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Dibyendu Bhattacharya: It is ingrained in our society that bad people are dark-skinned and heroes are light-skinned

In a chat with OTTplay, Bibyendu Bhattacharya talked about his experience with the entertainment industry that suffers from fairness fixation and his dynamics with Parineeti Chopra. Read on… 

Dibyendu Bhattacharya: It is ingrained in our society that bad people are dark-skinned and heroes are light-skinned
Dibyendu Bhattacharya

Last Updated: 11.23 AM, Jul 19, 2023


From Dev D to Black Friday and Rocket Boys – Dibyendu Bhattacharya’s performance in these projects is liked by viewers and critics alike. The actor is a busy man who shuffles between films and OTT with equal prowess. He will soon be seen in Capsule Gill with Akshay Kumar and in Jhulan Goswami’s biopic Chakda ’Xpress with Anushka Sharma. In the sports drama, he plays Jhulan’s coach. Besides, he will be seen in the third season of Maharani and Undekhi. He also worked in Richie Mehta’s Poacher. In a chat with OTTplay, the actor talked about his projects, his experience with the entertainment industry that suffers from fairness fixation, and his dynamics with his student Pareenitee Chopra. Read on…

In a recent award show, Pareeniti Chopta touched your feet and explained how you trained her to be in front of the camera….

It was Parineeti’s greatness that she expressed her gratitude. I trained her during the early days of Ishaqzaade and Ladies vs Ricky Bahl long ago.

Tell us about your experience as a coach.

After graduating from NSD, I came to Mumbai to work in films. But it wasn’t easy. I was getting small breaks but those were not enough. I had to run a family and hence, I started coaching, Acting was my priority but I had to run my livelihood. I worked in Vikramaditya Motwane’s Udaan. I was training Shatrughna Sinha’s son Kush Sinha for a film that did not materialise. Around that time, I got a call from YRF. That was Ishaqzaade. I worked with Paineeti, Arjun Kapoor, and others. Parineeti used to work in YRF marketing. And she got a break with this film. I trained many others, like Vaani Kapoor, Salma Agha’s daughter Zara Khan and others.

I love mentoring. I never give lectures on the theory of acting, Stanislavski, Gotowski, and others. As an actor, I gathered experiences in life and I share those with my students. I tell them about the difficulties I face and how I overcome them. I am still a student. I meet and watch people every day and I learn from them. Your day-to-day connectivity with people from every stratum teaches you a lot.

You and Parineeti worked together also…

It was during the covid period and we were shooting Code Name: Tiranga in Turkey. I learnt that I lost my mother in Kolkata. It wasn’t easy to travel during that time. Our 75% shoot was done. I could not come. I Remember I used to each vegetarian food during the mourning period. Parineeti asked her personal chef to prepare my food. The support I got from them was amazing.

The Indian entertainment industry is known to be biased against dark skin actors and actresses. Tell us about your experience…

The fairness fixation is ingrained in our ancient text also. According to Natya Shastra, a hero is dheer, lalit, soumya, and gourbarna. We often say, ‘he looks like a prince. We celebrate peace with a white pigeon. Villains are dark-skinned and good people are fair. This racism is ingrained in our society. In case we want to cast Sri Krishna, we get a fair actor and get dark makeup done. It is there and will be there. It is there even today. On set, I often hear the camera team jokingly complain about adjusting lights when I am in a scene. They say that to adjust my light the other actors are being burnt out. I joke back saying I will carry my own portable light. It is difficult for them to cast dark-skinned people in positive roles because traditionally, our society associates dark with bad and ominous things.

Hollywood has a long history of battle and now it is more inclusive. The Indian industries have to walk a long way to be inclusive. We started paying lip service but that is far from enough. We have a legacy of ignorance and intolerance. The idea of coexistence is not celebrated. We often forget and ignore that this planet is for everyone.

Does this hurt you?

Not at all. I don’t get bothered about these things anymore. I want to be in the league of Naseer Bhai (Naseeruddin Shah), Om (Om Puri) Bhai. They are my seniors and I call them Bhai. Perhaps, I wouldn’t act well I would look like a prince. I would only sing and dance with actresses. I am an actor and not a hero. I look like a true-blue Indian – a regular person – and that worked in my favour.

Along with films, you have also become a household name with your work in OTT…

OTT helped the industry a lot. I feel theatres will go out of business. Instead, the theatres will screen OTT shows. Watching a movie is super expensive these days.

See, the thing is, our film industry is not growing. There was a time when we used to follow literature to make films. From Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay to Munsi Premchand and others. Suddenly we stooped into a shallow humanistic genre. We derived a formula for commercial success – songs and dance, action, and tear-jerking emotion. There is not an iota of the reflection of our roots. OTT is far more relatable than films. The subject matters are close to our reality.

I worked with Pankaj Advani in Urf Professor. I think the death of Pankaj Advani, Irrfan Khan, Rituparno Ghosh is a loss for Indian cinema. They gifted us enough. But as they would mature, their work would mature and we would see more intense work from the. But alas!

What about working in Bangla?

In Bengali, I don’t get good characters. I don’t want to work in insipid roles. It is my mother tongue and I really want to work there. But where are the offers? I am not going to do anything for sensation and gimmick.

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