Danny Denzongpa: I howled in the theatre when I first saw the film Kabuliwala
The reclusive Danny Denzongpa rarely gets chatty with the press, but when the actor does, he makes it worth your while
A still from Bioscopewala, featuring Danny Denzongpa in the lead
When we dial up Danny Denzongpa's number on a Friday evening, we are greeted with a faint "hello". The network is choppy, his voice drifts in and out. "I am in a cool place," he says, referring to Sikkim, where the actor is at the moment. His film, Bioscopewala, based on Rabindranath Tagore's renowned story Kabuliwala, is prepping for release, but Denzongpa chooses to stay far from the hustle and bustle of promotion. "I like it here," says the man of few words.
The 70-year-old actor was a little boy when he saw the Balraj Sahni-starrer Kabuliwala (1961). He had also seen the Bengali film earlier, starring Chhabi Biswas. The Sahni film, however, had an impact on him altogether. "I remember our teacher had taken us to see the film and I was howling in the theatre," Denzongpa says. When he first read Tagore's story in school, he made a drawing inspired by it. "There was a man with a pagdi, standing in a hilly backdrop. There was a stream flowing by, and across it, was a little girl." Bioscopewala, he tells us, was originally supposed to star Amitabh Bachchan. "But somehow, that did not materialise. I have always been a huge fan of the film, so, when Sunil (Doshi, producer and co-writer) approached me, I jumped at the chance," he says.
Doing the film was like going back to his college days. "Most of the crew was from my film institute (FTII) — the director, writer, sound designer Resul (Pookutty). I was the senior most among them. I remember when we were shooting in Ladakh, and I would go jogging at early morning, they'd be surprised and tell me 'you're supposed to rest for two days'. But, I am from the hills!" laughs Denzongpa. He also knew his co-actor Geetanjali Thapa, who plays Minnie, well. His other co-actor Tisca Chopra also doubled up as his Afghani tutor. "I had a tutor on sets to correct my diction, but I would always turn to Tisca. She has stayed in Afghanistan for over 10 years and is fluent in the language."
Unlike the original film that was set in the 1940s, Bioscopewala comes forward in time, in the '80s, during the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Having also wrapped up shooting for the Kangana Ranaut starrer Manikarni: Queen of Jhansi, where he plays an army general who was like a father to the queen, the actor is now enjoying the quiet. He is not Mumbai-bound anytime soon, not even for the premiere of Bioscopewala. "This is the person I am. I'm very shy, I don't party, I stay away from events, I have not had a PR in 45 years. You don't see me talking to the press either, nor I am on television. It's not on purpose. I just don't like attracting attention towards myself." And of course, he's not on social media either. "The only thing I am on is my phone, and that also I forget about at times," he laughs.
Also Read: 7 Memorable Roles Of Danny Denzongpa
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