By Shama Bhagat
If you really want to know why Mithun Chakraborty is still such a popular name, you need to go to West Bengal or Bangladesh. You will be surprised to see the kind of sway this ageing Bollywood star still holds over his fans. Though his Bollywood fans have dwindled, it is just the opposite when it comes to regional cinema.
In Bollywood, Mithun has reinvented himself thanks to a few superbly written characters over the last 10 years. Of course, one cannot overlook his popularity as star-judge in talent hunt shows on prime-time reality television.
The 62-year-old is now the busiest actor in his age group, not to mention his recent nomination as a member of the Rajya Sabha.
We spoke to Mithunda (as he is lovingly referred to in Bengal) sometime back. He spoke to us at length about his life as he mused on some turning moments in his career:
On the threshold of completing 40 years in the film industry
“The journey of my life has not been easy. It was definitely not a bed of roses. I didn’t get fame overnight. I have had my fair share of intense struggles and had to fight my way up. I wouldn’t say that life has been cruel to me, but neither has it been a happy journey for me.”
On not getting his due from the industry
“I don’t like to look back into my past. I have nothing against it and I am proud of my life today. I am happy where I am. These days I don’t even want to mention what happened during my initial days in Bollywood.”
On becoming an actor by accident
“I am an actor by accident, not by choice. I came looking for a job in Bombay. It was traumatic in the beginning. I thought I return home once things cooled down in my home town, but destiny had other plans for me. I never went back. No one helped me. I went to people I knew in this city and begged them to give me some work, so that I could sustain myself in the city, but they never helped me. It was strangers, who offered me work and helped me get two square meals a day. And by sheer good luck I got one film. After that the ball started to roll on its own, and I just went on doing films. I needed the money to survive and kept on working. I never thought I would become a hero one day. Similarly, after becoming a hero, I never thought I’d have to do negative roles again. And that happened too. I still remember that people in the film industry took a lot of time to accept me and recognise me as a hero. They could not fathom my success as a hero as I had none of the traditional attributes that one needed at that point of time to be a Bollywood hero.
On the turning point
Disco Dancer changed everything for me. I never thought it would become such a big hit. It became a rage with the youngsters. All of a sudden everyone found me to be charming and good looking. I became a hero.
Why he could never act starry
“I come from a lower middle-class Bengali family. My childhood was spent in North Kolkata, where I was a an ordinary, over-zealous local boy. I could never outgrow that personality inside me, even though everything started changing around me. I have never forgotten my roots. Some people say you can forget your past, I don’t agree with that. Your past is what makes you. My humble beginnings made me the person that I am today, and I try to impart the same lower middle-class Bengali values in my children too. I want my children to have the same outlook towards life as me.”
On his parents not being in awe of his success in films
My parents never realised that I had finally became a Bollywood star. They never came to terms with the fact that their son is a popular film star, neither were they keen to find out. They just knew that I am an actor and that is how I earn my living. They were simple, orthodox people who led simple lives. My father was a supervisor at a government telephone exchange office, but he was a happy man with a happy family. We were not well off, but there was no dearth of love in the family. While most parents tell their children to walk with their head held high, my mother would always tell me to walk with my head down or else ‘you’ll stumble on a stone’ (it’s a popular Bengali wisdom).
On being a champion wrestler in college
“I learnt to fight without fighting with people. I was trained in the Graeko-Roman style of wrestling at a local akhara in North Kolkata. I was a champion wrestler and won the local competition in Calcutta. When I came to Bombay, I tried to incorporate the same skills into the fighting sequences.
On the secret behind his dancing style
“I was a huge fan of Elvis Presley. If you see my movies, you’ll notice that I have been copying his moves. I used to go and watch his films five, six times at least. I then tried to copy his steps in front of the mirror. But I developed my own style of dancing as I couldn’t replicate all his moves. And that’s how Mithun Chakraborty style of dancing came to the fore; it is nothing but Elvis Presley style of dancing gone wrong!” (chuckling)
On his son Mimoh (Mahakshay)
“I have come up the hard way. I had no godfather in the industry. I want my children to learn their lessons too. I have told him (Mimoh) that he has to fight his own battles, and not expect someone else to do it for him. I will do everything that a father can for his child, but I will not interfere in his career. He has been working hard. His first film was a disaster, but his second film was a hit.”
… and finally, Mimoh’s future in the film industry
“Mimoh knows that there is no alternative to hard work. It will be the easiest thing to blame someone else if things go wrong. You don’t have solution there. Blaming others is easy and in my opinion, it’s called escapism. We can’t escape by blaming others. The only option is to work harder so that you don’t make the same mistakes again. I can only say that Mimoh is working very hard for his next film. He needs all your love, encouragement and support.”
To be continued…
Part two of the interview to be uploaded soon…
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Categories: Bollywood Nostalgia