By Utpal Borpujari
His is a familiar face – the one you would recognise the instant you would see him on the big screen, but would scratch your head if someone asked you his name. That was till Dev.D happened. National School of Drama graduate Dibyendu Bhattacharya, aka Chunni in Anurag Kashyap’s Devdas-coming-of-age film, has suddenly hit a fame zone that the actor in him has been yearning all these years since he the walked out of the NSD gates in Delhi more than a decade ago his acting diploma in hand.
Bhattacharya – his friends call him Debu – has done films like Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding, Vikram Bhatt’s Footpath, and Aetbaar, Shimit Amin’s Ab Tak 56, Vishal Bhardwaj’s Maqbool, Sudhir Mishra’s Hazaron Khwahishen Aisi and Ketan Mehta’s The Rising – The Ballad Of Mangal Pandey, Kashyap’s Black Friday and quite a few others, apart from a number of TV serials. Dev.D, however, has been more than a little different for him. “Though it is
Theatre is what made him. And for the Kolkata-born Dibyendu, the passionate affair with the stage continues. In fact, it was a call from his theatre guru Mohan Maharishi to congratulate him for his performance in Dev.D that he rates as his biggest compliment. And that passion still continues. “It is almost like my first love. During and in between film schedules, whenever I can take out some time, I vehemently follow all the plays that I can and are of interest. I, with my wife Richa, also try to mount as many workshops and performances as possible. I am always keenly involved in interacting with upcoming theatre talents and rarely say no to any opportunity to help them hone their skills. I also read avidly to keep in touch with past and current plays which keep my mind stimulated,” says the actor who had won the Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA)’s prestigious best actor award in 1993.
Someone who believes that the journey is more important than the destination, the actor refutes the oft-made allegation that NSD graduates forego theatre the moment they get film roles. “This is according to me and a lot of my peers is a complete fallacy and the construction of a lot of over imaginative regressive minds. Most of the people who have had a proper grounding in theatre never actually abandon it, a case in point being Naseer bhai (Naseeruddin Shah),” he says.
The trained actor that he is, Dibyendu prepared for Chunni’s role analytically. According to him, “This character has had a history of its own. Chunni is all about connections, be it with Dev or Chanda or anyone else. Chunni as a character is found everywhere in regular walks of life and he is very stylized and very fresh. It is a directorial devise used by Anurag to make connections. He is like a midnight
The full credit for the applause he is getting, he says, goes to Anurag’s development of the character. “It took birth in Anurag’s mind. Being the captain of the ship, he has executed the film and being a professional actor I surely have come with little ideas and styles but all needed to be approved by Anurag as Chunni is a character in totality. I am always a director’s actor. My main motto is to satisfy the director first. Later, if I am able to satisfy my viewers, I feel content and feel the job is complete. Basically I feel that an actor-director relationship is a two-way street.”
For Dibyendu, it is an encouraging sign that boundaries are being pushed in recent Indian cinema, which is opening up interesting avenues for trained actors like him. “There is no denying the cesspool exists not just in Hindi but in cinema made in any language across the globe. But with new directors breaking ground in terms of subject in recent times, actors too are getting to try new and fresher roles. This is surely beneficial to me as an actor and to the whole breed of talented actors who were probably sidelined due to cesspool cinema,” he says.