'I'm still walking'

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  • Published 24.11.09

Subrat Dutta is more stunned than excited with the best actor award that the Cairo International Film Festival has bestowed on him for his performance in Madholal Keep Walking. In Taki to shoot for Anjan Das’s Achin Pakhi, the Mumbai-based Bengali actor tells t2 about how, like Madholal, he manages to keep walking despite all odds...

Tell us about Madholal Keep Walking. What do you play?

I play the title role of Madholal Dubey. It’s the story of a common man who shares a good relationship with everyone around. He lives in a chawl, works for a security group and leads a happy life with his wife and daughter. Life goes topsy-turvy when he loses a hand in a bomb blast on a train. It changes his position in society and at home, as he becomes a man at mercy.

How did you bag the role and then prepare for it?

The director Jai Tank had seen my showreel and felt I had a versatile face. It took a month to complete the look test since I was sporting a shaved head after (Suman Mukhopadhyay’s) Chaturanga. Jai contemplated on whether I should stick to that look or sport a moustache. I had to practise walking with my hand tied at the back. Also, I needed time to prepare myself to play someone who’s 10 years older than me and has a wife and daughter. I got a lot of help from an accountant in the film’s unit who was a witness to the Mumbai train blasts. Jai was also of great help since he had lived in a chawl. I learnt from him how life in a chawl is clocked by the queues before the common toilet and the local train timings.

So, how did the shoot go?

It wasn’t a normal shooting experience at all. The other actors were from stage and I am not a very known face. That made it easier for us to shoot in real locations, like buses, trains and railway stations. We didn’t have a sound recordist, so we would record our dialogues on the voice recorder in our mobile phones and later fit them into the frames.... Daily passengers on trains would often be intrigued by the new ticket-checker, who was actually an actor! Many people would be surprised watching me stand and talk. They would think I was worried or distressed, and offer me their seats. Actually, we had cameras hidden at various points to avoid crowds!

What does the Cairo film festival award mean to you?

I’m yet to find out what it will yield for me. It feels good when hard work pays off because that’s the reason I went to NSD and did theatre. My friends and I often joke that I’m collecting awards but not money but I’m fine with that. I want to do great work even if it’s for less money.

Do you expect your career to pick up after this award?

I’m not expecting anything. I was at the crossroads after my NSD days but I chose to walk this path. I never expected lead roles because I knew that in order be a hero in Mumbai I would either need a six pack, be very young, be a great dancer or come from a filmi family. I was just a struggling actor, running from Bankura to Delhi to Mumbai. I got plenty of offers from daily soaps but I never took them up simply because I wouldn’t be able to do quality films. I’m happy with whatever little work I’ve done. People in the industry are aware of me and they call me whenever I’m needed. I am still walking, like Madholal, and I’m positive about better opportunities. With the kind of films happening today, there is a greater scope for character roles.

Why weren’t you in Cairo?

Because I am shooting for Anjan Das’s Achin Pakhi near the Indo-Bangladesh border in Taki. Leaving for Cairo would mean a gap of almost 10 days and it would have been unfair on the unit.

What are your upcoming projects?

I’m still left with a bit of Ramuji’s (Ram Gopal Varma) Raktacharitra, where I have an aggressive role. It was meant to be an 18-day shoot for me but was extended to 40 days after Ramuji liked my acting. I’m also acting in a television serial for Yash Raj Films, titled Powder. Atul Sabharwal, who made My Wife’s Murder, is directing it. I play an IPS officer who heads a team trying to bust a drug scam.... There are some good offers for international projects too. Today I’ve started believing that if one is willing to wait, then good things are bound to happen.