Digital plays lie between live theatres and cinema, says Joy Sengupta
Joy Sengupta is an Indian film and stage actor who worked in numerous Bollywood and Bengali cinema as well as theatre
Joy Sengupta is an Indian film and stage actor who worked in numerous Bollywood and Bengali cinema as well as theatre. He is best known for his debut feature, 'Hazaar Churasi Ki Maa'. Over the years, he has worked in a number of films and theatre. He recently starred in the film Class of '83 on Netflix. Apart from that, he is also known to dub the voice of Chris Evans/Captain America in Marvel Cinematic Universe in Hindi.
Joy Sengupta, who has been entertaining the audience for over three decades, opened up about his recent play 'Womanly Voices' on Zee Theatre and how he manages to juggle between theatre, television shows and films. The actor also listed a few advantages and disadvantages of plays being streamed online these days.
His acting journey started way back in school. He says, "It was all fun and games then but gradually I became aware of my talent as others too acknowledged it and told me that I had a future in acting. At college, we formed a dramatics society and I learnt a lot from peers and teachers and forged bonds for life. We dreamt, travelled and went on to form a theater group together. Some of my peers and associates are very well-known today like Manoj Bajpayee, Shoojit Sarkar, Piyush Mishra , Ashish Vidhyarthi and counting. Along the way, I also learnt to use my art not just for entertainment but also for social, political and educational purposes. It was very satisfying that I became an artiste, an activist and not just an actor."
His journey in television began when it was just beginning to burgeon in India. Joy says, "It was supposed to be more creative than the content that Hindi cinema was dishing out in the 90s and creatively, it was a very fulfilling time. Many directors like Anurag Basu who went on to make great cinema were at that time involved in television. I was lucky enough to also get my cinematic break with 'Hazaar Churasi Ki Maa' (1998 ) which was directed by one of the finest and most politically aware trailblazers of serious cinema in India, Govind Nihalani. I even won an award for this performance and became known as a serious, thinking actor. This paved the way for further projects including in Bengali cinema."
His success mantra has been very simple. He says, "I have constantly worked hard upon myself to be a responsible and reliable actor. I studied formally under the legendary theatre icon Ebrahim Alkazi from Living Theatre Academy of Drama, New Delhi and earned a diploma in theatre and acting. I trained under many great teachers and directors from the late Safdar Hashmi to Habib Tanvir to Barry John, attended many workshops and built a foundation before I started working as a professional actor."
Joy shares, "I have just relied upon my craft, my experience, and my confidence to create opportunities and a space for myself. So each performance of mine has led to more work. To be an eternal learner and never reach that point of complacency where you feel you know everything, has been my mantra, you can say. Plus I believe that whichever medium you work in, you must pour all of yourself, give your soul and heart to it and make sure that regardless of the fate of the project, you will get appreciated. This is how I have been accepted in so many different spaces be it theatre, television, cinema, radio or OTT."
When asked how he straddles between parallel cinema, commercial genres and the stage with equal ease Joy shares, "Regardless of the medium, or whether you are working in a commercial film or arthouse cinema, you must be honest, have clarity in communication, uplift the material with your experience, with your sensibility, intelligence and craft. You are channeling the content on the behalf of the writer and the director and you will have to emote to the best of your ability to create a performance that is worthy of their vision. In theatre, you have to just completely surrender yourself and commit to a moment as much as possible because only then you will make the connection with the live audience. So yes, in all genres and formats, honesty is the first ingredient, along with your energy, your sense of enjoyment, intelligence, constant curiosity and a basic confidence in the material. I don't consider myself to be just an actor but as a communicator and an artiste."
He worship cinema, he is a student of cinema but he also love theatre, Joy says, "I am addicted to cinema but when it comes to acting, theatre obviously occupies the bigger slice of my heart, because here the magic unfolds live and offers you a different kind of a thrill that you won't find anywhere else. It's a different kind of approach to your craft where art and practice come together to create an interactive energy. It is here that you get to give expression to your soul and its deepest artistic yearnings."
Speaking of digital plays, he says, "They fall somewhere between live theatre and cinema. In live theatre, you have no camera and in OTT theatre, you have no audience and yet the camera doesn't operate like it does in cinema. In cinema, the camera could be capturing you from different angles and in various shots and in OTT theater, the camera is the audience to which you respond. So here, we project our energy before the camera as we would before an audience but in a slightly controlled way."
About his recent play 'Womanly Voices' he says, "It has three different plays. The first play is about class conflict and is based on a story by Ismat Chughtai. It is about two girls who are competing with each other and then the one with less privilege gets even and avenges the injustices that have been heaped upon her. I play the bridegroom in the plot who becomes a pawn in this power play."
OTT has also given a platform to theatre and made it possible for us to sit at home and watch plays from different parts of the world. He says, "OTT is wonderful as it offers not just entertainment but a diversity of themes, content and stories from multiple cultures. It enables you to enjoy Norwegian, French, Italian, German, English, American, Australian, Japanese or Korean cinema and shows right at home. Suddenly a global door has opened for us to peek into, which is fantastic but it also can be detrimental to our mind because we can get into a consumer mode and stop experiencing life. And it is so important to experience life in order to create.
The negative aspect if any is that OTT completely consumes your time and your mind. Apart from that , it has created great opportunities and a massive platform for actors and writers because of its wide reach and its insatiable demand for content. Many actors who were earlier struggling to carve out an income are now employed gainfully and also getting to do good work. "