Victor Banerjee: Film is like a one-night stand and theatre is a commitment

He recently received rave reviews for his captivating performance in Susant Misra’s ‘Josef – Born in Grace’ which was one of the several attractions at the Film Bazaar, organised by the National Film Development Corporation of India.

Victor Banerjee, the septuagenarian actor who celebrates his birthday today, feels among all the films he has appeared in, Satyajit Ray’s ‘Shatranj Ke Khilari’ had the biggest impact on his career. Lekh Tandon’s ‘Doosri Dulhan’ is also among his favourites.

While speaking about his more than four-decade long acting career, in an exclusive chat with ETimes Victor Banerjee reveals: ‘I am fortunate to have worked under world class directors like Satyajit Ray, David Lean, Mrinal Sen and Shyam Benegal. I belonged to a traditional Bengali family where watching films was not welcomed, acting in them was way beyond my thoughts. But since ‘Shatranj Ke Khilari’ was a Ray film, I got the chance to work under the auteur. It was because of this 1977 Hindi classic that I received my passport, and my family understood acting is also a respectable profession.”

‘Shatranj Ke Khilari’ had an ensemble cast including Sanjeev Kumar, Shabana Azmi, Saeed Jaffrey, Amjad Khan, Farida Jalal and Farooq Sheikh. Even Academy Award winning actor-director Richard Attenborough was seen British general James Outram in this film.

So, how he begins work on a film? How he gets into a character? Well, the veteran, young in heart, actor says: “Once I’ve been chosen for the film, I think about the character an awful lot. That’s my commitment to it. It is a whole time commitment. Every role is very difficult. When you begin to identify with a role and get into it, these affect you subconsciously and you begin to imbibe the features of the character. You become part of the role. Any role, any actor who is committed to it becomes part of the role for sure.”

We asked him when he finishes working on a film, is there a takeaway that he looks for. “The last payment. That’s it. Nothing else. I walk away. You see, theatre has a different kind of feeling. You become a family and you begin to love each other and you begin to live out of each other’s pockets. But films are very impersonal in that sense. I compare it to a wife and a prostitute. A film is like a one-night stand and theatre is a commitment.”

But why we don’t see him pushing for work these days? The charismatic actor has a fitting reply. “I don’t wish to because half the films made here are trash. Who do I respect over here? When the respectable people come to me eventually, I work for them. And some come just out of charity. Those are charity performances. They are being charitable towards me because I am an old-timer and a pensioner who needs some funds,” signs off Victor Banerjee.