His life has been a perfect example of the famous lines by Paulo Coelho – When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.
A young man starts his journey in the hotel industry, leaves it midway to adorn the olive greens and now after all the ups and downs is a part of Tinsel town, facing the camera! An amazing journey of dreams from the city of Allahabad to the City of Dreams Mumbai. This Sunday read the story of Ex Indian Army officer, Captain Ajoy Chakraborty who now adorns various hats through his different roles on the screen.
Ajoy Chakraborty, although a Bong by birth and heart has an amazing Allahabadi Hindi diction. I wanted to know more about this…Reminiscing about his childhood he says, “My mother was a government school teacher and I am born and brought up in Allahabad. As she got transferred to Lucknow, a major part of my childhood was spent there. My mother was a single mother as I lost my father at 4. My mother and my Maasi ((who too lost her husband and was the Principal of a prestigious girls’ school, lived together). I was single-handedly brought up by mother. I was the centre of the lives of these two strong women who brought me up and instilled their values which I still carry with me.”
He further continues, “After my graduation, I chose hotel management as my career and took admission in the renowned IIHM in Mumbai. A career in Hotel management is riches at the top and rags at the bottom. It is not as glamorous as one assumes it to be and requires a lot of hard work. Within the first two months, I realized that I am not meant for this and I didn’t have a flair in this field. Luckily, soon thereafter, I got my selection letter from SSB as I had applied for Short Service Commission and Indian Army and almost thankfully I left to train for a career in the Army.
A new journey begins.
“I started my training at OTA Chennai and got the values of dedication, discipline, and hard work from the academy. There, I also got friends for life. Our academy batchmates are our extended family for the whole life.”
He started serving in the Indian Army as an officer in the 8 Grenadiers battalion with his first posting at Dehradun. But life had other plans. During that time his mother and maasi developed health issues, that were posing a grave concern.
“I decided to leave the Army after my initial contract of 5 years, which I did in 1992. I was the first one in the history of my Battalion who was choosing to pack his bags away from the olive. The decision was not easy and my seniors and many others tried to persuade me not to hang my boots but I felt a sense of duty towards my mother. Being a single mother is still considered as a taboo and women face a lot because of that but my mother did that decades ago and still made me what I was so now it was my turn to take care of her. So I bid adieu to my life in uniform to be able to resume my duties towards my mother and Maasi. Here I would like to mention, that, athough I wasn’t officially a part of my extended family (batchmates from the Army) the bond continued.”
That was a big decision leaving a lucrative, prestigious and secure job. Was he all set to start afresh?
“No”, he said laughing, “I did not have any plan B. I landed in Allahabad and started figuring out what I wanted to do. The next 16 years was a roller coaster where I tried my hands at many things. From dairy farming to personality development classes, I did it all.”
How could he keep his art alive during this time?
He took a long pause and said, “Even though I didn’t realize what was in store in my future, someone up there kept me connected to some or the other art. The Bengali culture has a special place for art. We keep ourselves connected with dance/drama/theatre since childhood. I too was a theatre and drama enthusiast since my school and college days.”
“At Allahabad, I got connected with All India Radio Allahabad and joined them as a drama artist. I was associated with all India radio for around 16 years and I did various radio dramas with them that give me a different kind of exposure and insights into the world around me and the presentation of stories as well.”
During this time on the work front, he started taking verbal ability, personality development and soft skill classes for management and law school prep class students and was getting busier day by day, thus getting less time for drama and theatre.
“One day a young friend of mine came and insisted that there was a role for me in a play being directed by him and that, I had to take out time for that. So I would finish off my classes at 7:00 p.m., go for rehearsals and believe me the theatre and the acting bug bit me again. This was somewhere in 2010 or 12. I started acting again in Allahabad theatre.”
“In November 2014, I did a short film and during its shoot, a co-artist and dear friend Ashish Shukla, who was an NSD pass out and had been working in the Mumbai Film and Television industry for many years told me “Dada, you should come to Mumbai!”
I looked at him questioningly and he said, “You are not some astounding actor but you are an amazingly dedicated and sincere actor and we need people like you.”
“He made me ponder on the thought which was dormant but had probably existed for years within my heart. Also, I felt that I had reached a plateau in my professional field, so why not take a chance!”
He further continues, “I decided to wait for some more time as that was the year when my son was appearing for class 10th boards and me as a father couldn’t leave him at this important juncture of his life. The year 2016 too passed with some important commitments keeping me away from this town. After a lot of thought, I took a decision, and finally, on January 21st, 2017, I started for Mumbai from Allahabad.” He added, “The night before, I decided to break the momentous news to my 84 years old mother. She thought I had gone completely insane, but I killed the argument with a very clichéd dialogue, I don’t wish to die with the feeling that I could have done it but I didn’t!”
