Interview: Up Close with Actor TOTA ROY CHOWDHURY - to ABORTO Bangla Movie and Forward

Click Play to Listen to Tota Roy Chowdhury Chat with Sayantanee Dutt
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Tota Roychowdhuri WBRi Interview (Audio)Washington, DC / Fremont, CA / Kolkata, India, March 27, 2013 (Washington Bangla Radio): While studying in St. Xavier's College Calcutta, he happened to accompany a friend to a studio for a photo-shoot. After the friend's shoot, the photographer turned to him, telling him he has remarkable features and asking to allow him to take a few pictures of him. When told he was not going to be asked to pay for it, he allowed his pictures to be taken, which were put in the glass display by the photographer. Some days later, Bengali film director Prabhat Ray happened to visit the studio and the picture caught his eye. Prabhat was in the process of casting for his next film and was looking to bring in fresh faces, and called him. Thus began the remarkable acting career of Tota Roy Chowdhury. He talks with WBRi host Sayantanee Dutt in this exclusive audio interview.

At the time, Tota was very interested in joining India's military and preparing to take the Combined Defence Services examination. He was also the captain of his college Basketball team and used to participate in dance shows to make some extra money.

Tota Roy Chowdhury plays a lead role in Arindam Sil's (WBRi interview) Bengali film Aborto. His character Shyamal Sen is a middle class man born in North Kolkata. Shyamal is a smart, intelligent and ambitious Bengali who dreams of making it to the top in life and at work. He single-mindedly pursues his dream, neglecting his personal relationships with his wife, father, elder brother and aunt. Eventually he does reach his lofty goal, but when he gets there, he finds himself unsure if it was worth the sacrifices he chose to make to get there, and if what he gained was insignificant to what he had lost.

Writer-director Arindam Sil has said his debut film Aborto is a tribute to Satyajit Ray. The character of Shyamal intentionally has subtle shades of Ray's Shyamalendu from Seemabaddha.

Tota Roy Chowdhury wonders if Shyamal's "tunnel vision" and "mega-focus" on success is too "one dimensional". Unlike Shyamal, Tota in real life tries to maintain balance in all spheres of his life - be it his aspirations, hobbies, relationships or ambition. Not overtly ambitious, Tota likes to concentrate on the work in his hands, and strives to live up to the hopes and expectations of his fans and loved ones.

Arindam Sil and Tota Roy Chowdhury go back a long way. In fact, Arindam Sil had a tele-film on his mind with the story of Aborto, which he shared with Tota Roy Chowdhury. On hearing the story, Tota was adamant that Arindam save it for a full-length Bengali feature film, which Arindam Sil did and made the tele-film Choukath instead. Later on, Arindam Sil found a producer, brushed up the script of Aborto with the help of Atanu Ghosh (WBRi interview) and Padmanava Dasgupta, and signed up Tota Roy Chowdhury for the role of Shyamal Sen. Some of the best crew and actors also joined the project - Bickram Ghosh as music director, Soumik Haldar as cinematographer and Joya Ahsan (WBRi interview), Abir Chatterjee (WBRi interview), Reshmi Ghosh (WBRi interview), Saswata Chatterjee, Kaushik Ganguly, Ritwick Chakraborty and others as cast members.

Tota Roychowdhuri WBRi Interview (Audio)Tota Roy Chowdhury talks of Arindam Sil being a "strict" director, which he appreciates. Also, Arindam Sil is an accomplished actor himself, which is very advantageous for a director since he could demonstrate exactly what he wanted in the shots.

Actress Joya Ahsan from Bangladesh appears for the first time in a Kolkata Bangla movie with Aborto, opposite Tota Roy Chowdhury. A very serious actress who does her homework before coming to the set, Tota Roy Chowdhury expresses admiration and joy in working with her. He appreciates Jaya Ahsan's attention and dedication which allowed them to think about, discuss and shoot together tuned into each other's work which produced great results and mental satisfaction of having done their work well.

Tota Roychowdury will be seen soon in BIYE NOT OUT directed by Sudeshna Roy (WBRi interview) and Abhijit Guha co-starring Rituparna Sengupta, Indrajit Chakraborty, Dwitipriya Roy and others where he will also be seen performing a unique Tiger Dance. He is also debuting as a director with Bengali action film VILLAIN which he is co-directing.

In an inspirational part of the conversation that you will hear, Tota Roy Chowdhury talks about another mantra of his - do not do what you are not enjoying, irrespective of the money you could make. He makes every attempt to enjoy the 1,440 minutes that we have every day, as every minute that goes by is gone forever. Tota Roy Chowdhury started his acting career with negative roles, which he did for around six years in hero-centric films in a period in Bangla movies where the hero did everything (just short of wearing a saree and also doing the heroine's role, he jokes). But now he has established himself as an accomplished actor known for his versatility in all kinds of roles. This took some effort, as unlike Hollywood, actors do tend to get stereotyped in the Bengali film industry for playing certain kinds of roles. "I wanted to break out of my self-made barriers and moved to Television to start doing character roles, as at that time fabulous work was being done on TV unlike the movie industry".

Tota Roychowdhuri WBRi Interview (Audio)

In another story among the many Tota Roy Chowdhury shares with us in this interview, he describes his introduction with ace Bengali film-maker Rituparno Ghosh. At the time, he used to appear in two back-to-back television serials. In one serial, his role was of a student of a poor family who wanted to graduate in the first division and get a job. In the other one, he played the dynamic westernized son of an affluent industrialist who spoke English most of the time. One day Rituparno Ghosh happened to tune in to the last 10 minutes of the first serial, followed by the first 10 minutes of the next one, and was impressed by the versatility of Tota Roy Chowdhury who played very different roles. Soon, Rituparno Ghosh summoned him and offered him a role in a film that Sharmila Tagore, Raakhe and Nandita Das had already signed up for. The film was Shubho Mahurat (2003) and Tota Roychowdhury's performance was spectacular, prompting Rituparno Ghosh to cast him for Chokher Bali (2003) next, where he appeared with Aishwarya Rai, Prasenjit Chatterjee and Raima Sen. Tota Roy Chowdhury's career had taken off, and as we all know today, hard work and a sharp sense of finding challenging roles are continuing to serve him well. "Success is a journey and not a destination" are wise words indeed from the actor.

Watch ABORTO Indian Kolkata Bangla Movie Trailer (Youtube)

Find out what Tota Roy Chowdhury did in Xavotsav, how he spends time when not working, and many other aspects of the multi-talented Tota Roy Chowdhury as the interview progresses. You will get to know Tota Roy Chowdhury not just as a fabulous actor, but also as the great person that he is.

Bengali, 2013
Cast: Jaya Ahsan, Tota Roy Chowdhury, Reshmi Ghosh, Abir Chatterjee, Kaushik Ganguly, Saswata Chatterjee, Ritwik Chakraborty, Barun Chanda, Locket Chatterjee
Directed By: Arindam Sil
Written By: Arindam Sil
Screenplay By: Atanu Ghosh, Arindam Sil and Padmanava Das Gupta
Produced By: Globsyn Media Ventures, CineMine Entertainment, Maple Productions

Sayantanee DuttAn ardent recitation and elocution enthusiast, RJ Sayantanee Dutt lives in Fremont, CA and writes and anchors Pashchimi's popular Bangla radio show "Robibarer Ashor" on Radio Zindagi 1550 AM broadcasting in the San Francisco Bay area. Some of her wonderful recitation recordings have been featured on WBRi available on-demand in this post

Article by Supratim Sanyal, Washington, DC.