The actor-director-musician turned 71
It was Anjan Dutt’s birthday on January 19 and the actor-director-musician celebrated the day with a heartfelt note on his social media. He turned 71 and like a monologue, he talked about how he coped with the changing world on ‘his own terms’.
In a long post, Anjan wrote, “70 years didn't just slip past. I took my own time doing whatever my soul chose to do. It all started here in Darjeeling. Today I'm here in my favourite Darjeeling town feeling rather blessed.”
Anjan’s songs and films bring the flavour of Darjeeling – the place where he grew up. “It's here in St Paul's School that I first stepped on the stage and fell in love with theatre and acting. It's here that I first heard John Denver, Jimmy Cash, and Dr Hook and learnt to play a few chords on the guitar. At 19 I translated and directed my first theatre with equally desperate friends,” he wrote.
Anjan also elaborated on how he started theatre and how Mrinal Sen influenced him to fall in love with films as well. “Further (theatre) productions met with severe criticisms for being permissive and politically incorrect, till Mrinal Sen suddenly saw my theatre and literally forced into his cinema. I was more interested in theatre and wanted to leave for West Berlin. I was not extremely keen towards cinema. Sen opened up the world of cinema and I was swept away. I just fell headlong into his crazy world that was so different from me. I returned from Berlin a year earlier to become an assistant to Sen. I knew I would not get to be a celebrated actor since I had severe reservations at the Bangla cinema of the 80s, except for a handful of art film directors who cared for my work. I did get a few offers from makers whose scripts were so terribly bad that I avoided the mainstream,” he recalled.
Time and again Anjan maintained that his music came from ‘financial’ reasons. He has always been grateful to his audience for embracing his music. “It was purely out of fiscal reasons I took a chance at singing my ballads. They saved me from poverty at 40. Then I did manage to swing a certain audience, I got some funding for my cinema. Badadin was a disaster. Bow Barracks, Bong Connection fetched me an audience. I began to do what I loved most. Cinema,” he wrote.
Anjan admitted that his songs and cinema were always populist. “But as years passed, in the late 90s, the populist Bangla cinema took a weird turn. It opened up new ideas but ceased to break complete new ground. Therefore, my populist films became experimental. The bulk of my audience migrated to other parts of the country or world. They can't come to the halls in Kolkata. They wait for them on Amazon or Hoichoi… Even my concerts are mostly pan-Indian or organized abroad. The regular gigs at halls in Kalyani or Bardhaman have faded. Firstly my fees are too high to be viable in the suburban halls and I do not perform in "macha". Yet, I have and still am immensely enjoying the changes over the years, coping with them in my own terms,” the actor-director wrote.
Anjan expressed his gratitude and wrote, “I am sincerely grateful to all my audience and listeners here or elsewhere, for having stood by me and respected my dignity. I am truly overwhelmed that most of my audience and listeners don't regard me as a celeb. Let alone "guru". There is a certain Anglo-Bangla history that I managed to introduce to Bangla gaan and Bangla cinema for the first time. I love the Anglo-Bangla heritage. I am a product of that history that still exists in Kolkata and Darjeeling. The powers that be tried very hard to twist the essence of cosmopolitan "Bangaliana" into "babu culture ". They can't win totally. The heritage or the history of the Anglicized Bangali is there in every old part of Kolkata. It's there in books and restaurants that many of you adore. It's there and will always be,” the actor mentioned.
Talking about his signature style and dark glasses, Anjan wrote, “Every popular person has a self-style. The bongs found my dark glasses and drinking habit weird. The health-conscious, politically correct people still find me uneasy, and difficult to digest. But, I have no complaints. I have received more love than I ever imagined,” he wrote, adding, “Have a great January. Have fun. Just don't become old-fashioned.”