The tall and lanky performer, not really considered a typical hero, shone with his debut act in Mrinal Sen’s ‘Mrigayaa’ in 1976. It was this cinematic outing that earned him his first National Film Award for best actor.
But before the accolades, there was struggle. And plenty for Mithun Chakraborty.
From surviving on street food when he first came to then Bombay, Mithun – born as Gauranga Chakraborty – had gone through his fair share of struggle. In the ’70s he was a part of the Naxalite movement that saw young people protesting against the establishment and calling out the injustices meted out.
In such a backdrop, his rise to fame is an inspiring journey filled with nothing but challenges.
Chakraborty graduated from the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune in 1973 and it was after this that he was offered to play a young tribal named Ghinua in Sen’s ‘Mrigayaa’. Though the actor had already managed some brand recall in a few Bengali films, the journey to carve a place for himself in Hindi films was an arduous one.
With no filmy connections to flaunt, this 1st-generation actor didn’t know anyone when he landed in the city of tinsel dreams. He also didn’t have a place to stay. For the longest time, the star, fondly called ‘Mithun da’ by his fans of him, would sleep on the top of water tanks situated on the terrace of buildings as he had no roof over his head. In earlier interviews the ‘Tahader Katha’ actor reminisced that sleeping on the top of water tanks shielded him from the glare of guards and averted being caught by them.
During an interview with
etc In 2010, the actor had talked about his struggles, saying that “he literally came from the footpath”.
“In Mumbai city, I have spent many days where I sometimes slept in Five Gardens, and sometimes slept in front of someone’s hostel,” he had said.
The actor also recalled that he had to take a membership in the Matunga Gymkhana club so that he could use the shower facilities.
“A friend of mine got me a membership to Matunga Gymkhana so I could use the bathroom. I would go there in the morning and get fresh, brush my teeth, and then go on my way,” the actor recalled.
Upon leaving the Gymkhana, Mithun Da would often be unaware from where he would get his next meal or his halt for the night. His situation with him was so tough that the actor also struggled with suicidal thoughts. Several media reports also reveal that the actor, during his initial days in Mumbai, would dance at weddings to get a one-time meal.
“I don’t want to break the spirits of those who are also struggling. There were times when I thought I won’t be able to do it, thought that maybe I will have to commit suicide in the end. There were a lot of reasons (behind his suicidal thoughts). I couldn’t go back to Kolkata because of my political background and I could not do anything. Please never think that it is right to end your life without fighting. But I had that in me that I didn’t know how to lose, I would not take even defeat in sports,” the actor said in the same interview.
In 1982, Chakraborty played Jimmy in the 1982 film ‘Disco Dancer’, which turned out to be a superhit film and earned a lot of praise. Apart from this, the actor is also remembered for his acting skills in films such as ‘Surakksha’, ‘Pyari Behna’, ‘Pyar Jhukta Nahin’, ‘Wardat’ and more.
The actor bagged a Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1991 for his performance as Krishnan Iyer Nariyal Paniwala in the film ‘Agneepath’ which also starred Amitabh Bachchan. This was followed by two more National Film Awards for his power-packed performance in the 1992 film ‘Tahader Katha’ and the 1998 film ‘Swami Vivekananda’.
Decades later, the actor has appeared in over 350 films including Bengali, Hindi, Odia, Bhojpuri and more. Though the star gave numerous hits, many fans believe that Chakraborty’s talent was never fully explored.
“I am more than 370 films old now. There was a time when I would do four shifts a day (of different films), where the dialogues and scenes would almost be the same because fans only wanted to see that — dance, fights, and whistle — worthy dialogues. Today, I only do those roles which tickle or pinch me, otherwise, I don’t,” the actor told MW magazine in a recent interview.
Even in his 70s, Chakraborty remains unstoppable. The actor’s last film, ‘The Kashmir Files’, which was released worldwide on March 11 earlier this year, was a commercial success. Later, the star also made his OTT debut with his first web series called ‘Bestseller’ which started premiering on Amazon Prime on February 18, 2022.
Apart from films and series, the actor has also appeared in dance reality show, ‘Dance India Dance’. He was also the Grand Master of Dance India Dance L’il Masters and also the host of reality show ‘Dadagiri Unlimited’ which aired on Zee Bangla.
Chakraborty also had a short stint in politics. At one time, he was close to West Bengal CM Jyoti Basu—but his entry into Parliament was facilitated by none other than the Trinamool Congress supreme and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. But in 2016, he resigned as Rajya Sabha MP following allegations of corruption in the Rose Valley scam case. Five years later, he joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in a March 2021 rally in the run-up to the state Assembly polls.
Not just politics, Mithun also made headlines when he became the country’s highest tax payer in 1986 – sharing space with then box-office biggies Jeetendra and Amitabh Bachchan. After the 1985 ‘Pyar Jhukta Nahin’ became a runaway hit, it also reconfirmed Chakraborty’s top star status.
The actor has never shied away from talking about his struggling days. After all, his never-give-up attitude and the strength to keep pushing continues to give motivation to those who may find themselves in a similar spot. At present, Chakraborty has not only made it as an actor but also is a very successful businessman.
On his 72nd birthday, we wish that the star continues to shine brighter than ever.