Thursday, April 24, 2014

A film and a friendship

A few months ago while reading a Hindi film review, a name suddenly seemed familiar, but I didn’t pay attention to it, moved on and finished reading the review. Even after moving to other news items, the name refused to leave me and I returned to the review to see it again. Chandan Roy Sanyal and the movie was D-Day. Chandan was a close friend of mine at the school I attended in Delhi – Raisina.

Not even once during the three years that I studied with Chandan did he show any interest in or flair for becoming an actor. He was short and average to look at with wavy hairs. He was shy and hardly looked at you while talking. However, he was also popular and was liked almost by everyone in class partly because he was good at studies, particularly at maths.

I watched D-Day on CD last week and was happy to hear my wife say he was quite natural. The movie is a thriller set mostly in Pakistan (Karachi) with parts of it in India. A mafia don (modeled on Dawood Ibrahim) is visiting Karachi to attend his son’s wedding. In Karachi are also a RAW agent and an ex-army officer on the mission to capture him and bring him to India to be tried for several terrorism cases filed against him in Indian courts. Chandan Sanyal has played the right hand man of the mafia don. 

The best part about the character Chandan has played is it’s multidimensional: a shrewd and merciless person with a touch of eccentricity who is also loyal to his master, the don. Chandan has been able to bring all these essences into his performance.

My father was in a transferable government job and after we stayed in Delhi for three years, he was transferred to Calcutta, our base. I got admitted in another school. My friend circle changed and so did my world. Consequently, Chandan started receding into a past I had left in Delhi.  Suddenly one day  I got a letter (it was before emails had become part of our lives) from him telling about his days in Delhi and school since I left. After that we started exchanging mails, roughly once in two months, updating each other with our lives in Delhi and Calcutta.

In these letters, we started writing about the crushes we had in school which we couldn't discuss freely while together at the school in Delhi. After a year or so the frequency of letters dropped until we stopped writing letters to each other completely, without realizing it. Some years later Chandan broke the silence.  I got a letter from him telling me that he would be visiting Calcutta to perform a play with his troop. This was the first time I came to know he had started acting in plays. I wrote back I would come and meet him.

The troop was lodging in the same stadium that they were staging the show in. I have forgotten what the play was but remember that they were staging one show every evening of their stay in Calcutta. A part of the troop was staying in a guest quarter inside and another was lodging in long tents with three tier iron beds inside. 

After walking in, as I was scanning the place, I saw a thin youth with long hairs waving at me. As I neared the youth, I saw a Chandan completely different from the one I knew in Delhi. 

We talked about our Delhi school days. He asked me about the crushes I had written about and said how they were placed in life then. There was a girl in our school who wasn't particularly good looking but very prim and proper and stylish. Chandan said he liked the girl but now she had moved to another place.

A patrician-looking man was loitering and Chandan told me he was their mentor, Habib Tanvir. Later I read about Tanvir and came to know his stature in Indian theatre. Chandan wanted me to stay back to watch the play, but it was quite far from my home, so I decided to leave earlier.

After returning to Delhi, Chandan wrote a letter and I responded to it, but that become the last time we wrote to each other. A year later I passed my board exams and joined a college and gradually Chandan became a friend who represented a phase which was behind me by many years now. Similarly, passing years and changing whether of life would have turned me, a friend from another time and space, into someone he knew once.

In D-Day Chandan seemed to have changed very little from how I had found him at the theatre venue, in Calcutta. 

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