Raja Ghosh, on his journey from Mr. Northeast to working with National Award winning director, Pradip Kurbah to Zee’s TV show, Saperan to actively teaching in Barry John’s acting academy.
Currently based in Nepal, his upcoming projects include an international venture with collaboration with artists like Hameed Sheikh and Gulshan Grover. His struggles were endless, experiences many. Few bitter, few sweet, and the recent surprise that 2017 had to offer to him. Excerpts.
Bhuvan Chand, who is Nepal’s first film heroine wants to launch me as well.
Q. A bundle of joy and energy, you have reasons to be happy now. Would you like to tell the readers why?
A. Thank you so much! Good gracious, my recent projects include being partnered with the biggest casting director in Nepal, Raj Rathor who has worked and cast more than 3000 ads in Nepal. It’s an international venture with Gulshan Grover and Hameed Sheikh which is being produced by Nakim Uddim, who is known as the movie mogul in Nepal. The movie is called ‘The Man From Kathmandu’ and it’s a Nepalese film in English with popular Nepalese actress, Anna Sharma and Puerto Ricos’s action star, Hose Manuel. The film awaits an international release. It’s a big project and I’m lucky I am a part of it.
Q. So is this going to be your debut performance in Nepali Cinema?
A. No, I am making my debut with another film which is going to be produced by Swarup Dhakal, who happens to be a popular star in Nepal. At present, I cannot reveal any other detail about the movie. The shooting will begin by January. Both Swarup and I will be seen in the film. Bhuvan Chand, who is Nepal’s first film heroine wants to launch me as well. So 2018 is going to be a good year for me.
Working with Pradip Kurbah has been one of the finest experiences that I have had so far.
Q. How did you come across this opportunity?
A. Barry John Acting Studio was starting a branch in Kathmandu and I was off to Nepal to look after it for some time. I had also planned on starting a theatre production of my own. I have been blessed to have been one of those rare students who is offered to teach and work with Barry John. So through that I was introduced to Raj Rathor and the rest of the things just followed.
Q. What is the overall exposure you received from Barry John institute where notable alumni’s like SRK, Mira Nair, Varun Dhawan and Freida Pinto have also been a part of?
A. The best decision I have taken about my acting career is to study at the Barry John Acting Studio. I was offered to teach immediately after my training. Barry John was impressed with my work and as I said earlier, the only reason why I am still pursuing acting is because of Barry John’s indomitable faith in me. He did not only give me a full-time teaching job but also gave me the liberty to audition, go out for shoots and also be a part of theatre productions. I have a dream job and I am really grateful to Barry John for doing so much for me. I am blessed that Barry John chose me as the Head Faculty at Barry John Acting Studio Nepal. I am indebted to him.
Q. You entered the movies through regional cinema. How was the experience of working with the National Award Winning Director, Pradip Kurbah?
A. I had done a Khasi film months before I had won Mr.North East which was directed by my fellow batchmate and Pradip Kurbah happened to be invited as the chief guest/panelist at the screening of the final year film students. A day after the screening the director of the student film called me up saying that Pradip Kurbah liked my acting and that he wanted to get in touch with me. That is how I met Pradip Kurbah and that’s how I was offered a role in a Khasi film called ‘Nga Ka Bad Family’. The film never made it to the big screen but I am told the producers of the film sold the rights of the film to Doordarshan Shillong.
One very famous and a very respected producer/actor, who I would not name, offered me to sleep with him and also told me that even if you accept my offer of sleeping with me you may or may not find work.
I was offered a very interesting character in his film, which won him his first, National Award; RI: Homeland of uncertainty. My schedules did not work out because Barry John had summoned me to Mumbai and I had to leave town immediately. Sadly, that is how I lost an opportunity to be a part of the film that won a National Award. Even after that about two months back, Pradip and I planned to work together for a Hindi TV series that he was pitching. Unfortunately things didn’t go as planned.
Working with Pradip Kurbah has been one of the finest experiences that I have had so far. He carries an amazing aura around him and an energy that you wish you could emulate. I remember I was very nervous the first day and he made me feel so comfortable on the sets and in front of the camera. I never really saw him lose his cool. He is the best director an actor can work with. He gave me the liberty to experiment and to play the character the way I wanted to play. I am looking forward to working with him in the future again.
Q. And after stepping your foot on Silver Screen you also acted in a TV series for ZEE. Tell us more about it.
A. Saperan happened in the year 2013. Saperan is based on a true story about two young girls who venture out of a village in pursuit of their dancing dream. I happen to be their Love interest. Yes, you got it right I was romancing two beautiful girls on screen. The role threw me off my comfort zone and pushed my boundaries as an actor.
