Actor Subrat Dutta talks about the kind of roles which are for posterity
It’s impossible to guess who Subrat Dutta will be playing next. From some of the most prolific art house outings to independent web series, the National School of Drama alum has aced every genre and doesn’t intend to get predictable any time soon. His latest web series Shobdo Jobdo is getting rave reviews, his next outing will see him play a Kathak guru, and he is also set to direct a play in Mumbai with his NSD peers. And the actor will still choose a well-written role over a big-budget caper anyday, because in his words, it is the only way to live on. We caught up with the actor in a free-wheeling chat about his early NSD days, his cinematic priorities and more.
You are playing a kathak dancer in your next Tollywood film
Yes. When I was 17 I undertook 6 months training in Kathak and I have performed Rabindra nritya in shows for years.
But you didn’t always want to be an actor...
No, I was pursuing zoology and then an MBA, and almost accidentally I did a 40-day workshop in Berhampore that was co-organized by the National School of Drama. And it was there that I got to know that you can learn acting like language! Then I got through to NSD where there are only 20 seats, but you can get scholarships. Then I went to London on another scholarship by the British Council, I went to The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. And after that, I thought ‘okay, now I can be an actor.’
Your first film was Uttara with Buddhadeb Dasgupta...
Yes, I shot Uttara first, that was my first Bengali film. My first Hindi film was Karvaan (1999). But Uttara has been such a cult film. In fact, I just got to know from Sohini (Dasgupta’s wife) that it had won in the Venice Film Festival. It was his only which has been honoured in Venice.
How do you choose your roles now?
I have realised that it's better to play significant roles in good cinema rather than small ones in big-budget films. The films I’ve been in, will still be relevant 10 years down the line. People still talk about Guru Dutt and his body of work, but not about Govinda, who was also terrific. If I wanted to live on even after my death, I will have to do significant, well-written roles
Do you enjoy the webspace?
Yes, a great thing about the webspace is that the characters can really flourish, unlike in some films. My first web series was Powder, then I was in Selection Day. I was playing Ajit in Hoichoi’s Byomkesh, but I quit because I didn’t have much to do. My next release is Headquarters Lalbazzar on Zee5, it’s a bilingual show.
You are also directing a play in Mumbai…
It’s called Husband-in-Law, it’s a comedy, it stars my SD peers, it’s written by Sangeet Natak Akademi Award winner Abhiram Bhadkamkar. When I work with people from NSD, there’s a certain level of communication we share. Sab milke karte hai, we learn from each other, it’s improvised, we adapt.