In conversation with Assamese actor and comedian Jayanta Das
Have you been searching for a rented house in Guwahati? If you have ever done so, you must be familiar with the name of HemantaKakati - the fictitious television character who is apparently the saviour for all those searching for a rented place of accommodation in the gateway city. This particular landlord is known for dealing with his tenants with his signature brand of humour that keeps thousands of people all across the State glued to their television sets every evening.
In this issue of melange, we would like to introduce our readers with popular actor and television personality Jayanta Das, who has been regaling people of the State by bringing to life such fictitious characters with his trademark style of humour and powerful acting performances. Not just humour, Jayanta Das, in his almost four-decades long career, has proved his versatility as an actor who is comfortable in any role selected for him by the director. Starting off as a junior artist, he has slowly and steadily climbed the ranks to today be counted amongst the top actors of the State.
While most of us are familiar with his work on television, Das is also a prominent stage actor and has acted in a number of commercially successful full-length feature films. In fact, he is the lead protagonist in the Assamese feature film, Tandab of Pandab, which is doing pretty well in the box office.
The melange team entered into a conversation with the veteran actor at RabindraBhavan where he is presently working. Following are excerpts from the interview.
Q. Please tell us a bit about your childhood and growing up days.
Ans: I was born and brought up in Jurpukhuri area of Uzanbazar area in Guwahati in June, 1969. My father was late Pulin Chandra Das and my mother TamalKusum Das was a teacher of TC Girls High School. I did my initial schooling in Latasil Primary School, then did my primary education in Cotton Collegiate School and finally graduated from Cotton College. That is a brief synopsis of my educational life.
Q. You are a noted cricket player…
Ans: Yes. I used to play cricket since my childhood and have played at the district and State level. In fact, I got admitted to Cotton College on the sports merit quota. My admission to Cotton College is still a source of mystery to me. At that time, I was full of childhood pranks and Prof UdayadityaBharali somehow dragged me to Cotton College. When I started studying in Cotton College, my life starting changing for the better.
One day, my friend UjjalBhuyan, who is now a Senior Justice of Gauhati High Court, told me to do plays and make better use of my loud voice and acting abilities instead of loitering around. He brought me to AjitBaishya, who is my first guru as far as plays is concerned. After that, I started taking tutelage in acting from Dulal Roy, the doyen of theatre. During that period, I came into close contact with a number of stalwarts like late Pabitra KumarDeka, Bidyut Chakrabarty, Amulya Kakati, late Suranjit Gogoi, Tapan Das, Prabin Hazarika and the like.
I did a number of plays and it was only after I had honed my acting skills considerably through plays that I got invited for my first film.
Q. So you were interested in acting right from childhood?
Ans: No, I did not have any deep passion as such. Of course, I used to participate in plays just like every other child. Herein, I have to mention about AmulyaKakati who made me act in my first play at BalyaBhavan as a child. Later on, I also performed in plays in my school and college days.
Q. What was your childhood like? What did you aim to become in life?
Ans: That is a very difficult question for me to answer because I have been interested in both cricket and acting. However, I did not have any aim as such. Of course, I used to play cricket and always thought that I would get a job in the Railways later on. Due to some personal reason, I did not take up the job in Railways and the acting world came up in front of me quite suddenly. I never thought of taking up acting as a career. I used to take part in plays for the Directorate of Cultural Affairs just because I loved doing so. And when the job came up in RabindraBhavan, I applied and since I had experience of working for the department, I was obviously one of the first choice. I guess have just been following what destiny has in store for me.
Q. Please tell us about your entry in the world of films.
Ans: I made my entry into the world of films in PulakGogoi's Assamese film, Xendur. He had cast me and IndraBania as junior artists in that film. After that, I got a role in Nip Baruah'sXakuntala. From that time on, there has not been much to think on. Except for JahnuBarua, I have worked with almost all noted directors of Assam - right from Abdul Majid and Jones Mahalia to Dara Ahmed.
Q. When did you start focusing on comic roles?
Ans: In the initial days, most directors used to cast me in the role of the villain. I think I did my first comic role in the film, Pita Putra. After that, I became more popular for my comic roles. I am totally a director's actor - I do what my director wants me to do. I won't say that my acting is perfect but I always strive to give my best. As far as television serials are concerned, I must have done around 150 serials till now. Given the large number of serials in which I have acted, it is difficult for me to say as to when exactly I started doing comic roles.
Q. Your television. BharaGhar, has attained immense popularity among the people? Please tell us about your association with the serial.
Ans: Yes, by the grace of god, the serial has managed to find a spot in the hearts of the people. All the characters in BharaGhar are very talented individuals and the people have loved their acting skills. I still remember the moment when late AchyutBhagawati (from Rang channel) and Ramen Goswami, the script-writer of BharaGhar, had approached me with the project. Initially, we planned to do 50 episodes of the serial. But we received such tremendous response from the people of the State that we decided to extend it to 100 episodes.
Q. What is the role of dedication in becoming a successful actor?
Ans: It has a tremendous role to play. One needs a lot of dedication if he or she has to be successful in this field. In my own life, fate or destiny has brought me in touch with such dedicated people like Nip Barua, Dara Ahmed that I changed the course of my life after being inspired by them. And when I met late Bhabendra NathSaikia, it was the turning point of my life.
Q. Your latest film, Tandab of Pandab, is presently being screened in theatre halls of the State. What is the film based on?
Ans: Tandab of Pandab is a satirical comedy. It is based on the hopes and aspirations of five different people of different age-groups. The entire saga of how life brings them all together have been portrayed in a comic vein. However, it also has an important social message towards the end.
Q. Last year, there was an unprecedented craze for Assamese films. But it is sad that the momentum seems to have lost its pace. Whom do you blame for the situation?
Ans: Actually, both the makers and viewers of Assamese cinema are to be blamed for the current situation. The makers have not been able to make films that attract the audience. The viewers are at fault in the sense that Assamese people have not managed to inculcate the habit of watching films.
Q. Please tell us about your immediate family.
Ans: My wife Manashi Das is a singer herself and she runs a production house. Together, we have a daughter, Juhi Das, who is pursuing her graduations.