Ronodeep Basu. Picture by Anindya Shankar Ray
Given your family background, did you see yourself becoming an actor?
I never exactly saw myself becoming an actor. I used to act in para plays, and I did a few ads for Horlicks and Baidyanath Chyawanprash. But that was as a kid when I didn’t know what I was doing. Then I did two telefilms with Anjan (Dutt) uncle.... I did Egaro because I knew the casting director and he had asked me to audition because we’d just be playing football. So I went and played football and became a part of the film.
So you didn’t really put in an effort?
For Dutta Vs Dutta, I did. At home I would think about what Anjan uncle had instructed me.... It’s one of the few things I like doing. I also like music, playing football, driving. I’m enjoying doing all of that. I brought some of my Egaro experiences to this one. I have a problem of rapidly blinking my eyes. I was taught to shut my eyes and look at the sun till it became fine. Also, a lot of my friends are studying mass communication, so I’ve acted in some of their degree films.
Rono in Dutta Vs Dutta breaks rules and defies customs. Have you ever broken a rule?
Yeah, I’ve broken every single rule! I never studied, got into a whole bunch of trouble in school, then I dropped out in Class XI. I felt it wasn’t happening for me though I did finish it afterwards. I break rules left, right and centre… no problem there! (Laughs) But then I started working on myself by playing the guitar, acting and since then I’ve got into less trouble. I’m not a rebel nor do I do it for the thrill, but I don’t want someone to dictate every move I make. As long as I do my work well, no one should tell me when I should sleep, eat or wake up. I’ve even raced on the highway, but I’m a little more sober than before.
What made you sober down?
An accident, when I was almost about to die. It was two years ago, on August 6. I went and hit a tree head-on. The car was wrecked and I realised I was in real trouble. I was saved but it came like a wake-up call and changed everything for me. No point fooling around… must get some work done.
Rono in Dutta Vs Dutta is angry and edgy. What makes the real Rono angry?
Not too many things... one thing that really gets to me is when sound guys at live gigs give you horrible equipment, can’t balance the sound and spoil your show. Also, when people talk unnecessarily, that really annoys me. Kichhu bolar nei tao bokey jabe for time-pass! Unless you have something proper to say, I don’t want to listen to you. But I get along with everyone. I don’t have any expectations from anyone, so...
Does the real Rono identify with the reel Rono?
Yes, definitely. A lot of it. This character plays music, is into acting, and the kind of turmoil that he sees when he comes back from Darjeeling, I can correlate. There’s trouble between the parents, family’r edikey odikey jhamela hochhe. Similarly, my parents are divorced. One side of the family forcing him to study at La Martiniere, the same way I didn’t want to go to school but I was forced to. So it almost felt like my story. There was no problem connecting this Rono with that Rono.
How did you mould yourself into a young Anjan Dutt?
I didn’t, because I would have messed it up for sure. How can I be Anjan Dutt? But we spent a lot of time talking. I didn’t consciously try to observe how he walks or talks, but from the conversations I kept in mind all that he told me about the way he would feel, how he would react or how much he used to react. But I never tried to impersonate him. Maybe I’m not experienced or trained enough to do that.... But actors like Subhashish Mukherjee who plays my Kaka (uncle), who is a bit autistic, held an expression in a scene for 45 minutes. I was like ‘whoa’! That was intense, hardcore stuff! Those things I would keep in mind and use them to be in character, especially the two days when I had a rough scene with Anjan uncle and another with Parno (Mittra).
What have you learnt from working on Dutta Vs Dutta?
I’ve figured things about light, sound, why glycerine is important. I can’t suddenly start crying, but glycerine is insane! It makes your eyes water, it’s intense and I found it easier to act. Also, patience is really very important in cinema. I used to think I’m very fidgety and crabby all the time but I realised that no, I do have a lot of patience. I’ve also started being punctual. When everyone’s on time and you’re not, you look like an ass. I don’t want to look like an ass. It’s a long and tedious process but it was fun. We had a great time in Darjeeling.
What kind of films and roles do you see yourself doing or not doing?
Any kind of role is not going to be my movie. If I can’t find any logic in a story or join the dots from A to B, it doesn’t pan out for me. For example, I don’t want to do movies where I’m expected to sing, dance and go from Paris to Egypt to Delhi over jump cuts, just because I’m in love! It’s not like I won’t do the role of a dancer. I can dance, I’m not stiff… in fact I went to a contemporary dance and music school called Tarang and I’ve won competitions in school, but dancing illogically in a film isn’t my cup of tea.
