Making his screen presence felt

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By know your Neighbour: Shuvam Das CE Block SUDESHNA BANERJEE
  • Published 12.04.13

42, 52, 23. These statistics are not of interest to Shuvam Das’s tailor but are vital to his bio-data. The 12-year-old from CE Block has appeared in these many feature films, advertisements and TV serials respectively. He may be Shuvam to his classmates at Hariyana Vidya Mandir (HVM) but the film industry knows him as Guddu.

Those who have seen him act in Biley alongside Debshankar Haldar, in the Lokkrishti production on Swami Vivekananda, would not have known it to be his first stage outing. “I had a lengthy role but I do not have problems memorising lines. In fact, I usually know the lines of the others in the scene too,” says the boy, who topped his class a fortnight ago to get promoted to Class VIII.

With Mithun Chakraborty in Dance Bangla Dance
With Paoli and Prosenjit while shooting for Ghnete Ghaw with the latter
With Soumitra Chatterjee on the sets of Ekti Shohorer Katha
As a young Vivekananda with Debshankar Haldar in the play Biley

So sure is he that he even challenges co-actors. “When he was smaller, it led to embarrassing situations,” his mother Mousumi says.

Some years ago, while shooting with Soumitra Chatterjee, the veteran actor was improvising his lines and a bemused little Guddu asked him: “Tumi learn koroni?” He had done the same with Sourav Ganguly while shooting an advertisement, telling the former India captain: “E baba, tumi shob bhul bolley!” The star cricketer was sporting enough to admit with a smile: “Ami toh toder moto actor noi.”

He has acted with almost all big names in the industry — with Jeet in Wanted, with Mithun Chakraborty in Rahamat Ali, with Prosenjit and Arpita in Ghnete Ghaw — and serial addicts would remember him in Rani Kahini, Ma, Erao Shotru etc.

It is Shuvam’s most recent outing that has earned him the most renown. He was Poltu, the eldest of the boys listening to Paran Bandyopadhyay’s ghost stories in Sandip Ray’s film Jekhane Bhooter Bhoy.

But he could very nearly have missed out on the opportunity. The call came on the cellphone of his mother, a teacher in Salt Lake School. “I thought the caller was a student’s father of the same name so I kept asking why his son wasn’t coming to school,” she giggles.

Confusion sorted out, mother and son reached the Bishop Lefroy Road residence on the appointed date. “Babu uncle gave me a scene to read. When I read my lines he told me: ‘You are a born actor,’” says Shuvam. He took the compliment in his stride, but his mother dropped the saucer of the tea cup from her hand. “My son later chided me: ‘Ma, tumi notun heroine-der moto korle!’ But Babuda is an institution. How could I not be excited at such a remark from him?”

Other than bagging the role, mother and son made the most of the chance to be in Satyajit Ray’s home. “We saw Manik kaka’s sketches, his scripts for Shatranj ke Khiladi, Pather Panchali, Hirak Rajar Deshey…” “We even clicked the stairs of the house!” beams Mousumi. “We wanted to see the Oscar statuette but it is locked away in the bank.”

Young Shuvam is dedicated to his craft. At the shooting of Ghnete Ghaw, he was playing a young Jisshu Sengupta. A chase scene required that along with other children, he leap across the wall of a park. His shirt caught the tip of the railing, piercing the flesh. Yet he completed the shot without stopping. “He was bleeding profusely and the director was stunned that he didn’t even wince,” said his mother. “It was a long shot. I knew a lot of camera reel would be wasted if I stopped,” says the boy, displaying maturity beyond his years.

This blood and gore part of acting is what his mother still finds hard to digest. “Once for the shooting of a film called Paribartan, I reached the set to find him being thrown out of a train in motion by the villains. I started howling.” She also remembers an auto accident shot at Ramoji Film City. “When the auto tumbled twice with him inside, I fainted,” says Mousumi. “Later, Judo Ramu, the fight master, consoled me, saying, ‘Yeh sher ka bachcha hai. Mat roiye’.”

Another disturbing memory for her was seeing him being hung from the ceiling for a suicide scene. “Of course, there was support at his waist yet it is tough on a mother.” “That’s why I tell her not to come to my shoots,” grumbles the boy, who believes “a few scratches” are a part of his chosen profession.

With Sandip Ray and Paran Bandyopadhyay on the sets of Jekhane Bhooter Bhoy

So far, he has managed to balance studies with acting assignments. “We shifted him from Salt Lake School to HVM when his school hours shifted from morning to day. Here his classes get over at 12.30pm leaving him free for the rest of the day.” “We also prefer films to mega serials as the former are time-bound,” adds father Sanatan, who runs an outdoor advertising agency. It was in an advertisement that Shuvam had debuted. He was just eight months old then.

A trained dancer, Shuvam has his life chalked out — graduation in National School of Drama; higher studies in London School of Drama. “I want to learn film-making,” says the boy who has inaugurated five pujas last year along with his own block’s.

His parents plan to cast him as a hero in near future. “Harada (director Haranath Chakraborty) has advised us to keep him away for two years and then launch him with a new name, like Bittu (now known as Soham).”

“My idol is Benu uncle (Sabyasachi Chakraborty),” he says. The boy is on the right track. At a recent premiere, his idol patted his back, saying: “Phatiye diyechhish.”