What is common between nobel laureate Amartya Sen, artist par excellence Jamini Roy, the legendary, Kishore Kumar, filmmaker Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Anushka Shankar, spiritual guru Anondomoi maa and yours truly? I wish I could say talent! Nope, that’s not the common factor as the ones I have listed other than myself are all Bengalis who have traversed the globe and spread the Bengali name far and wide – proud Bengalis, all of us!
But I am going to talk about the funny things I have encountered in being a ‘probashi bangali’, which when translated into the Queens language means THE TRAVELLING BONG!! As you all know, hopefully, I am an actor/director who lives and works in Bombay earning his daily bread from the glorious and larger than life industry called Bollywood (sorry Mr Bachchan!). But I do get the opportunity of travelling ever so often to Kolkata with film assignments and that’s when I realise how different I am from my cousins…
Deeply seeped in culture and tradition, the Bengali is an evolved creature. Art is life and commerce takes a back seat.. He can talk to you about any subject on planet earth and then some subjects from Mars and Venus… All he needs is fish and rice twice a day, bottle of the fine scotch and at least 10-12 hours of sleep, 2 in the day and 8 in the night. Have you ever tried to enter a convenience store in kolkata in the afternoon? They will shoo you away before you can say Jack Robinson. All because the Master is resting and his afternoon siesta cannot be broken on any account. No self respecting Bangali (as we pronounce it) will work between 2 and 5 in the afternoon!! Not even for copious amounts of moolah.
On a film set in kolkata, the most oft repeated line is… HOYE JAABE DADA, the literal translation of which is DON’T WORRY SIR, WILL HAPPEN. I remember a time when I was supposed to catch a flight back to Bombay after shooting the last day of the schedule.. Everyone in the crew knew that ‘Rohit Da’ has to leave by 4 pm.. I was told to report on the set by 7 am so that there would be no delays.. I reached at 7 am sharp to see the crew sitting and having breakfast without a care in the world… Because I was friends with all the lightmen etc, I asked them to hurry up and they said HOYE JAABE DADA… I got ready with make up and costume and walked out of my van to see nothing had moved an hour or so later.. they were still waiting as some smart guy had parked his car where the lights were supposed to be positioned… and the whole team was waiting for him to turn up… no one moved a muscle to go find the bloke… upon inquiry, I was told… ARRE HOYE JABE DADA… finally after much delay we started shooting and shot till 4.30 by which time I was perspiring and getting irritated as hell for I knew I would in all probability miss my flight… as soon as we canned the last shot, the production manager comes to me and says… DIDN’T I TELL YOU, HOYE JAABE DADA??? I wanted to scream out in frustration but couldn’t because as you know we Bengalis are a very cultured lot!
Having said that, I am proud of being a Bengali and even though the sun shines from under my a&*%#, I would still want to be born Bengali in my next life, only this time in Kolkata. It is the most eclectic and diverse city in the world! Long live Bengalis!