Trying to equal the intensity of the great Balraj Shani’s portrayal of the Kabuliwala in the classic 1961 film of that name,is not an easy task.
Danny Denzongpa, who is rarely seen on screen nowadays, is not even going there.
“To equal Balraj Sahni is not even a possibility. He is such a great actor. I’m doing it my own way, hoping I’d make some impact,” says Danny Denzongpa, that brilliant actor from Sikkim best known for films his villainishturn in films like Agneeepath and Dhund,who has also played the lead in the Bengali film Laal Kothi .
Kabuliwala a story based Rabindranath Tagore’s short story has a great emotional heft . It left Danny completely moved. “I don’t do much work these days. Actually, I never have. I get a lot of offers from influential corporate houses. But nothing that excites me.If I do smaller roles I’ll be typecast as ‘character’ actor.An appalling thought! Our cinema has nothing substantial to offer actors above 60 unless it’s AmitabhBachchan.In recent times I’ve enjoyed doing Neeraj Pandey’s Baby .Now, Kabuliwala.”
When a young director named Dev from the Film & Television Institute Of India came to Danny with the idea of doing Kabuliwala the actor fell in love with the idea.
“It is a modern take on the classic. But the basic story of a homesick Afghan dry-fruit seller’s ties with a little girl in Kolkata remains the same,” says Danny, adding that he has played the role with great restrain. “My interpretation of this Afghan character is much more subdued than what I did as an Afghan in Khuda Gawah. In fact I got the role of the Kabuliwala on the basis of Khuda Gawah,” says Danny, showering praise on his co-stars and director.
“The co-actors are so committed. I am working with am actress from the North East Gitanjali Thapa who is wonderful.I didn’t know she was a National award winner for her first film. As for the director, it is so refreshing to work with a new talent . Dev is filled with innovative ideas. He is making Kabuliwala. But not the way it as been made before.”
Portions of the film will be shot in Afghanistan and the topography with be matched in Ladakh.
Danny is excited about the role as it gives him a chance to display his range. “My age span for the role is from 45 to 80. Lots of elaborate makeup will be done to make me look older. I am enjoying the challenge of doing a character which is emotional and relevant.”
The shooting is nearly complete with just one song to be shot.Danny is excited to see how far this film goes. “The producer Sunil Doshi plans to take it to film festivals. This film is a process of self-discovery for me.”