Actor Joy Sengupta comfortably straddles between parallel and commercial genres
Ever since his debut film, Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa (1988) actor Joy Sengupta has been straddling the world of cinema, plays and television with equal ease. A student of Ebrahim Alkazi at Delhi’s Living Theatre Academy, Joy had been actively involved in street theatre groups like Jana Natya Manch. So, it came as no surprise when the erudite actor readily agreed to be a part of the movie Shohorer Upokotha based on renowned theatre playwright Badal Sircar’s famous street play Baki Itihas. Mumbai-based Sengupta talked with us about the same and how working on all genres of films has never been a problem for him. Excerpts:
What drew you to Shohorer Upokotha?
The first attraction was that it was adapted from Badal Sircar’s iconic play Baki Itihash. I was always so drawn to Sircar’s play, and have always been associated with street theatres and radical drama groups since a very young age. Sircar is one of the most revolutionary, avante garde thespian and turning his play into cinema is itself a huge attempt. The problem was how to contemporise the entire story which is about a middle-class youth in the 1960s trying to take his life. But the director (Bappa) has done a splendid job and it’s presented as a story within stories.
There are three parallel narrations, which is so interesting to try. I loved working with the crew, which was so dedicated and worked as a theatre group. Since I have the mental makeup of a street theatre worker, I cannot limit my contribution to only being an actor. I become a collaborator and try to help the budding talents in whichever way I can. It’s splendid to work with the young generation who attempts to think differently.
What are the other projects you will be seen in?
There’s the third season of Bengali web series Hello. I just completed filming for Rino Dutta’s City of Jackals, that’s about the struggles of subaltern lives from the perspective of workers. There are two Hindi web series, one for Sony Liv and the other for Jio’s OTT platform called Inspector Avinash. Also, Made In Heaven’s second season is on its way to completion and my cameo role will turn prominent this season. There’s also a series on Sheen Bora murder case for Ullu.
I am also going to be seen in Hindi movie Lubhd directed by Partha Ganguly. It’s a crime thriller, a road movie and much more and I play a corrupt temple mahant in the film. There are two more whodunnit films, one in Bengali with Tnusree and the other in Hindi.
You have straddled between parallel cinema, commercial genres and the stage with equal ease. How do you do it?
I always see acting in three broad categories — performing art, communication and mainstream. Artistic performances are for a very minimal number of audience to appreciate. Communication mainly comprises folk theatre while mainstream always has the pulse of the larger audience and what works with them. I merely try to strike a balance between the three without majorly compromising with my aspirations as an actor.
You are surviving in the acting industry for over two decades now. What’s the mantra?
There’s no formula. When I took up acting as a profession, it was purely out of passion and love, there was no strategy involved. I am lucky to have had come in close contact with such tall personalities as Habib Tanvir, Ebrahim Alkazi, Barry John, Lillete Dubey besides artists, painters, writers and political activists and I grew up reading all kinds of literature, listening to music and watching plays that nurture the soul. Hence my ambitions were never materialistic in nature. I always seek to work or associate with the kind of things that excite me.