not even need to win a game! But we are a country where I see a lot of potential. The problem is that most of our parents vision is in a time warp.
With coaching classes, Kathak, Bharatnatyam, singing Tagore songs and being sports captain, kids do not have 10 minutes to explore what they want to do.
There are no golden rules to success. Fashion was considered a rich mans indulgence. But a middle-class boy passing out from NIFT sows the seeds of a new beginning. Thats the Sabyasachi phenomenon. For those who are told that there is no career option beyond doctor, engineer or lawyer, Sabyasachis career becomes a benchmark.
But its not a bed of roses. Fashion is not about chasing models and taking drugs. I leave at 5am and work till late at night. I have not seen my mother in 45 days. Life is not easy. But because I enjoy what I do, I can work for 15-16 hours. There is no scope for mediocrity. So choose a career that you can grow with, not because its glamorous. To be in fashion, the only reason should be to make good clothes.
What is most important is welfare. It is an amalgamation of happiness, success, contentment and finances. A friend of mine is a hairdresser in Paris for many Hollywood celebrities including Madonna. According to him anyone can look beautiful with a good haircut. He walks on the streets of Paris, talks to people with a bad haircut, gives them his card and asks them to come over to his place and then gives them a free haircut. It will take me many years to become as successful as him.
Success is a child with strong ethics. Success is a child who can say no to a bribe. Success is a child who wants to protect the environment. Parents of such kids should consider these as reasons to celebrate.
No plan works but a lot of other things do. I am a third-generation businessman. I came to business around 1984. Although we lived in Calcutta all our businesses were located outside the city. I studied in La Martiniere for Boys and then Xaviers. Much later I had the opportunity to study at the Harvard Business School. Do you really choose your career? In my case it was an accident. While I was assisting my father, a friend of my father who had approximately six cothas of land was leaving Calcutta but couldnt sell it. He suggested that my father develop it into a block of flats that he could lease out. I said I would work on it. Then I fell in love with real estate.
In 1997 my family decided to buy Modi Cement in Gujarat. My father asked me to forget real estate and join the family business. I decided to take up the responsibility. Till 2006, I was building my career in cement. Our family and my uncle had set up the cement business. But he was a cancer patient and had a relapse in 2004. He decided to close the business and my family didnt have the money to buy him out. In 2006 I was back to my first love real estate.
I have learnt to take life day by day. What distinguishes between people who have succeeded and others is that within their adversity they have seen opportunities and made the most of them because we do not know how life will pan out. Uncertainty brings in the ability for you to be extraordinary. Otherwise in a race typically who is standing ahead should win. But that does not happen. If you look at Dhirubhai Ambani or M.S. Dhoni they leap-frogged and soared ahead.
Life is a game of snakes and ladders. It is a combination of external events, world events, your own karma and your own disposition. To me the process of life is a very exciting journey. You have already set a destination and direction but if you constantly wait to reach the destination you will be anxious. If you enjoy the journey, whether you reach or not will not be of such significance.
There is no definition to success. It is only about making a positive impact in your daily life. If you do something positive the cosmos will help you succeed. Remember SRK in Om Shanti Om. The biggest entrepreneurs have started with little money. You need to have the resilience to struggle. Many of us who get educated want the comfort of a salaried job and the success of entrepreneurship. There is a price to be paid. It is not going to happen that easily.
In a white-collared job you are driven to earn your salary. But with an entrepreneurial activity, results to efforts put in is directly proportional. There are three qualities that make a successful entrepreneur. Integrity is foremost. Second is hard work. And finally passion. Do not do a job because you have to. It will neither give you learning nor satisfaction.
To be an entrepreneur studies help but it is not a prerequisite. Your success will depend on how well you squeeze out your profit between your input and output cost. But if you have the privilege of formal education you are a part of less than 5 per cent of the total population in this country. Make the most of it.
One thing they do not teach in school and everybody must read is Indias vast repository of wisdom literature. The hippest thing I can ask you to read is Vivekananda.