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Mithun Chakraborty: “Talent is only secondary to click in films”

Mithun Chakraborty celebrated his 74th birthday on 16th June.

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Mithun Chakraborty

By Jyothi Venkatesh

Mithun Chakraborty celebrated his 74th birthday on 16th June. To mark his birthday, we at Cineblitz wish him a happy birthday and reproduce this rare old interview of JYOTHI VENKATESH with the living legend MITHUN CHAKRABORTY, who he has known right from the time he had made his debut in Bollywood with Mrinal Sen’s Mrigaya, way back in 1976.

With his first film Mrigaya, Mithun Chakraborty had bagged the Best Actor award of the Government of West Bengal. It was quite an achievement considering the fact that Mithun, also known as Rana Rez, a product of the FTI, was only 26 years old and a novice. “I passed out from the Institute in the year 1974. My batch-mates were Rama Vij , Ranjeeta, Vijayendra Ghatge and Mala Jaggi. Among them Vijayendra made his bow with Chit Chor, Ranjeeta with Laila Majnu , Rama Vij with Aarambh and Mala Jaggi proved her worth with Tapan Sinha’s Puraskar”, says Mithun.

According to Mithun, talent is only secondary to click in films. “Luck is primary. Take for instance the case of Amitabh Bachchan. Even though he had clicked in Anand, 13 following films of his turned turtle at the box office. Yet the guy did not lose hope. Once, Amitabh was even thrown out of a film after six reels were canned and replaced by another actor. Look at him today. Even if you have talent in abundance, it remains of no use, unless it is supplemented by luck. For all my talent, if Mrinal Sen hadn’t offered me the Mrigaya role, I’d have been completely wiped away by the struggles I had to face as a newcomer. Believe it or not, after I passed, I literally struggled day and night for two years without a single concrete offer.”

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It was during this period of struggle that Mithun signed even insipid, extra roles like in Do Anjaane, Paapi Devta and Mukti. It was at the instance of Mrinal Sen that he retained his original name Mithun Chakraborty for the screen. He had mentally prepared himself to adopt the name of Rana Rez. He was popular with the girls at the Institute as Rana and not as Mithun. While at the Institute, he acted in two diploma films – Anahut and Love Is.

At one time, when he was at the peak of his career, Mithun had plum assignments on hand. The list included the Basu Chatterji-directed Prem Vivah and Wohi Baat and five films with Sarika- Anand Mai, Cactus, Gehra Daag, Punar Milan and Tere Pyar Mein. Mithun denies rumours that he was responsible for the Sachin – Sarika split.

“For heaven’s sake, please forget the thought of adding fuel to fire. I met Sarika only after the Sachin-Sarika rift, with which I had nothing to do. If I had as many as five films with Sarika, it didn’t mean that we were having an affair. We were good friends and producers cast us together because they felt that our team will click. I had films with Bindiya, Bhawna Bhatt and Shabana Azmi too.”

Mithun says that he will not waste his time by protesting against the established norms of the film industry. “I have not come here to change the course of the film industry. Though I’d love to portray negative roles and prove my worth, I’m scared to accept such roles because the masses tend to type you to a point of No Return and saddle you with a certain image. The star-system can vanish only if all the stars agree to enact different roles, like in Hollywood.”

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According to Mithun, Mrinalda is thoroughly prepared when he comes to the sets. Unlike others, he does not hold a script in one hand and work monotonously with it. He lights a cigarette and works in a relaxed manner, giving room for improvisation by the artistes. “I was confident about the success of Mrigaya at least in Calcutta because it has politically conscious people and the film had political undertones. I had put in a lot of effort to lend credibility to my role. I lived with the adivasis of Taldanga village where the film was shot partly, for more than a month and studied their mannerisms.”

“Coming into films was the biggest gamble I ever ventured into. No one from my family is in films. My father was working as a supervisor at a telephone exchange in Calcutta. (Note: Mithun’s dad died a month after the lockdown started) I am the eldest and the only son of my parents. I have three sisters. I couldn’t pursue my studies after B. Sc Part 1 because of financial difficulties.”

With his Surakksha, Mithun’s stock in filmdom rose considerably. He became a sought after star though for a long time he was just another up and coming newcomer who made his debut with the big flop Mrigayaa. A stage came when Mithun was having films with almost every big banner in town. Daily he was working in not one or two but four shifts and it indeed became a task for scribes to track him down.

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Almost forty – four years ago, one day when I came to know that Mithun was shooting for Pramod Chakraborty’s Patita at the Hotel César’s Palace, I decided to catch Mithun for an interview. When I reached the sets at the basement of the hotel, he was not to be found there. Instead there were a few scantily clad extras. Even director I.V. Sasi was not to be found there. I was told that Sasi was shooting at Natraj Studios on another set of the same film with Shoma Anand and Raj Kiran while the dance director was canning a song picturisation  at the hotel simultaneously since the film was all set to be released during Diwali.

I knocked at Mithun’s room upstairs in the hotel. He himself opened it. He was relaxing, wearing only a pant and revealing his muscular body. To set the ball rolling, I asked him then whether it was true that he was troubling his Bengali film producers in Calcutta who had signed him for their Bengali films when he was a nobody few years ago and was doing the roles of an extra in films like Do Ajnabi and Mukti in Bombay.

Mithun didn’t flare up as I had expected. Instead he gave me a wry smile and said, “This is what is in store if one does some good gesture. Not only was I signed for a throwaway price for the Bengali films but also had to put up with the inconvenience of giving my dates to them as and when they felt like having the shooting. Can you beat it? A couple of Bengali producers used to ask me for dates after ascertaining the dates of the supporting artistes”?

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The last straw came when they wanted Mithun to cancel a schedule in Bombay for a big producer and allot his dates to them in Calcutta because the release of a Bengali film starring Mithun had already been fixed and they wanted to complete the film in time for the Censors. Mithun managed to reach Calcutta but was surprised to find that no one was sent by the unit to the airport to receive him. To add to his woes, the Bengali producers wanted Mithun to stay in his own house because they couldn’t afford to put him up in a hotel and ultimately they told him that the shooting schedule had to be postponed. A disgusted Mithun flew back to Bombay by the next available flight.

“I have decided now that charity doesn’t pay. These Bengali producers wanted to cash in on my name on the Hindi screen and hence didn’t launch their films till I became popular even though they had signed me years ago. Even a C grade hero in Calcutta would refuse to be treated in this manner. Enough is enough. I have learnt a bitter lesson. ”

Since those harrowing days of struggle, Mithun Chakraborty has risen in stature and is considered nothing less than a legend today. His only grouse is that his darling son Mimoh has not been able to entrench himself in the film industry today in spite of being his son. His second son Namashi Chakraborty too made his bow with Bad Boy opposite Amrin Qureshi and directed by Rajkumar Santoshi though it did not end up making Mithun Chakraborty a proud papa of a successful star.

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