Success frames in the eastern sky

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  • Published 22.11.02

Ajay Devgan pitched him into his pool in excitement; Aamir Khan called him up at midnight to congratulate him…

But now, Amitabh Bhattacharjee is headed east, by choice. The familiar face on TV, who is making his presence felt on the big screen, is in Calcutta for a Bengali film, Raasta, that finds him sharing the spotlight with Mithun Chakraborty and Raghubir Yadav. For those who came in late, Amitabh played — and won kudos for — revolutionary Jatin Das in Rajkumar Santoshi’s magnum opus, The Legend of Bhagat Singh.

Tall and athletic, Amitabh had begun with theatre in Delhi. “Those days, I was more into production than acting. Our group, Bikalpo, did various plays with Habib Tanveer, some even in Bengali. Often, I would be asked to step in to do a bit role when the main actor played hookey. I guess, that’s how the seeds of acting were sown,” recounts the Tollywood first-timer.

A friend suggested he prepare a portfolio and the photographs landed up with various agencies. Soon, Amitabh’s face was peering out of the small screen, pushing Veedol Engine Oil, Vimal Suitings, Kellogs Cornflakes and Bajaj. “The same set of photographs, by a twist of fate, landed up on Rajkumar Santoshi’s table and I was pencilled in for Jatin Das’ role.”

The actor, by then, had shifted base to Mumbai and was scouting for work when the offer came. As luck would have it, Shakti Samanta, too, called him for a mega serial, Durga, now showing on ETV. “All along, I would be hearing of stories of struggling wannabes and here I was, landing two great assignments on my first few months in Mumbai,” recounts the Deshbandhu College student of literature.

Playing Jatin Das was “a real experience” for the young actor. For a period of over two months, all the actors, including Ajay, would be dressed in rags and remain unshaved, just to get the look and feel right. “I remember my death scene, which was canned on the first take, but the director forgot to say ‘cut’. When I looked up, he was crying, so were his assistants and other actors. Nothing can be more rewarding for an actor,” says Amitabh.

After the screening, Santoshi was all praise for Amitabh’s “dialogue delivery”. Phone calls, flowers, pats on the back from Ajay, Aamir and Kajol are things that he treasures. “Later, Ajay invited us to his house on his anniversary. Again, he was gushing about my performance and suddenly, threw me into the pool. People told me he normally does not loosen up with co-stars, but he possibly liked my performance.”

Besides Raasta, Amitabh has a fairly decent amount of work awaiting him. There is an English film called Detour, directed by Anand Shivkumaran, while a major role could be coming up in Santoshi’s next film, Khaki, that will have the A-team — Amitabh Bachchan, Ajay Devgan, Akshay Kumar and others.

“I am open to more Bengali films like Raasta (which happened like a bolt out of the blue). In fact, I let go of an attractive Malayalam film to do it,” concludes this Amitabh.