The Curtain Raiser of the 4th Kolkata Literature Festival at the 41st International Kolkata Book Fair witnessed the presence of Bollywood’s own Chuck Norris, the winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 62nd Jio Filmfare Awards 2017, the man who rose from the ashes of mediocrity and societal pressure to become the watchword of 1970s film industry: Shatrughan Sinha. As Sundeep Bhutoria, his interviewer for the evening, called him, this “blend of a complete man” not only spoke of his trajectory devoid of a medical or an engineering degree, but also left the audience in splits with dialogues from his popular films.
As he addressed the younger generation in the audience, he rendered the ubiquitous saying “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” futile and revealed that one’s originality, coupled with confidence and passion, is the surest way to success, to create a name where you no longer imitate another. Being the only brother amongst four who failed to live up to his father’s wishes of practising medicine, he was allowed to embark on his acting career with a threat; should he fail, he would have to work as a compounder under his elder brother Dr., Bharat Sinha. To this day, he has believed that to let young minds wander off to where they belong, is the first sign of good parenting.
Halfway through the interaction, the actor turned Cabinet Minister admitted that politics reeks of corruption because the onus falls on the majority of unethical politicians. However, it was his social responsibility edged him on to take up the responsibility of those, whose only mouthpiece is constricted to a vote. “I have always believed in the concept of a healthy democracy, a tenet I have not compromised on even to this day”, he said, before adorning Bengal’s Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee with verbal accolades, calling her a “great lady” and praising the likes of Jyoti Basu, Kanshi Ram, Mayawati and L. K. Advani.
The loss of a meaningful friendship affects even the most powerful and for Mr. Sinha, it came in the form of the by-election opposite his best friend, Rajesh Khanna, who failed to forgive him for this “political blunder”. Despite several attempts, the latter refused to speak to him. Being admitted in the same hospital in 2012, Sinha’s last apology was marred by the death of that one friend who he shared the world with.
Possibly, for all he has achieved in life, he holds on to his uniqueness to identify himself amidst billions. “If I attempt to alter this, I would have to compromise on my self-respect and dignity”, he concluded. A 40- minute scene from India’s “Shotgun” left the audience in a mad frenzy with incessant camera flashes as they surrounded the actor, a haze which fails to blind this then nervous, small-town FTII student, anymore.