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Keshto Mukharjee, a symbolic icon of the onscreen drunkard who personified and popularized the comedy value of an alcoholic. Still, no one can play the role of a drunker better than him. Excerpts from a rare interview of him, published in Stardust circa.1981, taken at his house and in a rarely found sober state.

Q: Don’t you feel monotonous playing a similar role again n again?

KM: People want me to play a bevda. I give them what they want. After all, they are the ones who’ve made me. At times I still do feel a bit insecure, but then I tell myself that I have nothing to fear as long as I give to the public what they want from me. I know that I don’t have class. Nor do I pride me on being a terrific actor. I know that I can never reach great heights. But I don’t want class. I want money. For being classy won’t help me feed my children, but if I have money, I have everything.

Q: Are you, an onscreen alcoholic, is an off-screen teetotaler?

KM: No. I drink a lot. I started boozing when I left my home town and came to Bombay to become a film hero. I lived in a dingy room in the railway quarters with nothing to eat, but lots to drink. I drank because I was frustrated. I didn’t have any work. I drank to get some sleep, to forget that there were rats running all around the place, that there was a dog sleeping next to me. I drank to relieve the tension. And I only had daaru as my true friend. And again, it was because of this daaru that i gained popularity. Today, if anyone says my name, everyone pictures a bevda. I cannot ditch my friend now. I still drink. The only day when I didn’t touch a drop of liquor was on my wedding day.

Q: Are you satisfied with what you have and achieved?

KM: This house(pointing to his living room) is made by me. I have earned every paisa with the sweat of my brow. I don’t ever want to lose it. I know what it is to be poor. I don’t ever want to go back to being in rags with an empty stomach.

(Keshto Mukherjee with his wife at his home in the image)

Courtesy- Zaheer Khan

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Celebrating Cinema

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