Mithun Chakraborty’s popularity has not diminished even decades after he rocked the world as Disco Dancer. Not long ago in this same life, Mithun was a dreaded Naxalite. Born Gouranga Chakraborty, on July 16, 1952, in Dimla, Bengal, he was trained in martial arts and was a black belt. He was in the group of Bengal Naxalites and fought for their cause and was even in the ‘Wanted List’ of the Bengal police. He went to the prestigious ‘The Oriental Seminary School’ which is regarded as the earliest private school exclusive for the children of the wealthy and famous parents in Kolkata.
Later he pursued Bachelors in Science but did not complete it due to his involvement in Naxalism. However, he abandoned Naxalism, when his brother died in an accident, and Mithun had to support his family. After returning to his family from the clutches of Naxalism, his family advised him to join FTII (Film and Television Institute of India) where he did graduation in acting. Interestingly when eminent journalist and famed filmmaker Khwaja Ahmad Abbas made Naxalites, a movie depicting the issues of Naxalites in the early 80’s he took Mithun Chakraborty in the main lead and Mithun helped Abbas sahib to make the film more authentically. Unfortunately, the movie failed at the box office.
Eminent filmmaker Mrinal Sen gave him break in Mrigaya, which fetched him the Best Actor National Award. The award gave him hope of a smooth ride in Bollywood but alas the path to stardom was an arduous task, and he had spent many sleepless nights without food.
Here is Mithun talking about those days: “My name had reached Mumbai before I could. People in the industry and outside it knew all about my involvement with the Naxalite movement in Calcutta and my close links with Charu Mazumdar, the fiery leader of the Naxalites. I had quit the movement after there was a tragedy in my family, but the label of being a Naxalite moved with me wherever I went, whether it was the FTII in Pune or when I came to Bombay in the late seventies.
I almost decided not to do Khwaja Ahmad Abbas’s Naxalites, because I knew it would remind me of those troublesome days and nights running away from the police all the time and facing the risk of death anytime. But, it was the name of Abbas Sahab that inspired me to do the film. I was being branded as a dancer and a fighter more than an actor, and it was the chance of playing a Naxalite in a film directed by Abbas Sahab that made me accept the challenge of ”living” the life of a Naxalite again. The other big temptation was to work with a fantastic actress like Smita Patil, who was also totally involved in the making of the film.
The film was a great attempt to capture the spirit of the Naxalite movement but like all his other films, it did not do well at the box-office. For me, however, it was a great experience working with a man who was an example of simple living and high thinking at its best.”
Text by Aarti Kapur Singh