Q. How different is acting in a regional film, different from theater or TV series?
A. Television Acting is a whole new genre and the most difficult and if you ask me, I’ll tell you why. Prior to doing television, I had received a good amount of exposure to films (regional) and theater. In films and theater, you are given scripts months or days before you go on stage or before a camera. This gives an actor an opportunity to work on his lines, research his character, work on your voice and movement etc. Hours and days of rehearsals and workshops ultimately make your craft look better for the audience. In television, you do not get the luxury of time because you are given dialogues hours before you shoot. Now that can be very challenging for actors. Memorizing lines becomes a priority and rehearsals are minimal. I would say that the films are a better option for any good actor in the world. Television in India is a means of survival for many. The theater is and will always be my first love. The thrill of performing for a live audience is inexplicable. I miss performing at the Prithvi Theatre.
Barry John Acting Studio changed my views on cinema drastically.
Q. Who inspired you and what is the kind of support you had from your family members in terms of support in career?
A. You mean who inspired me to become an Actor? I was in school when a teacher named Br. Eric Steven D’souza staged musical plays every year. I was enthralled by his production. I always wanted to be a part of that magic. I remember auditioning every year in school to be a part of it. You either had to be a good singer or a dancer to be a part of it. I was in the 6th standard when I started auditioning and I never made it. It was only in the 10th standard that Br. D’souza finally gave me an opportunity to a part of his play. The play’s name was King Arthur. He was nice enough to give me a role with dialogues. I still remember my first performance on stage. I knew it right there that this is what exactly I wanted to do with my life.
My parents separated when I was really young. My mother was the sole decision maker at home wholeheartedly accepted and supported my decision. My elder sister has also been my support system right from the time I stepped out of the door to become an actor. We were financially deprived so I had to take up Barry John’s offer to teach acting to fund my acting struggle in Mumbai. I must say I have been truly very blessed.
Q. For commoners in the northeast, acting would never be considered a stable profession. What motivated you take up acting seriously?
A. That’s very true. People don’t usually tread the path that I have taken mostly because of the struggle it entails. It’s not going to be easy unless you have strong influential connections and of course the money. I am not saying I have had influential connections or the money but I have been smart and have been strong on my networking skills. If you don’t have a rich background like myself it is imperative that you have a job that looks after your bread and butter. I am so grateful to Barry John because he offered me to teach acting at his studio at a time when I was almost packing my bags and going back home. Besides, it’s the fear of failure that has kept me going. That is what motivates me every single day. People who are closest to me will tell you how positive I am about my approach to life. I know it for a fact that I am going to make it.
Q. What is the kind of cinema that gathers your attention?
A. Initially, just like anyone else, I too held Bollywood and Hollywood films supreme. Barry John Acting Studio changed my views on cinema drastically. I was introduced to world cinema at the studio and ever since have been addicted to it. I am no longer picky about Cinema. I will sit and watch a film directed by Rohit Shetty with much ease as a film directed by Elia Kazan or Hayao Miyazaki. I love going to movies irrespective of genre, language or subject.
The prime reason why I have not made it big and have been dropped from projects on a number of occasions is because I have refused to sleep with producers.
Especially with so much happening in cinema, particularly in India, I think this is probably the best time to look beyond mainstream the Bollywood and Hollywood arena and explore more. There are some amazing regional movies being made in India. I can quickly name a few; Sairat, Thithi, Bela Seshe, Praktan, Court etc. The best thing about a Regional Cinema is the fact that they are so well rooted in specific cultures dealing with local issues, given the fact that we are a nation rich in heritage with many languages coexisting.
Q. As of now, is Bollywood in your plans then?
A. Nothing from Bollywood as of now but yes I have been dropped from many projects for very stupid reasons. I am still very persistent and am confident that I will have my dream debut very very soon. I remember Pradip Sarkar once told me over the phone, “Raja I must say you are very persistent”, and I replied saying “ I will always be”. I have already come very far going back would only be stupid. There is no giving up and there is no looking back at all. Patience after all, is the most important thing for an actor to have.
Q. What is your opinion on the casting couch industry prevalent in the film fraternity? Ever experienced something like this?
A. Now that’s a very good question and I can speak at length about it. The prime reason why I have not made it big and have been dropped from projects on a number of occasions is because I have refused to sleep with producers. One very famous and a very respected producer/actor, who I would not name, offered me to sleep with him and also told me that even if you accept my offer of sleeping with me you may or may not find work. I have never accepted such propositions and hence have lost out on huge opportunities.