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Life, camera, action

Paran Bandopadhyay, 70

After my mother died and my father left home in Jessore [now in Bangladesh], I was brought up by my paternal aunt. We lived in Dumdum, Kolkata. Along with local kids, I used to stage one-act plays at the Para-Club during vacations. On one such occasion, I was judged ‘Actor of the Evening’ and I earned a medal! It was a thrill for a boy of seven, who thus stumbled upon his true calling: acting.

However, I was forced to subdue my passion to become a professional actor. You see, for a young man brought up by a relative, drama was not an option. So after I graduated in commerce, I landed a job with the West Bengal government in the Department of PW Roads in 1962. But heaps of dusty files were not exactly inspiring. I thus played the double role of my life—sitting behind a desk and even being promoted to senior positions while desperately seeking creative succour.

I sought out drama as an extracurricular activity and soon met the great Ritwik Ghatak. I was ecstatic to land a role in Sanko, written by him and directed by Amal Kar, a Prachi Tirtha Production. I also acted under the aegis of IPTA [Indian People’s Theatre Association] and even directed a handful of IPTA productions under one of its wings, Kalakar. These included Spartakas, Ashanto Chille and Haraner Nathjamai. In 1975, I got a break in audio drama and my role in Ayna, a Doordarshan telefilm, added to my credentials. Next came film, and in 1980 I acted in Atmajo and Swada. Critics took note and so did the audience. It was the only thing that made the nine-to-five drudgery bearable.

Finally, the moment I had been craving for 38 years arrived: my retirement in 2000. At the age of 60, the second chapter of my life had begun. Between 2000 and 2010, I acted in about 35 films like Dekha, Sanjhbatir Rupkathara and Desh, and my performances in serials such as Trishna, Alokito Ek Indu and Ek Nombor Mess Badi caught the attention of both viewers and critics. My crowning glory is being described as “an actor who can portray perfectly any character while reflecting the subtlest nuances of human nature”. Suddenly 38 years doesn’t seem like such a long journey.

—As told to Partha Mukherjee & Priyanka Mukherjee

Featured in Harmony Magazine
September 2010