It was long back in life when, like anybody with a decent nose and a pair of eyes, I wanted to be a 'Hero' in movies. I, like many, worked on my physical appearance and had no clue that I needed to know how to 'Act' to be a 'Hero'. And nobody told me that !
This was the mid 80s. Calcutta.
Those days, I was already playing a few songs on the guitar, mostly Bob Marley and Deep Purple, that made me feel like a 'celebrity' with a certain amount of female attention in school and our locality. Needless to say, I was living in an unreal world.
There suddenly came a time when somebody from our neighbourhood, who worked as a Production Controller in Bangla film industry, asked us local boys to come for a shooting for a Bangla film at a Heritage Palace in Calcutta where veteran actor / dancer Ms. Jayashree T from Hindi and Malayalam film industry was getting ready for her shot.
So we were given a few instruments and were placed on mattresses covered with white sheets; strategically to look like Junior artistes making up a crowd.
My friends were given a harmonium and tabla to enact as musicians. In sometime, we also realised that the film was being directed by a popular Bengali actor and the shot was that of a 'Barati' being entertained by a nautch girl in a Zamindar's palace.
Ms. Jayashree T was playing the role of a nautch girl and was learning her steps from veteran dance director, Mr. Oscar of Vijay Oscar fame of the 70s.
A few years later, I managed to sign two feature films in Bangla, 'Uttor Nei' and 'Monoroma' with the help of a close friend from school, Somi Mukherjee. By the time I gave my first shot for 'Uttar Nei', I realised that I was not the 'second hero' but actually the villain who loses his leg in an accident and then transforms into a good man !! And the ‘Hero’ wins the girl !!!!
My first day of shooting was a romantic scene where I was dating a lady under a Banyan tree. This was shot near the Ladies Golf Club in the Maidan area of Calcutta.
A few days later, we all went to a very interesting location in South West Bengal called Garbeta for shooting. It was here that I realised that the casting for the leading lady had changed.
Anyways, I, along with the crew, travelled by a train while the newcomer who was being launched as the 'Hero' came in an Ambassador car from Calcutta. I knew him from before and I greeted him when his car arrived. For some reason, I noticed that he was not getting down from the car and some village kids had gathered out of curiosity.
He later told me that I should learn to behave like a star or else the public would lose interest in me.
So that night, some of us were put up in a two storied building owned by the richest Potato Trader of the region. Before sleeping, I had a drink with the Director and the Trader, who later I got to know was part financing the project. Tired, I walked back from the palatial house of the Trader through large fields to the building where I was allocated a room.
It was on the 1st floor. But on reaching, I noticed the door was bolted from inside. I must have knocked for a good half an hour till I gave up.
Suddenly, I recalled the 'Hero's' advice that I needed to behave like a celebrity or else I would lose my value !!! So, I rushed out with all the anger that I could gather and went to the Trader's house. They were still drinking. And lo, I threw the worst tantrum of my life that compelled the debutant Director to walk up and find out what the scene was !
We walked back to the two storied building in complete silence. I thought that I had acted like a true celebrity while I'm sure the Director must have thought otherwise !! On reaching, we noticed that the door was still bolted from inside. After a few knocks, he became angry and began kicking the door.
And what happened next, changed the course of things for me. The door slowly opened. The room was dark inside and we couldn't see much though there seemed to be some movement while the Production Controller of the unit walked out bare bodied and covered his privates with a torn towel that didn't leave anything much to imagination.
The Director barged inside the room while I stood out. He lit the bulb. In the dim low voltage yellow light,. A naked 18 year old girl stood at one corner trying to cover herself with whatever was around. Her clothes lay scattered on the floor.
Flashback to a heritage studio in Calcutta.
We all had gathered at the studio office of the Director to catch a chartered bus to the railway station to leave for Garbeta. An 18 year old girl was standing in a corner with an elderly lady who I got to know was her mother. The mother was talking to the Production Controller who was in his post 50s. My present age !!
"I'm leaving the pearl of my eye with you. I know you are a fatherly figure to her and she will be protected all time. After her father's death, we have no reserves nor any ways of earning. My only hope is my daughter. And her only hope is you. Please help her get small roles so that she can bring some money home for the kitchen to run.......Also if there is any job as a dish cleaner or a helper in your canteen, please let me know Sir......we don't have food to eat", whispered the mother to the Production Controller with teary eyes.
I did turn to see. The girl looked under confident, malnourished and troubled.
The Production Controller was actually the canteen owner of one of the heritage studios who was off loading his lust in the room allocated to me. But surprisingly, from the next day, the girl couldn't be seen in the unit till soon people forgot the incident.
The film never got completed as the Potato Trader, who was the part investor, was interested to date the leading lady of the film and the Director had promised a popular actress to be casted. When that didn't happen, the Trader left the project mid way !!
But now, who was the actual Producer ? Well, we all had met the dhoti clad elderly gentleman in the studos in Calcutta. But when the film was getting shelved, all newcomers including me began searching for the Dhoti clad Producer who had suddenly disappeared ! And my career in Bangla cinema was at stake !
It didn't take much time to find out that he was a lower division clerk with P&T department and had a track record of pretending to be a producer while wanting young female aspirants to warm his couch !
The film never released.
The second film by the same Director had a Mahurat. There were media and guests.
I was yet to meet the leading lady. Suddenly, all heads turned. Reporters rushed as a cab drove inside the studio compound and a lady accompanied by a man got down from it.
The man was covering her head with an umbrella. The lady wore 60s kind of huge goggles and walked with a some attitude of ignoring everybody around.
The Director rushed to greet her. Soon I was standing next to her for a photoshoot. This is when the Director introduced me to the lady. But in the melle, I missed her name and was a bit embarrassed to ask.
During the Mahurat, in the most melodramatic form, the Director announced the launch of his new find, 'Lady Boney M' !!!!! I suddenly lost my balance when I heard the name. But before I could react, the Director announced my name too that left me in utter shock !!!!
A few days later, my father, who was ignorant of the fact that I was trying to get into films, read an article covering the Mahurat in the news paper.
"Kumar Anup......Kumar Anup" he shouted.
And when I walked up to him with my head down, avoiding eye contact, he continued.
" So you got a new name that is obnoxious and scandalous but I'm curious. Do you know how to act ?"
Probably that was the first time I realised that I didn't know how to act !!!!
Later, I did a small supporting role in a Bengali TV series which had actor Ms. Moon Moon Sen in it. And that's where my journey of disillusion about cinema ended in West Bengal !
......to be continued
(disclaimer - images have been sourced from the internet. we dont have any claim on them. used as reference)