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Journalist-filmmaker-biographer Ram Kamal Mukherjee recently unveiled the biography of the veteran actor Mithun Chakraborty, who has had an illustrious career in showbiz spanning over five decades and various languages. Titled, Mithun Chakraborty: The Dada Of Bollywood, the book chronicles the journey of the ‘Disco King’ of India and also an account of the person that he is, given by people he has worked with and his own family. “It’s two years of research and 15 years of experience. For me, it was like putting up a collage,” Mukherjee says.
In an exclusive conversation with SpotboyE.com, Ram traces back the journey of the book, right from convincing the actor to the final outcome.
CONVINCING THE ACTOR
Mithun didn’t want anyone to write his biography, be it me or anyone else, as he is so shy. He is a very jovial and nice person and it has been two decades since I have known him. My interaction with him would mostly be for work or parties but I had been following up his work and reading articles and interviews of him.
When I went to promote my second book, the biography of Hema Malini ji, on his show, Hema ji casually asked me why I don't write about Mithun next. And he was extremely shocked by that and told her why she was giving me ideas. But it was already in my mind. I wanted to do a book on him as I feel his contribution to Hindi cinema is huge. Apart from that, he is also the perfect story of rags to riches as he travelled from Kolkata to Mumbai, faced so much negativities but still did not give up. He actually managed to make his weaknesses his strengths and emerge as one of the most iconic actors from Indian cinema and that’s what fascinated me too.
While I was in lockdown, the Sushant Singh Rajput incident happened, and it was really shocking for me as for everyone else. And then the media started writing about outsiders and it became a constant feed wherever you saw. Everybody was talking about why he took that drastic step and why he didn't do this or that. That’s when I wondered who was the first unique personality who actually came from the outside and became an icon, and that’s when I realised that I had been reading and researching about Mithun, and it was the right time to write this book.
He is actually someone who came and stayed on benches in the Shivaji Park, roamed from one friend to another's house for free lunch and dinner. It’s actually a story from rags to riches and the Sushant Singh Rajput incident triggered this whole thing in me to write the book that will inspire these actors coming from outside with a dream.
Most of the actors, especially from that era, are old school and they are sceptical about such things as how it would shape up. There are different issues I had to handle, but I feel Mithun da was happy with the final outcome. The only thing he wanted me to do is to run it past his wife, Yogeeta ji. Her permission and her okay were the most important, and after reading the manuscript, she sent me a beautiful message saying my blessings are with you. The family had to approve the content and even I didn’t want to do anything that would unnecessarily upset anybody. Also, there are so many legalities these days and I didn’t want to get into a murky space where people are suing me. After writing a book, an author shouldn’t be driving to court.
JOURNEY OF WRITING THE BOOK AND INTERACTIONS WITH MITHUN
For me, it was all new as there were these little moments of joy, sorrow, breaking down and insecurities that we spoke about. Those things really mattered to me a lot. I spoke to his family, filmmakers, colleagues and the producers and directors that he worked with. It is a biography and it contains all dimensions of his personality from different points of view. It has his criticism as well, and also why he did B-grade films and was demoted into the category of B grade actors and why big directors like Yash Chopra didn’t want to work with him. It had all these questions that I got in my head as a journalist and he answered them all. I just hope people like them.
THE DISCO KING
Disco Dancer is a big chapter in the book. How the whole journey happened, how he got involved in it and how Disco Dancer became what it is today, is in the book. If you step out of India, and talk about Mithun Chakraborty in Russia or someplace else, they actually call him Jimmy. Mithun is actually called Jimmy in a lot of parts of the world. It was surprising to me as well as he would show me clips, texts and letters from his fans. It was crazy as they were from different countries and languages and most of them acknowledged him as Jimmy with a heart. Jimmy is probably his second name.
The book also tells why Mithun Da moved to Ooty. A lot of people give the reasons why, but, in the book, we have given the true reason behind it.
LEARNING FROM MITHUN'S JOURNEY
The lesson I learnt by interacting with him and writing about his life is that come what may, don’t give up. All you have is hope and he was always clinging on to it. And he always stood by his word. So, whatever you commit to, stand by that, that is what I learnt from him. I also learnt that nothing is a B grade in your life. Never think that some other person is getting something better than you. Mithun received three National Awards in his life, and none of them were for a film made by a mainstream filmmaker. So, you should always value whatever you receive in life.
Image source: SpotboyE archives, Instagram/ramkamalmukherjee/mithun__chakraborty_
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