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Indian Actor Subrat Dutta on Netflix’s III Smoking Barrels + The Flickering of an Actor’s Imagination

July 4, 2019

Acting was a desire for Mumbai actor Subrat Dutta since the 70s. He began infusing dancing with acting. Through Dutta’s early starts, self-expression started to make him into a father, husband, and man. The Indian actor’s recent project Netflix’s III Smoking Barrels is a three-part story film which is about a child who goes on the run, a young adult who naively falls in with the wrong people, and a desperate man who turns to crime. Dutta expresses his beginnings as an actor in India, parenthood, and his identity as a man.

ATM: Are you ready to paint, my lad?

SD: Yes, I am. But, Gabrielle Alexandra Smith, what medium?

ATM: Abstract. My last one was an oil painting created in London. Walk into my mind with me, take my left hand. Close your eyes. We are at the Taj Mahal in India.

SD: Let’s go. 

ATM: Tell me the strengths and weaknesses of your character in Netflix’s III Smoking Barrels.

SD: When you play a character, it represents more than people’s responsibilities and it becomes more. You have to be very specific. Carefully choose gestures. Similar to a doctor, you need to postmortem your character and get into the skin of the character with empathy. Weaknesses makes a character real. Then automatically all will be there.

ATM: Let’s walk to the left near the side of the Taj Mahal.

SD: Gabrielle Alexandra Smith, I am with you and my left and now on your right hand. 

ATM: What time period is this film in?

SD: IIISMOKINGBARRELS is today’s story. The people who came to India after crossing the International boarder (from BANGLADESH) and living in India without any identity. 

ATM: Do you remember when you struggled like the film’s modern India?

SD: Yeah, because I am from such a family, such a place, and such a region. This was a place where taking a profession such as acting got seen as bizarre.

ATM: Close your eyes again. Let’s leave the Taj Mahal and go back to 1990s. Its 1993 now. 

SD: This is fun.

ATM: Tell me what you remember about first starting to act and your surroundings.

SD: I only understood one thing when I got to know about my surroundings about my country – there is nothing but to do work according to your wishes. For you and your surroundings. And very important I want to say. Otherwise all boundaries are political. I feel acting is the profession where I can be true to myself. Where I can feel like others think like others and simultaneously, I can be myself. In the beginning, I did a folk form of BENGAL(India) called JATRA and later called dance drama.

ATM: Combination of dancing and acting?

SD: Exactly.

ATM: The dancing is like how the “period” salsa dances to the end of this sentence. How the question mark tangos to the end of my question after your next response. 

SD: Interesting response. The director chooses a content. One of our dance dramas was African style. Now character express/ communicate through certain form of dances uses sometime local songs or only music. And there was definitely a beginning, middle, and end.

ATM: So, the studio had wooden floors?

SD: Yes, it did.

ATM: So, dancing made you self-expressive like acting?

SD:  Yes.

ATM: Open your eyes let’s leave the 90s and go back to the Taj Mahal. Let’s sit over there on the steps. 

SD: No, the back of the Taj Mahal has a nice view.

ATM: But the sight of the everglades is more rude and beautiful.

SD: Ok, let’s go there instead and then to the view of the back of the Taj Mahal.

ATM: Why does desperation lead your character to crime and not positive ways?

SD: Yes, he thinks that’s the way he will win. Survival of the fittest can be a man and able to feed his wife and be a father of his own child. But Alas!!! Nature took revenge naturally. You can get a temporary winning situation by doing crime, etc. 

ATM: Sensation or situation?

SD: Both. But if you want peace, a good sleep, want to take a breath, think freely, then you can’t achieve that doing those. Though it’s all about perception. If u want to laugh even.

ATM: How does your character’s wife and child view the situation?

 SD: My daughter in the film was a baby. But in real life, my daughter is 9 years old. And I just got separated from my wife. She supported me a lot.

ATM: How did your character’s absence affect them?

SD: In the film, my wife is worried, she is alright. In real life, my wife always supported me until now. She wishes me success more and more always, but she somehow needs instant result which is rare in a profession like this.

ATM: Explain the love between you and your onscreen wife and her love for you.

SD: My wife in the movie was a little bit different than my ex wife in real life. There was a connection with my wife in the movie. In the scenes shown, we had a mutual connection. In real life, we were in love and then we tried to adjust ourselves. After some time, we felt it’s better to be apart for the sake of respect to each other and our daughter.

