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Panchayat's Chandan Roy: ‘The problems of poor farmers and workers is the same everywhere’

Acting ambition:  Chandan Roy had always been inclined towards cinema

Acting ambition: Chandan Roy had always been inclined towards cinema

Like every outsider who comes to Mumbai with the dream of making it big in Bollywood, Chandan Roy also remembers his journey to and arrival in the megapolis very well. “October 17, 2017, Gareeb Rath train, from Nizamuddin to Bandra,” he laughs candidly in the middle of a long telephonic conversation. He even remembers the first meal in the city--rice and sitaphal sabzi (pumpkin curry).

Getting recognition in just two and half years isn’t so bad then, I tell Roy, who is better known these days as Vikas, the resident of the village Phulera, the gram sahayak (assistant) and right hand man of the hero and panchayat secretary Abhishek (Jitendra Kumar). Roy cuts the struggle further down to one and a half years since he had got on board Panchayat almost a year ago. Though the TVF web series has introduced him to the captive audience at large, his first role has been in an unreleased film called Jamun, which may soon be coming to a streaming platform near you. In between there were tiny walk on roles--thief, heroine’s brother, pickpocket etc--in TV series like Crime Alert. These may havedone nothing substantial for him but Roy looks back at them as his “internship” in the world of entertainment. “I understood the sets and grammar of the camera. How should one react in a close up shot for instance,” he says.

Originally from Mahnar block in Vaishali district of Bihar, Roy had always been inclined towards the world of cinema. “We used to rent TV and VCR and watch Shaktimaan , Captain Vyom , Chitrahaar , Rangoli etc… My friends would be playing cricket in the free time and I would go to the hall, on the sly, to watch Mithun Chakraborty and Govinda films,” he says.

There used to be amateur playwrights in the neighbourhood who would pen down plays on important events from the present and the past. “These were performed by the locals, for the locals,” he recollects the first brush with acting. He would quietly slip out at about 8.30 p.m. when everyone at home was –in the interiors everyone retires when the darkness falls and is up and about with the first rays of the sun, he tells us—and return to his bed and the folds of the blanket around midnight.

Striking a path

The reason for the secret mission was simple—no one in the family would have approved. The men in his extended family have either served the Indian army—in the 1962, 1965 and 1971 wars—or, like his father, been with the Bihar Police. “There were no linkages with acting whatsover. No one would have sided with me back then on the decision to do films or theatre. Even today, parents there would hit their children for watching films. It’s not like how elite appreciate it as a career [in the cities],” explains Roy. And then laughs loudly as he tells me that his perception of his own father was moulded by the representation of cops that he saw in films—strict, unbending and fearsome. “I was scared of my father, confided in my mother about my desire to become an actor,” he says disarmingly. No wonder Roy sounds quite like the happy go lucky character he plays in Panchayat. The kind who does not get bogged down by the problems but takes them in his stride, who would let things remain simple, even if unfairly so, rather than complicate them in his head.

He goes on to tell The Hindu about how he did Bachelors in Mass Communication in Patna, joined the Indian Institute of Mass Communication in Delhi and thereafter did a stint at Dainik Jagran newspaper. It was in Delhi that his steady association with theatre began. He worked with the Shahid Anwar’s Bahuroop theatre group at Jawaharlal Nehru University and at the National School of Drama as a freelance actor.

Roy’searly days in Mumbai were spent in Yari Road every day after a quick meal of dal-rice-pickle. “Bina ruke, bina thake, sadkon par bhagta rehta tha(I would be on the run without stopping or resting),” he says. He would be at Aram Nagar, in production house offices near Infinity Mall and MHADA for auditions, day in and day out. He struck gold in one such audition with Casting Bay for Panchayat. Initially chosen for a small role (that got played by director Deepak Kumar Mishra himself), Roy got a bigger piece of the pie owing to his sheer talent and a word from co-actor Raghuvir Yadav. “It is important for an actor to be at the right place at the right time. I was able to be where I was needed, was able to fill a vacant slot in Panchayat,” he says .

Roy managed to shine in the midst of a stellar cast of Yadav, Jitendra Kumar and Neena Gupta. He has known Yadav for long and considers him surrogate family of sorts. But the first day of rehearsals anyhow had him overawed and fumbling. It was when the director told him to let go, not get all keyed-up inside that he was able to find the right tone for his performance in the second round of rehearsals.

Joy of acting

The series was shot over two one-month long schedules in Sehore near Bhopal. Did the location or the village in Panchayat remind him of his own home in Bihar? “I think every village in India looks the same. The expressions, the problems, the lines on the forehead, the sweetness and innocence of the poor farmers and workers is the same everywhere,” he says. Roy flew back home on March 23, two days before the lockdown in Maharashtra. He doesn’t like seeing himself on screen but ensured that his mother did. “I told her that she should now not push me into applying for jobs in the police or in Saudi Arabia,” he says. Yes, the money may still not there but it shall also flow in some day.

“I didn’t leave the job in Delhi and come to Mumbai for buying a car or a bungalow. For me it’s all about getting a script in hand, wearing costume and make-up and acting, whether on stage or before the camera. I came here for the joy and love of acting,” he says, hoping he gets bigger and better shots at it when the world opens up again post COVID-19, and he gets a chance to pick up the loose threads of his new-found success. As for now, life, despite the high, is on a pause. And Roy is waiting to hit the play but ton again, like most of the world.


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Printable version | Aug 10, 2022 2:58:26 am | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/panchayats-chandan-roy-the-problems-of-poor-farmers-and-workers-is-the-same-everywhere/article31408686.ece