Was it easy?
“As far as my decision is concerned, I stood strong but while leaving, the sight of my young daughter standing beside my wife and sobbing, not understanding that I was going to pursue my dream haunted my conscience for a long time.”
Life in Mumbai
“Mumbai was welcoming. I stayed the initial few months with my friends with whom I had worked in the short film. Those friends connected me to some audition groups and my journey began.”
“For me, it was a case of make or break and I used to be out in the field 5 days in a week, to give auditions. I somewhere feel that God tests our patience and sees the genuineness of effort.”
“I will say I was blessed because I landed in Mumbai on 22 Jan 2017 and on 2nd Feb I went to Rashmi Sharma Productions, met a casting director and within a few hours, I was selected for a cameo in, Shakti-The Astitva, a very popular ongoing serial. Very soon thereafter, around the month of March, I was selected for Tumhari Sulu as the brother-in-law of Vidya Balan’s character!”
“I won’t get into the nitty-gritty of initial days struggle but we need to be prepared, as this field has a lot of competition and there is no dearth of talented people. So nothing comes easy but perseverance pays.”
“On the first day of the shoot I met Vidya Balan and I told her that I was still pinching myself as I never imagined to meet her, let alone work with her! I shared that I had taken a gamble at the age of fifty-two!”
I still remember when she said, “You are lucky to have bagged a role in a feature film so soon! We need people like you who believe in their conviction and work around their passion and dreams and their luck in turn supports the whole film”. I still cherish those comments. Needless to say, TS was a hit!
This was how his journey into the city of dreams started and he started establishing himself. Blessed with an appealing voice, Ajoy has done many dubbing projects for well-known brands. He started getting a few advertisements and then Kulfi Kumar Bajewala, a popular Hindi serial on Star Plus channel happened, in which he did a longish cameo.
In between, he also did short films including My Mother’s Wedding with Delnaaz Irani, which was highly appreciated.
“I feel extremely humbled as the city embraced me and gave me an opportunity one after the other. Though the roles were small I was gaining experience and learning a lot. I did “Saheb Biwi Gangster-3” playing Minister Shashi Kant Shukla, and soon did a short role in “Sacred Games” with amazingly talented actors. I was in the same frame as established actors and though there were no dialogues, it gave my face recognition. People started saying “seen you somewhere!”
He kept on getting one project after another where he worked very hard. Every single role, even though minuscule, was taken up as a learning experience and after 3 years, his kitty is full of offers as well as work. Presently he is working in an ongoing Balaji serial – Pavitra Bhagya on Colours channel.
If your attitude is right and you work with all dedication, hard work pays off, and dreams come true.
Says Ajoy reminiscing his first day of the shoot. “My first day was a disaster and I was reprimanded by the director as I was new to the technicalities of the shoot. From there till movies and shooting my 6th feature film along with other work I feel I did pretty well.”
While listening to his whole journey couldn’t help asking, “What kept you going?”
“I love my work. The camera, lights and action give me new energy every time. Yes, I too had bad days and thoughts of giving up and heading back home passed my mind several times but my closest friends from my Army days, my batch mates, kept me going! No thanks can be enough for my wife Kakoli who held the fort at home with so much conviction and made sure our children turn out to be amazing people with individual personalities. I owe my success to my friends and family.”
Raised by strong women and supported by another what is your thought of women empowerment or feminism?
“Feminism is not a new concept but a new ‘term’ for India and even more restricted to urban India. Rural India is still very patriarchal and I feel it needs to be taken to grass-root level. Women’s empowerment is taught at home. When a man respects the women of the house, their children understand this and the concept of “WE” comes instead of “She” or “He”. Encouraging women to achieve their dreams, being there when they need and of course, sharing the household chores is the least one can contribute.”
“Though it can lose connection to the essence when someone takes on cudgels against rituals and change the culture just to prove feminism and freedom of choice. Following rituals and traditions is part of the culture and one’s choice. Do not mix the two and Indian culture and feminism can coexist. Though I believe it will take many more years to change the patriarchal mindset of society. I believe being feminist does not or should not stop you from being feminine.”
That was such an amazingly simple yet strong thought. In his word, “his life has been full of accidents and incidents now he is finally fulfilling his long-cherished dream.”
Ajoy Chakraborty comes across as a person who gives you enough reason to never give up your dream!
To read more by the Author
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