ATM: Was your love like the love of a writer for their muse. The writer wants to love and hate them but can’t. The writer wants to forget them but keeps being haunted by the muse. Every time the writer wants to hate the muse, the feeling of Paul Gauguin putting his finishing brushstrokes on 1899 Two Tahitian Women replaces the emotion. Or was you all’s love like the writer sliding their muse down the window pane at 1:01 am in a dark room. While the back wash of his 1988 Château d’Yquem cleanses her body in drops like the clear raindrops that kisses the window on the 57th floor.

The midnight sky with the off white moon is their only light. It was the writer’s backwash that made the writer drop the muse slowly to the floor. The creaking of the muse’s left finger on top of the writer’s right hand is the same as the first 30 seconds in Beethoven 19th Moonlight Sonata. The rhythm of it supports of the muse’s back through the sliding down at the same time during the New York raindrops. They have no clothing, but the windows also have no clothing without its blinds and shades. It represents the eyes of the world without the window’s shirt, pants, and underwear.

The writer looks into the soul of the muse’s eyes while the muse’s voice resembles the last minutes of Beethoven’s Sonata. The writer stops. The writer sits on the lavender marble floor while stroking the muse’s dark brown hair as they look out into the window in earth’s stratosphere. The muse lays their head on the writer’s lap and says, “I’ve been all over the world and travel to different countries.” The writer says, “But have you been to outer space?

SD: Wow. Yes, in the beginning while being my girlfriend. Gabrielle Alexandra Smith, our love was beautiful. We made a daughter together. But, I think from the very beginning we were very different people with different beliefs and approaches to life. (She is a theater director). But at that age we thought we will overcome. We failed instead.

ATM: Why did the love fail?

SD: Now, she got bored of me perhaps. Though she didn’t fall out of love until now (as I know yet). Now, after a year. I am used to being single. But I miss my daughter, so I go to meet them because they live far from Mumbai. It is a three hours journey by flight. She knows my fault for sure and me too.  It’s vice versa.

ATM: Did you and your ex wife ever make love while listening to classical music such Sebastian, Beethoven, Mozart, or even Chopin?

SD: Ha, no.

ATM: What is your favorite number? 

SD: 7

ATM: Mine is 11 which makes 18. Ever been to 18th century India?

SD: No.

ATM: Close your eyes, again.

SD: Ok.

ATM: How does this husband, wife, and child dynamic change while we are in the 18th century?

SD: Woah. 

ATM: What? 

SD: I never thought of this kind of mathematics. Gabrielle Alexandra Smith, you just created a new mathematics. To answer your question, now, it’s very different and influenced by America, especially in Mumbai. My ex wife is a working woman. Now older women fall in love with younger women and men. And also same for older men. They are leaders in a family nowadays in Mumbai. Back then men were the leaders. But in some parts of India still women are the leaders of a family. It has been like this for the past 300 years. It varies according to region because it’s a vast and full of various different cultures. So, language also varies.

ATM: What would your masculine character express to the young kid?

SD: It’s your world. Don’t destroy it. And try to return to your surroundings what you got from it such as love. Respect our nature. Respect your elders. Try to listen to your heart.

ATM: Does your character see himself in the kid that decides to run with the wrong crowd in the film?

SD: Yeah, if I imagine. Depends on the situation. Child born. Like what is happening to the child. Because of war, class, and politics – people are forgetting whatever it may be religion and colour. Everybody’s blood is red.

ATM: Let’s leave the 18th Century and go back to the Taj Mahal. Open your eyes.

Subrat: Ok.

ATM: Express how your parents’ style differed from the young kid.

SD: They are God fearing people (parents). They still believe whatever happens it’s all God’s wishes, which I don’t believe as my character or in my personal life. They believe it’s all God wants.

ATM: Open your eyes as we leave the Taj Mahal. Politely walk out of my imagination. 

SD: Will do, Gabrielle Alexandra Smith. Your imagination is dreamy. What time is it in Washington, DC?

ATM: 3:12 pm Wednesday. What time is it in India?

SD: 12: 42 am Thursday. Gabrielle, how did you do this painting (interview)?

ATM: I ad libed it.

SD: It feels like a newer form of journalism. Your style feels dreamy. It feels like an abstract painting. You brought the world together with doing interviews, you created theories, and math formulas, infused science with entertainment, and just created new two forms of journalism in less than a week.

I am not sure anyone can ever interview like you or have your mind. You have a great imagination. Do not let anyone put you in a box. This is a masterpiece and so is your style. Gabrielle Alexandra Smith, the world is yours. I am honored to be interviewed by you. I hope to meet you one day. You are a pioneer.

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