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    I carry too much baggage: Victor Banerjee

    [Interview by Subhash K. Jha]
    Monday, April 18, 2005
    Victor Banerjee, whose role in "My Brother... Nikhil" has come in for critical acclaim, says he has still to find his feet in Bollywood as he carries a lot of baggage.

    "I carry too much baggage... the baggage of David Lean, Satyajit Ray, Shyam Benegal... Even now, I carry the baggage of Subhash Ghai and Ram Gopal Varma," Banerjee told IANS in an interview.

    At the same time, he is prepared to do "masala" stuff - Bollywood formula films because even though they might not be totally acceptable to audiences, they are "acceptable to my kitchen".

    "I''ve had enough of fame. Now I just want money," he said.

    He confessed he has never watched his own movies, barring the Bengali "Ghaire Bhaire".

    "I''ve never seen any of my films except ''Ghaire Bhaire'', which I was compelled to see three times," he said.

    Excerpts from the interview:

    Your performance as Sanjay Suri's father (in "My Brother...Nikhil") is a treat.

    Well, if it moistened your eyes I'm happy...The great thing about Nikhil was I could connect him to my own life. My father was a well-known sportsperson during his time. He brought me up under strict discipline like the ex-Armyman that he was. I remember once during a football match I got hurt. He didn't console me. He just let me carry on. He was a strict disciplinarian but a very loving person. He always wanted me to confront adversities and override them.

    Are you happy with your career at this juncture of your life?

    I need to get my feet in Bollywood. I'd like to think that people think I am a bit of an untouchable. I carry too much baggage... the baggage of David Lean, Satyajit Ray, Shyam Benegal... Even now I carry the baggage of Subhash Ghai and Ram Gopal Varma, with whom I did "Joggers Park" and "Bhoot".

    Producers in Bollywood think they can approach me only when there's something worthy of me. I've done masala stuff in Bollywood. I've just done a film called "Ho Sakta Hai".

    It's not acceptable to the audience that you should do something like that.

    But it's acceptable to my kitchen. The masala films provide the masala in my kitchen. I turned down Aparna Sen's new film. Really, I've had enough of fame. Now I just want money. They took Dhritiman Chatterjee in my place.

    But you're irreplaceable!

    Obviously, Aparna doesn't think so. But I'm very proud of my performance in "Bow Barracks". This was one of my most enjoyable experiences. Director Anjan Dutta was wonderful. And I was given artistic freedom to interpret my character. I worked for months to play the trumpet for my character. In appreciation of my work, the director gifted me trumpet as a souvenir. I also kept my wristwatch from "My Brother... Nikhil". I like to keep behind a memento from all my films.

    What do you play in "Bow Barracks"?

    I play an Anglo-Indian named Peter The Cheater, a complete cheater. A very colourful character. My friends whose opinion I value saw the film and said, "We didn't know you could act." I am so happy I could make them happy. And I'm so happy that men have cried watching my performance with my screen son Sanjay Suri in "My Brother... Nikhil". It reminds everyone of his own relationship with his father or his son.

    Do you think "My Brother... Nikhil" will find an audience?

    I don't see the masses going wild over it. I haven't seen the film. I never watch my own films. I've never seen any of my films except "Ghaire Bhaire", which I was compelled to see three times. The first time Satyajit Ray forced me to see it. The second time Dame Peggy Ashcroft wanted to see it with me in London. Then, when my uncle in London got to know I had escorted her, he wanted to know why I couldn't go with him. Lots of women fell in love with the character.

    It almost got me the best actor award at Cannes. But David Lean, with whom I was shooting "A Passage To India", wouldn't let me go.

    So you haven't even watched "A Passage To India"?

    Not even that. I very distinctly remember at the premiere in London, very strict orders were given that no one was to leave the auditorium. I walked out the minute the credits started.

    Was Onir able to direct you properly in "My Brother... Nikhil"?

    Yes, because he was very clear in his head about his ideas. And the script was one of the best I've ever read. I enjoyed working with this unit. Young people give you the energy to work better. I tune in better with younger people. Someone like Ram Gopal Varma or Onir know how to get work done without getting worked up.

    And now you've two films coming up?

    "Ho Sakta Hai" was offered to me while I was in London. I found it fascinating because the young director wanted me for the lead from the time he conceived it. Then, this other director Siddharth Srinivasan too thought of me for his film "Amawas" from the inception. There can be no greater privilege for an actor than to be in a director's first film. That moment stays with the director forever.

    What else?

    Nothing! Didn't you hear me? I'm out of work. By now, I should've been fighting for property by the sea next to Shah Rukh Khan's. But yes, I do have one more film, to be shot in London with Raima Sen and Rati Agnihotri. It's to be directed by a new chap named Gautam Varma. It's to be to keep my kitchen burning. Frankly, no filmmaker will come to me unless he has something appropriate for me.

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