My Fundays 24-12-2008
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- Published 24.12.08
It seems quite incredible today but I actually never went to school. When other children started their education, I began to visit the studios. I was all of four-and-a-half when I stepped into a studio for the first time. The film was Maryada and no less an actor than Uttam Kumar was my co-star in it. He was called Arup Kumar then and wasn’t the star he later became.
I was soon Master Bibhu, the most prominent child actor in Bengali films. I was very busy, often working two or three shifts a day. I would be picked up from the Howrah Station (I lived close to it; in fact, I still do) early in the morning. My father always accompanied me on the sets and made sure that things were going right for me.
But if you think it was work all the time, you are mistaken. It was a lot of fun too as everybody, including the directors and other actors, loved me and took good care of me.
Few children could have hoped for my kind of life. Legendary actors such as Jahar Ganguly and Chhabi Biswas were extremely fond of me. The latter would often say, ‘Don’t become like the many child actors across the world who have all disappeared after they became adults.’ Though I did not understand his concern back then, I did realise its implication when the offers began to dry up around 1960. I didn’t get another film for about 38 years! It was only in 1998 that the dream role of Jatayu came my way.
There are many incidents from my early childhood that I still treasure. I must tell you about one of them. I was shooting for Prahlad in which I had the title role. There was a shot involving an elephant and me. Though my father insisted that I should do the shot myself, the director wanted to use a dummy. My father was prevailed upon and a dummy was made ready. However, the elephant wasted no time in kicking him in the stomach and getting him out of the way. And so I had to step in. I lay sprawled on the ground, just as I was meant to, and in no time felt a soft downy embrace around my waist. And before I could think, I was up in the air and laid down safely again. When I dared to open my eyes, I realised that the shot had been okayed in one go!