My art has given me enough immunity: Sujoy Prosad Chatterjee

My art has given me enough immunity: Sujoy Prosad Chatterjee

India Blooms News Service | 09 Dec 2016

As Kolkata gears up for Monologues, India's only solo art festival, (at ICCR on Dec 10 and 11), IBNS correspondent Sudipto Maity catches up with the festival's artistic director Sujoy Prosad Chatterjee. In a candid chat, he opens up about Monologues, theatre in Kolkata, Bengali cinema and LGBTQ rights. Excerpts:

How did Monologues happen?

MONOLOGUES happened in 2012 after my business partner walked off me and I was absolutely in doldrums. The festival was organised on the basis of funds raised from 25 friends and some patrons. 2013 MONOLOGUES had a rebirth with Chaity Ghosh and PHREEDOM4EVER coming on board to take it up as a brand property and here we are today in 2016 celebrating our baby steps to create a landmark in solo arts.

The solo art festival (Monologues) is in its fifth year and expanding. Do you plan to host the same/move it in another city in the future? If yes, when?

Expansion is purely the prerogative of PHREEDOM4EVER. Yes if we have enough funds, we would like to have city chapters but for sure the vision for 2017 is to bring about an international outlook to the festival.

Tell us a bit about this year's line-up.

This year we begin the first SOLO ROOM AWARDS with Suchismita Dasgupta as our art partner. This has been introduced to recognise youth performers in the arts scene. Luminaries like Srijato,  Srikanto Acharya and Debesh Chattopadhyay shall hand over the awards to artists like Soumyajit Majumdar,  Parantap Keton, Gaurav Chakrabarty,  Priyanka Sarkar, Dipayan Ganguly and many others. The performances are all at ICCR and  shall be by Sudarshan Chakravorty,  Kartikey Tripathi and Madhubanti Bagchi supported by Shibasish Banerjee on December 10th. On December 11th, Rupankar and Debshankar Halder are the heavyweights who shall perform.

So you serve as the artistic director of Monologues, India's only solo art festival, you host Conversations, Kolkata's only live chat show, tell me, are you consciously trying to stay away from the mainstream and do something different?

Yes I am. Entertainment in Kolkata is extremely cinema-oriented. My idea is not to challenge that but my focus is to keep moving in different genres of arts and be innovative. I am essentially an interdisciplinary artist which Kolkata shall probably realize once I have more grey hair.

What drives Sujoy Prosad Chatterjee to work harder, the joy of success or the fear of failure or a bit of both?

What drives me now is just the intensity to implement an idea off my brain if that finds a zone. I am never sure of success and failure. But I am only sure of what I can do. I am an artist. My art is my driver.

Was going through your old visiting card and it read 'Ideator', a decade and a few years later you seem to have added quite a few feathers in your hat. Talk us through this journey of yours from being just and ideator to the 'multi faceted personality' you are today.

The journey has been quite diverse. I do specialize in spoken words but theatre happened to me naturally. I would like to mention here that I am very fond of SOLO as an art form and I did write a solo play HAPPY BIRTHDAY to perform even on international shores. Films happened at a time when I wasn't expecting it and I did find a few interesting offers like BELASHESHE and JOGAJOG. I continue to teach marketing communications and engage in brand strategy consultancy for livelihood.

Sujoy you have been very vocal about LGBTQ rights and have identified yourself as one among them. How hard or easy was it for you to open up?

I am extremely grateful to my sister Anuradha Sen, who lives in Toronto who helped me to address my sexuality. I haven't identified myself as anything. I don't believe in boxes and will get vocal about rights that I believe in. Yes it was difficult to open up but my art helped me to transcend stereotypes.

What was the initial reaction from close corners? Did you fear a backlash?

My close friends accepted me as if there's nothing new that I was talking about. They are basically non-interefering and they don't care about my sex life. Yes backlashes are always there. I was veritably cheated by a bisexual theatre actor whom I fell in love with. But I managed to walk out of it.

Tell us a bit about your formative years. Were you bullied/trolled at any point? How do you deal with them?

I am still bullied or even trolled. Only the ways are different. You know what, after a while you learn to deal with parasites. My art has given me enough immunity.

Do you think modern Indian society is bit more receptive towards LGBTQ people?

Modern Indian society is receptive for sure but it has many layers and needs more awareness on gender sensitivity.

A lot is being written about and movies made keeping LGBTQ issues as subjects, in mainstream media, albeit sans government recognition. How do you view this dilemma?     

Well the dichotomy exists because there are myths that need to be busted for gay men and women. A film like KAPOOR & SONS dealt with the issue of "coming out" with maturity. That's hope enough. Government better keep out of sex lives and focus on economic security more.

Since you are into theatre as well as cinema, if I may ask you what comes to you naturally and which is an easier medium for you among the two?

Stage gives me a high any day more than films. Cinema in Kolkata is way too regressive. Theatre is flourishing as far as concepts are concerned. What I am mostly offered are stereotypes and nothing interesting comes my way.

My last question, like all, you too have detractors and some say that you are trying too hard to fill in the void created by the untimely demise of Rituparno Ghosh and place yourself as a LGBTQ icon in Kolkata, what would you say to them?

Rituda is iconic and I don't even have an iota of his intellect. So my detractors have to remain happy by assuming that I try and ape his style and even mannerisms. On the contrary, I try and learn from his lyricism and storytelling in cinema.

Images by Subhodeep Sardar/IBNS

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My art has given me enough immunity: Sujoy Prosad Chatterjee

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