An iconic name in the area of theatre, movies and television- the tall, smart and handsome man with a baritone voice, Sabyasachi Chakrabarty has been enjoying a fan following from 9 to 90 across the demography. The quintessential thinking man’s actor, this is also not a secret for anyone that onscreen “Feluda” is an avid traveler, wildlife lover and photographer. TW team is honored to have an exclusive candid talk with the man himself, where he, in his typical humble and witty style shared with us his thoughts on various areas related to his interests, passions and travel in future
When and how the love affair with wildlife photography actually started?
I was gifted an ordinary aim & shoot film camera by my father in 1969. It was a MINOLTA AF2M. I used to load films and click pictures of our travels and occasionally at home, when we had visiting relatives. It was much later in 1983 that I started clicking travel pictures seriously. In 1985 we went to Ghatshila, Bakreswar, Bolpur, Digha and some other places where I could click a few pictures. It was quite uninteresting. In 1996 we went to Palamau Tiger Reserve. It was then that I witnessed chitals, monkeys, langurs, gaurs, and elephants from a close distance. I clicked at random. The pictures were very ordinary, but my interest was aroused. Later I was loaned cameras and lenses by Hirak Sen, Utpal Sarkar, Pranab Basu, etc. It was then that I seriously started photographing wildlife.
Inspite of the fact that there is a steady growth in tourism and a number of people opting for vacations to various tourist destinations in the last 10-15 years, there is also an observation of a growing insensitivity and indifference towards nature and wildlife among people in general. What’s your view on this?
In the years of my travel to various sanctuaries, national parks and wildlife refuges, I witnessed a steady increase in the number of visitors, who realised that zoological parks are not exciting enough. Periodicals, newspapers, journals, etc came up with absorbing articles and photographs of freely roaming wildlife, which prompted people to choose nature spots and wildlife reserves. The general tourists, who were not aware of animal behaviour and the importance of nature conservation, unknowingly polluted the destinations. Authorities began to impose strict rules and regulations. The influx rose alarmingly inspite of the huge increase in rates and charges. The forest departments are facing the daunting task of trying to save Nature and Wildlife from this onslaught. I do not think the EIA 2020 is proving to be a help in the process.
- What do you think is the future of wildlife tourism in India, specially after the post covid situation?
The future of wildlife tourism does not project an optimistic future. Due to the worldwide lockdown, the pollution factor improved drastically. I fear that post lockdown situation might push us back to square one. Any forest field worker would confirm the rejuvenated status of nature and wildlife. The sudden rush of tourists to nature parks and wildlife refuges would obviously cause more harm than good.
- You have always maintained that theatre and travel have been your first preference. How do you manage/ divide the balance among your commitments to theater, movies, and televisions along with travel –photography?
Cinema and television are avenues of my earnings. Professionally I am committed to my assignments. Theatre does not pay me. The stage has been my acting school. My love for theatre is unlikely to fade soon. However, I am a little desperate about my travels to wildlife destinations. This pandemic has prevented us from the due tours for a long time now. As before, I shall schedule my trips well before time so that the shooting schedules and shows are not affected. Usually, my wildlife photography tours do not last for more than 4/5 days, hence these tours do not affect my assignments.
- Share with us your favourite adventure/experience in the forest.
There have been a number of interesting experiences in the forests. Since we love to drive to our destinations, we prefer to roam the forests in our own car, if allowed. Such safari rides have been numerous. Those days some forests allowed us to tour in our own vehicles. The rides were in Jaldapara, Gorumara, Buxa, Mahananda, Nagzira, Melghat, Bandipur, Nagarhole, Corbett, Sariska, Saranda, etc. The rides were all unique. To mention a few, the safari at Nagzira was the toughest. Long unused tracks, deep stream beds, tall grasses, all made our trip an exciting adventure- finally resulting in broken leaf springs. The Melghat trip with a hastily and crudely welded broken tie-rod was edgy. The Buxa trip with an inexperienced guide became a trip of uncertainty when we lost our way. Nervous charging elephants, leeches, sand pits added to our fears.
- Your favorite road trip?
The most memorable road trip was from Kolkata to Palamau and back, with a 22-year-old Ambassador car. A loan engine, resoled tires, clogged radiator, bad roads, rickety suspension and worn-out brake shoes made it a trip to remember. The door locks were unsafe, so we installed simple hatch bolts to secure them. We used the rear seat head-end shelf underpart to construct three compartments. We constructed an insulated aluminum water tank and placed it in one compartment, connected to a rubber pipe that we used to fill up water bottles. The second compartment housed a food bag, containing dry fruits, bread, butter, cheese, biscuits, plates, spoons, forks, plates, tissues, etc. The third and secured compartment housed our cash and documents. We installed a repaired cassette player with two 2nd hand speakers. We carried a 9-volt loan battery and a loan spotlight for night viewing. We also carried a VHS camcorder to record our trip. On account of bad roads, we managed 25 kmph average speed. We took 2 days to reach Maromar, with an overnight halt at Jamshedpur. The onward trip saw two blown-out tires, an overheated radiator, a cigarette lighter short-circuit, and a burnt cassette player. The return trip was more eventful – two more flat tires, a broken radiator, failed brakes and rattling shock absorbers.
- Your dream destination?
My dream destination has been Sundarban all along. The boat rides through the mangroves, the birds, crocodiles, monitor lizards, mudskippers, crabs, etc. The simple home-cooked type foods, the endless cups of tea, the nights anchored on a river, the sunrises and the sunsets- everything about the experience of Sunderban is unique. Although the tiger has always eluded me then I have not lost hope.
- Post lockdown, which is the first trip in your mind?
We had planned the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve in April but it had to be cancelled. Now we are hoping to do it as soon as the travel restrictions get lifted. We also have Bandipur, Nagarhole and Kabini in mind.
- An extremely talented actor, a dedicated theater artist, traveler, wildlife & nature photographer – please, tell us the Sabyasachi Chakrabarty many people still don’t know about.
Talking about myself that people do not know is difficult. As a film actor, regular interviews are published, broadcast and uploaded on social media. I have talked about almost everything and everyone. There is hardly anything left for others to know. However, some people do not know that I had a very bad temper but I have sobered up as I aged. I am also a grandfather now. My granddaughter is a darling. Many people don’t know that due to overeating during the lockdown, I have gained a substantial amount of weight. I am trying to slim down. I have learnt how to participate in webinars. I had the opportunity to contribute a little to the poor and the needy, the flood affected and the cyclone ravaged people.
I am gradually beginning to age, so I am trying to cut down on my assignments. I plan to travel a little more and also try my hand at gardening.
( Interview was taken in March, 2021)