In Bollywood we have had several instances of stars getting arrested on criminal charges.
But have you ever heard of a man finding stardom after spending nine years in jail? That too after being accused of committing crimes like kidnapping, extortion and murder?
Meet Nigel Akkara, better known as Vicky in the film industry of Kolkata (also known as Tollywood).
Nigel Akkara was once known as a notorious underworld don in West Bengal who had at least three special police task forces in hot pursuit. There were several serious allegations against him which included a heinous murder.
Reality caught up with Nigel when the police finally nabbed him from the outskirts of Kolkata in a surprise midnight swoop and threw him in jail.
The fact that he was an alumnus of St. Xavier’s School and St. Xavier’s College (arguably the best school and college in Kolkata) only made him more infamous in the media after his arrest.
Nigel was only 22 when the West Bengal police brought in serious criminal charges against him in the Magistrate Court and shamed him publicly.
However, fate had other plans for Nigel.
After nine long years of litigation (in 2009), Nigel was acquitted of all the charges because of ‘lack of evidence’.
He was subsequently released from jail.
Now, Nigel had two options in front of him – (a) Go back to being a criminal and (b) Find another life despite the fact that he will be judged and shamed over and over again.
Nigel chose the latter and guess what?
He chose to become an actor!
But Nigel, post his stint in jail, was a changed man.
Thanks to the constant efforts of danseuse Alokananda Roy, who conducts ‘culture therapy’ inside West Bengal jails to reform criminals, Nigel had managed to kill all his “inner demons”. He had mellowed down and wanted to start life afresh. But he had no clue that a career in films awaited him.
This is how the story unfolded.
Nigel got his first ‘break’ as a stage actor while he was still behind bars. Alokananda Roy conducted a dance drama written by Rabindranath Tagore called Valmiki Pratibha with prison inmates. Nigel played the pivotal role of Ratnakar, (the dacoit who reforms himself and becomes sage Valmiki).
The show was a hit, it went places and Nigel’s performance was appreciated with standing ovations all across. He got widespread media coverage.
Post the tour, Nigel was already a known name in the theatre circuit of Kolkata.
His film stardom came with the release of the Bengali film Muktodhara, directed by Shiboprasad Mukherjee and Nandita Roy, where Nigel played the hero. The film, which was declared a superhit in 2012, was based on the real-life interaction between Alokanada Roy and Nigel. While Rituparna Sengupta played Alokananda, Nigel Akkara played himself.
Since then there was no looking back for this suave, charismatic and good-looking actor.
Being a Malayali who was born and brought up in Kolkata, he got calls from Malayali directors too. After doing a few Oriya and Bengali films, he is now awaiting the release of his most ambitious film, Joddha.
In the film, he plays the negative protagonist opposite Bengal’s leading star (and now Member of Parliament) Dev. The film is directed by Raj Chakraborty and produced by the biggest production house in Kolkata, Shree Venkatesh films (the production company that had earlier produced late Rituparno Ghosh’s Chokher Bali starring Aishwarya Rai and Raincoat starring Ajay Devgn and Aishwarya Rai).
In the last six months that I have been interacting with Nigel, I have never had a missed call not returned, a text not answered or an email not responded to.
His director Raj Chakraborty also speaks highly of Nigel’s conviction and his will to excel.
“He lost 14 kilos in a matter of a couple of months. He worked out for hours everyday. Since this is a period film, he has learnt horse riding and sword fighting. He even had a tutor to perfect his Bengali diction. When we were shooting outdoors at 45 degree centigrade and he never sought the comfort of an air-conditioned van. Instead, he wanted to observe and learn every aspect of the shooting. He always reached the sets before everyone else at 4 am and never ever missed his evening workout. He has everything that it takes to make a good actor and a star,” said Raj.
The St Xavier’s School and College alumnus believes in staying grounded. “I have seen ‘real’ life and have been featured on page 3 too. I know where I stand. When I am sitting at a roadside tea shop and people come asking for my autograph I feel more embarrassed than elated,” said Nigel matter-of-factly.
After Joddha releases by the end of this month, Nigel is all set to work in Muktodhara2, the sequel of the film that gave him instant fame.
In between, he is busy handling his own company called Kolkata Facilities Management which supplies security guards to corporate houses.
You guessed it right. Many employees in his company are ex-convicts.
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Alokananda Roy’s picture from HERE