Happy Birthday, Mithun Chakraborty: Hum Paanch, Prem Pratigyaa And Others; A Look At His 5 Finest Performances

Mithun Chakraborty is celebrating his birthday today, and on this occasion, let's take a look at 5 of his finest performances!

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Happy Birthday, Mithun Chakraborty: Hum Paanch, Prem Pratigyaa And Others; A Look At His 5 Finest Performances
Life has not been too kind to Mithun Chakraborty. Personal problems, troublesome relationships and wrong political choices have plagued this indomitable spirited artiste forever. In a  career of 45 years, he has done more than 275 films. A  majority of them have been out-and-out bilge. When I asked him once what the point was in doing films like Gunda, Jallad, Zakhmee Sipahi and  The Don(not to be confused with Shah  Rukh’s Don)  Mithunda patiently enlightened me on how much money these so-called C-grade films had made. “Much as  I’d like to do only the films that challenge me as an actor  I cannot run my kitchen on Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s Tahader Katha and  Goutam Ghose’s Gudiya. You have to understand that at the end of the day, I’m a hero of the masses. They love me for Gun Master  G-9 and Disco Dancer, not Swami Vivekananda and Sagar Sangam”. In an interview he did with me in 2014 right after he was nominated into the  Rajya Sabha, Mithunda said to me, “I’d like to say one thing very clearly. I am now two people. One is an actor, and I’ll never quit being an actor. As long as I get good roles I’ll do them. If I take on bad roles my fans would be deeply offended. I’ve to play characters that justify my presence. The second Mithun  Chakraborty is the man who has been given this responsibility by Didi (Mamta  Bannerjee). Just as the characters I play have to justify my presence I’ve to make sure my role in the Rajya Sabha is not a let-down. I am no stranger to social causes. For the last twenty years, I’ve been the chairperson of the Mazdoor Union. I am also the president of the Artistes Union, etc. In Bengal, I’m the vice-chairman of the artistes’ forum. I always fought for the down-trodden and the underprivileged. I’ll continue to do so. I have a trust which has educated 3,500 students, most of them girls. I fund the trust from the paid public appearances I make, cutting ribbons, etc. I do these things only so my trust can carry on with its endeavour. I’ve never spoken about this. I want to carry my responsibility as a citizen forward by using the money that I get as a Rajya Sabha member to help the needy. I want to use the Rajya Sabha funds for the collective good. Pehle toh bahot paisa kamata ttha toh bahot logon ki madad karta ttha. Ab kam kamata hoon to kam logon ki madad karta hoon. I want to make sure that the funds from the Rajya Sabha are put to optimum use.”

Forever trying to do the right thing I’ve seen  Mithunda give measured correct performances in films that did not belong to him , for example in Mukul Anand’s  Agneepath where his South Indian coconut seller act was  a  riot. I have seen him make a  smash hit out of terrible films like Disco Dancer and Pyar Jhukta  Nahin. I have seen him dance fight and cry. He  has never let a  film down, though the films that he  has done have often betrayed him.

A look at his  5 finest performances.

1. Mrigaya (1976):  To play the tribal  character Ghinua who  falls into an uneasy friendship of unequals  with a  British colonist,  Mrinal  Sen  asked  Mithunda to go bareback throughout the  film. Among  the many firsts that  Mithunda  has to  his credit  he is also the first and only hero to remain clad   in a dhoti throughout the  film. But Mithunda’s main challenge was to make  Ghinua a metaphor of  the  brown/bronze servility  during the British Raj. He not only portrayed an embodiment   of  the conflicting  emotions  of the time, he also  brought  out the sheer tragedy  of  an individual  grappling with  his growing  disenchantment with his loyalty towards his benefactor. The  performance won Mithunda the  first  of his 3  National awards for best actor.

2. Hum Paanch (1980):  A remake of  the renowned  Telugu  director Bapu’s Kannada hit  Paduvaaralli Pandavaru. Hum Paanch had Mithun Chakraborty steal the show  from the entire stellar which included Shabana Azmi , Sanjeev Kumar  and Amrish Puri. Mithun played Bheema, Amrish Puri’s Man Friday, a  slave to his master’s every whim  and desire,  until Bheema  explodes  in protest. Mithunda later  told me  he had a lot  of tapped anger in him which he used  in this film. This the most  effective  portrayal  of  tribal angst after Om Puri’s  Aakrosh.

3. Tahader Katha (1992): Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s paean  to the  homeland and to those  who gave their life  and blood to  its freedom  . Mithunda is emphatically  moving as  Shibnath  an aging freedom fighter  lately released  from jail after many years , he  cannot come  to terms  with  the  changed  moral values  of  a society  in a  fiscal flux.  Mithunda projected his  character’s fractured connectivity with his  environment effortlessly. The  performance won him his  second National  award for best actor.

4. Prem Pratigyaa (1989):  Mithun and  director Bapu shared  a tremendous kinship that  imbued their  films together from Hum Panch to  Parmaatma  with a   special  hue. Of all  their  collaborations  Prem Pratiggya stands   out  for  being the single-most romantic  film of Mithunda’s career. He played a goonda  in  love with a  selfrighteous  dabbewali Madhuri Dixit.Mithun’s romantic scenes  with Madhuri simmered with an   untapped passion. This actor  knows  how to  cloak his  hurt  and  wounded pride while  surrendering unconditionally to  the  feelings  that  underline the  emotion of love.In  1989  Mithunda  had a staggering record-breaking   17 releases in Hindi  including Agneepath for which he  won a Filmfare award  for best supporting actor.

5. Swami Vivekanand (1998):  No, Mithunda   didn’t play Swami Vivekanand  , though he wished he did. He  was cast as  Vivekanand’s  guru Ramkrishna. Though the  film went horribly wrong  Mithunda’s  performance  stood out. He won his  third National  award for this  film. Strangely  this is  the  only biographical   character  this  underrated  actor has  played  in his  entire career.

Image Source: youtube/prabhukrupahikelam/bollywoodclassics/cinemeasofindia/raregems/gautamhalder, spotboye archives