What I really want to do is the kind of film you get when you mix Transporter, The Fast and The Furious and Torque. I want to do one of those racing films or a Bond kind of action spy thriller. But no dancing in between! I don’t want to dance. Whoever calls me and says, ‘ekta character achhey, can you come over to the studio?’ I’m like, yeah man, for sure, and then ‘It’s a different story but teente gaan achhey aar chaarte naach achhe…’ and for me it’s the end of the story. I really want to take up offers but I can’t illogically start dancing! Why? Why does one have to dance?!
How much has your grandfather Soumitra Chatterjee inspired you to be an actor?
I haven’t been much inspired by him as an actor, which is a sad thing to say, but I don’t look at it that way. I try to see the kind of person he is and follow him without getting much into his acting side. Watching his films, like Joi Baba Felunath, Koni, Apur Sansar… I realise he’s got cali (calibre) and I respect him. He doesn’t talk rubbish with anyone. Very soft-spoken, good sense of humour... so a few things like these appeal to me and I try to follow and be like him. I wouldn’t visit him on the sets but I used to watch his plays. I would attend his rehearsals. When I was doing a play called Romi Julie, I realised that my Bengali wasn’t very fluent and I had huge lines like Ei jeno chiro labonye churno holo praan. So, I went to him and he advised me to read slow, taught me voice-throw, told me not to look down when on stage because it seems like your eyes are shut.... A lot of those things I picked up from my grandfather.
The person who has really inspired me as an actor is my mother (Poulomi). I’ve seen all her plays. I know her as a person. I’ve seen her laugh, cry, be at peace or go mad, so I can understand whatever she’s doing on stage and how much she’s acting.
Three of your favourite Soumitra Chatterjee films?
Koni is my ultimate favourite film, all the Feludas and Patalghar.
Your favourite actors?
Manoj Bajpai and Naseeruddin Shah. They don’t act... they just chill in whatever they do.
How did you go musical?
I was lucky to be introduced to some really good music by my mother, my father (Ruchir Bose), a friend called Souvik and my uncle, who had a music school. After a few years of listening to some good bands, I thought let me try and play some of this. I started seriously two years ago. I got the chance to play with this band called Indian Blue. They were travelling to Bangalore and Chennai for a few gigs. I was in Cambridge International, preparing for my board exams, but I said, bunk it, let me go to Chennai and Bangalore instead. So I just went off without giving my exams! I wouldn’t have had the courage to do this, but my school principal was frank with me and said, ‘You drop out’. He was upset with me but also gave me solid courage to drop out. At that time I was confused about what I wanted to do in life, so he told me that instead of wasting my time, it’s better I do what I’m good at and be dedicated. Soon after, I joined Amytda (Datta, the guitar guru) and started acting too. I’m happy I followed that track.
Which bands do you play for?
Ganesh Talkies, Black Rose and Indian Blue, which is a Hindusthani classical fusion band with sarod, santoor and tabla. I play bluesy rock and alternative.... Over the last year I’ve been listening to more instrumental. I relate to notes and melodies more than words. I’m also listening to Ali Akbar Khan, Ashish Khan and Rajasthani folk on one side, and Victor Wooten, Pat Metheny, electronic, dubstep and dark psychedelic complex music on the other.
Your guitar influences?
Ritchie Sambora, Bon Jovi’s guitar player. Then there’s Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix... and Slash was a huge phase!
Listening to lately?
An instrumental track called T= from Ranjit Barot’s album Bada Boom.
Three fave Anjan Dutt songs?
Mary Ann, Shobai and Brishti.
A rockstar you wish you were?
I wouldn’t mind being Sebastian Bach. Phenomenal voice. You hear him and you’ll go mad!
Stage, studio or screen?
Stage is the place. It’s the space where you can improvise. I can spend my entire life on stage.
Star sign: Capricorn
School: La Martiniere till Class VIII and then Cambridge International.
Most prized possession: My life, my guitar. I’m not very materialistic.
First crush: A friend called Ishani, who went to Montessori with me. She used to live behind my house and I had a huge crush on her. Never told her till I was 16, although I had a thing for her from the time I realised I could have feelings!
Craziest thing you’ve ever done in love?
I was in Class VIII and I walked from Hazra to Park Circus in the sun. It was boring and tiring but I was all enthusiastic!
I don’t have any film or stage work lined up right now. I would love to do theatre, I really enjoy it.... But I would always prioritise my music. I don’t know enough to think of what I want to achieve with music but the plan is to keep learning and practising.