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LIKE BONGS, LIKE SCOTS
Brian Cox at Nandan. Picture by Aranya Sen

Scottish actor Brian Cox, a familiar face in world theatre and Hollywood blockbusters, was in town for Scotland-Kolkata Cuts, a Scottish film festival for which he had handpicked nine films. A t2 chat with Cox...

Why did you choose these nine films for the festival?

I chose these nine films out of hundreds because I feel that they best represent Scottish heritage and the diversity inherent in that heritage. Water Horse is very close to my heart. I played the role of the narrator and my son, aged five, simply loves the film. I Know Where I’m Going! is about a woman who visits Scotland and comes completely under its spell. Then there is Local Hero that focuses on a group of villagers and very succinctly portrays the powerful community feeling that Scotland is synonymous with. Whisky Galore!’s genre may be humour, but it is actually a treatise on human behaviour in the face of greed and temptation.

Then, of course, there is Tunes of Glory that represents the masculine world of Scotland, the life of the regimented class. I picked Orphans because seldom would you see such a tight drama dealing with basic human emotions. Then there is Trainspotting, Danny Boyle’s remarkable take on the seamy side of Scotland, battling unsafe sex and drug addiction. Finally, The Jute Journey, a documentary that brought me to Calcutta last April.

What kind of a response has The Jute Journey elicited?

It’s been extraordinary and extremely humbling. It premiered one Sunday night in Scotland and 500,000 viewers tuned in! I think what has touched people the most about The Jute Journey is that it talks very affectionately about Scotland and Calcutta. It talks about how these jute workers came all the way from Dundee in Scotland and made Calcutta their home. They lived here, married here, had children here and died here. It’s a fascinating piece of history. Even now, the Calcutta Mofussil Society meets every Sunday in Dundee. The members talk in Hindi and Bangla and feast on samosas and pakoras!

Is there any distinctive feature that sets Scottish cinema apart?

Scottish films see a subject from two diverse points of view — with humour and in all seriousness. Like Bengalis, Scots have a subtle sense of humour that often acts as their saving grace (laughs)! And this ability to look at the lighter side of life even in the gravest of situations is what comes through in our cinema.

What do you enjoy most — cinema, television or theatre?

I enjoy being independent and free-spirited. Although I have moved on to film and television to sustain myself, I enjoy doing theatre the most. I have been doing Shakespeare since age 20. The production of Titus Andronicus that I was a part of is widely regarded as one of the best. Then, of course, there was King Lear that got me a fair bit of recognition.... Theatre focuses things in a way that cinema doesn’t. The real test for any actor lies in doing theatre.

Any plans to do more Indian films after Jagmohan Mundhra’s Shoot On Sight?

If a good role and a comfortable set-up comes along, I am game. I think Indian films are great. I have been greatly influenced by Satyajit Ray’s cinema.

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