Filmy comeback

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By Tollywood's angry young man Jeet has made a splashy return to form in Saat Pake Bandha, says Promita Mukherjee
  • Published 5.07.09
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SUBHENDU CHAKI
WARDROBE COURTESY: SHARBARI DUTTA; MAKE UP: ANIRUDdHA CHAKLADAR; LOCATION COURTESY: TANTRA, THE PARK

The ‘angry young man’ of contemporary Bengali cinema is back — and he’s all over the city. The posters are splashed everywhere and the movie theatres have house full signs up. Yep, Jeet is in the limelight once again.

His latest release, Saat Paake Bandha, marks the return of the Jeet-Koel pair after almost three years, and the audiences seem to be loving the onscreen chemistry. The film, made on a budget of roughly Rs 1.5 crore, is in its fourth week, and has already recovered its costs. “We’re expecting to cross Rs 2 crore,” says producer Shrikant Mohta of Shree Venkatesh Films. The film is running to packed houses even in Inox properties in Burdwan and Durgapur.

But that’s not all for Jeet. The actor’s coming up with his next release Neel Akasher Chandnite — a love triangle “with lots of twists” that’s slated for release in July. He’s also making a film with director Ravi Kinnagi and will be working on another project with Venkatesh Films — an action love story with “elements which are completely entertaining”, as the actor puts it.

And if this isn’t enough, he has opened his production house, Grassroot Entertainment, that’ll work on everything from films and television to events and commercials. “It’s a new-born baby. As things start rolling, it will demand more time,” he says. As of now, Jeet puts in four to five hours a day in his office when he’s not shooting and, at other times, keeps track of what’s happening on the phone. Currently, about 10 people work in the Lake Road office. “Once production starts we will obviously need many more,” adds Jeet.

He now wants to do only four to five films a year, and he’d prefer to shoot one film at a time. “I know I have said that before. But I always believed in quality not quantity. This way I can concentrate on one film at a time,” says Jeet.

Jeet is over the moon about the way his career is taking off once again and blames his lean years on destiny. For about two years his movies didn’t click and his last release in April, Hashi Khushi Club, also did only average business.

“It was designed that I should go through a lean phase and see how it feels,” he says. The actor considers Saat Paake Bandha to be a turning point in his career. “I’m enjoying every bit of it, getting lots of fan mail and am happy that they have so much love for me,” he says.

Jeet and Koel in a moment from Saat Paake Bandha; (Above) the actor on the sets of his next release, Neel Akasher Chandnite

The actor insists that he’s a firm believer in destiny and that the reverses of the last few years have given him a chance to “learn things”. “There were certain things that were not completely right. I have learnt to be humble,” he stresses. So does he agree that he had got too big for his boots and hence the downfall? “I was not arrogant. Gossip magazines are supposed to write gossip,” he asserts.

He insists that he was never troubled by what people said about him. “If I can keep myself clean, these things won’t affect you much. I feel bad, samoyikbhabe (temporarily),” he says.

Jeet is, of course, one of Tollywood’s biggest stars, yet he comes across as down-to-earth and positively fun- loving — though he’s clearly very conscious about his image.

The Kalighat boy says frankly that his first passion was never acting. Nevertheless, this is now his seventh year in Tollywood. “The way I think about characters has changed. Now I think more about how my character should shape up and what the audience would expect. There’s maturity and depth in my thoughts,” he says.

He was born Jeetendra Madnani into a Sindhi family. As a boy, he used to watch his brothers enacting plays, and he’d often mimic people during adda sessions. “I guess it was always hidden inside me,” he says. As a young boy, he was very much into “rockbaji, hoi hullor”, sports like cricket, football and he loved flying kites. “I know I was very naughty and my mom always says that,” he says.

After graduating from Bhawanipore Gujarati Education Society, Jeet dabbled in the building material business for some time. But after a point, he figured that this wasn’t the life for him. Pushed by his friends and encouraged by modelling offers he had received, he decided to try his luck in Mumbai in 1996.

It was five and a half years of struggle there. “Bombay was the first thing on my mind as people said that I don’t look like a Bengali and that there were problems with my language and accent,” he points out. He did a couple of ads and music videos, but didn’t make the grade there.

While shuttling between Calcutta and Mumbai, Jeet had sent photographs to director Haranath Chakraborty, who eventually gave the actor his first movie break in the runaway hit Sathi in 2002.

He was, of course, a non-Bengali in the Bengali film industry but he insists that he never felt that way. “I’ve grown up in a Bengali area and never thought I was a non-Bengali,” he says. But he did face problems initially. “Haranathda didn’t want me to dub for Sathi. After Sathi, I learnt to pronounce Bangla properly,” he says. “I was reading a Bengali newspaper and after reading for the fifth time my uncle asked who was listening to the Bengali news. That’s when I knew I had mastered it,” he reminisces, laughing.

So what’s a normal day for the actor? When he is not shooting, he stays at his desk and catches up with the work at his production house or chills out with friends. To stay in shape he usually works out for a maximum of two hours with a personal trainer but he insists that, “I haven’t done much with my body”.

And he reckons he hasn’t done much in the movie industry yet. “I have delivered very little so far. Onek kichhu korar achhe (there is a lot to be done),” he says. And why hasn’t he worked in off-beat movies? “The directors can answer better why they don’t think about me. I had tried in Krishnakanter Will,” he says, unruffled.

Says director Riingo: “Jeet is hardworking, passionate and doesn’t have an ego. But he should watch more movies to improve his acting skills.”

And does Jeet still think of making a mark in Mumbai? “My mind is partly in Bombay, my heart beats for Bengal,” says the diehard Amitabh Bachchan fan. “If I do 100 films and 20 are remembered, I’ll be truly happy.”