‘The film industry never remembers losers; you can only survive if you are good. I had to fight to reach where I am,’ says Mithun Chakraborty
Veteran actor Mithun Chakraborty has ruled the silver screen since the late ‘70s and is one of the most accomplished actors of all time. He will be soon seen in The Kashmir Files, based on the true stories of the Kashmir genocide victims. In an exclusive interview, director Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri spoke about how the actor worked even when he was unwell as he understood that it was a small budget film and they couldn’t afford to cancel the shoot. “Mithun Da had a bad stomach and he shot wearing adult diapers for an entire day. That’s rare and shows the dedication of an actor.”
Not many would know but the 71-year-old actor was a Naxalite and his journey after graduating from FTII (Film and Television Institute of India) was full of miseries and starving days that he faced during his struggling phase in Mumbai. “My journey has not been a bed of roses. My journey was all about challenges and the destination. I reached there after going through pain, struggle but I fought every day to overcome. I just want to tell people that if I can do it, so can you. Having said that, the film industry never remembers losers, you can only survive if you are good. I had to fight to reach where I am.”
He began his career on a high note winning the Best Actor National Award for Mrinal Sen’s movie Mrigayaa (1976) but had to fight tooth and nail in Bollywood to acquire stardom. Chakraborty didn’t shy away from doing side roles to survive in Mumbai. In Amitabh Bachchan’s film Do Anjaane, the actor was seen in a blink-and-miss role.
After a struggle of over two years, Chakraborty hit stardom with Surakksha (1979), in which he played the role of spy G-9, an Indianized version of James Bond 007. The actor’s martial arts training helped him deliver his best performance. It was Disco Dancer and his association with the late Bappi Lahiri that made Mithun Da immortal.
Chakraborty dominated the ’80s Hindi film industry with blockbusters like Disco Dancer, Dance Dance, Pyar Jhukta Nahin, Kasam Paida Karne Wale Ki, Commando among others. However, he feels he is not an actor by ambition. Remembering his first day in Mumbai, he tells us, “I did not come to Mumbai to become an actor. My first day in the city of dreams was confusing as I didn’t know where to go and how to go… I took 45 minutes round on the beach to find Matunga but soon realized that I am not moving in the right direction. I used to stay at Sunny Side building for Rs 75 and had to sleep on the floor. I used to eat off the streets and became a member of Matunga Gymkhana only because I could have a bath there. It’s not been easy, but I have no complaints.”
“Everyone calls me a legendary superstar, what else can I ask for,” he says while talking about getting his dues as an actor.
The actor tells us that he has become choosy now and selects scripts that touch his heart. “I am more than 370 films old now. There was a time when I would do four shifts a day (of different films), where the dialogues and scenes would almost be the same because fans only wanted to see that — dance, fights, and whistle — worthy dialogues. Today, I only do those roles which tickle or pinch me, otherwise, I don’t.”
The Disco Dancer actor was recently seen in Amazon Prime Video’s web series Bestseller. “My character in the series, Lokesh Pramanik, is a quirky but lovable ACP, who is a foodie at heart. You will see me constantly eating, talking about food, or cooking and making YouTube videos. Do you know where the inspiration for this crucial characteristic came from? It is based on our producer Siddharth Malhotra’s long-lost foodie habit. Siddharth used to be very passionate about food, a true connoisseur. He would always give reference to restaurants and the famous dishes attached to them and used to be ever ready to eat. But he is a changed man now, still a connoisseur but not ever ready to eat!”
Chakraborty is unfazed by the OTT platforms. He tells us, “I am an actor, I have to perform. Whether it is for a film or digital (platform). I am a director’s actor; I follow what I am told. I get into my character and do my best, good or bad. So, I don’t understand this digital platform or anything else. OTT platforms are a game-changer and our content is reaching a larger audience.”
“Earlier, an actor had to be a hero — with five songs, five-fight scenes in the film. But things have changed with time, now the hero doesn’t have to be the lead. Every character is equally important. The script has to be strong. The best part is that the thin line between a side character and lead has been blurred. Look at Hollywood, there’s nothing like a hero or lead there. If you are a good actor, you can make it big,” he tells us while talking about the changes he has seen over the years in Bollywood.
(Featured Image Credits: Instagram)