I have never been uni dimensional: Arijit Dutta on his success mantra
IBNS | 26 Jun 2017
I have never been uni dimensional: Arijit Dutta on his success mantra
The Managing Director of Priya Entertainments Pvt Ltd, Arijit Dutta is a man of man hats. In a recent conversation with IBNS, the entrepreneur-actor enlists traits which makes him successful.

With so many achievements under your belt from the film industry, fashion industry, sports and finally wildlife is it difficult managing all?

Not really as long I enjoy. Film industry is work. Wild life my passion. Sports is something I have been interested since young age, Fashion is a recent happening due to my proximity with showbiz business. It is how much I enjoy what I am doing and finally it is time management.Juggling is easy as long I manage time well.  

What made you realize that you want to be an entrepreneur?

Though my family was always in business, I worked with GEC for 4 years due to the insistence of my mom on getting to know the office environment. I went through the process of secretarial work, finance, marketing as a management trainee and I understood what was required in an office environment, its rules and regulations. The concept of getting used to one room and one desk is extremely important and the experience gained in these formative years is extremely important.
What was the most important decision you made that made you successful?

I have never been uni dimensional but always striven to be multifaceted. Being uni dimensional makes one very boring and one then only restricts oneself to that aspect. Proper education shapes one's character and my public school (I am from St. Paul's Darjeeling) upbringing has helped me having a broad perspective having mixed with people from various strata  of life. MBA gives you a broader perspective but you need to channelize it properly but schooling was instrumental in shaping me and my grooming at Jadavpore University. 

Education in the right way is very important  and I never believed that Day scholars could ever get the kind of education and grooming we boarders got. Mom being a boarding school product encouraged us to experience the same and I sorely still miss our school days. I don't think a Day scholar would miss school, we still do.

At boarding school we had to do all activities, a lot of outdoor activity making us independent. Trekking, camping, Duke of Edinburgh scheme, The pioneer scheme, The Scout scheme. We look at life in a different perspective. We remain outdoor types. Given a chance even today I like to go to forest or rural areas for my holidays rather than a city. Cities do not help create a broad perspective. People restricted to cities are more myopic and as I often meet people from film industry who are myopic  and micro outlook.

How has your journey been like for you in establishing yourself in the different industries respectively, and what inspired you to do the same?

Enjoyment, passion, interest were there and all put together I did everything and yes I had one advantage in my corporate structure. if I wanted to do something and different I got the support especially the moral support. The tourism venture is surely Eastern India's first ever. Being fond of wildlife, nature, visiting forests ( I keep travelling), this personal interest helped and the rest was part of work, part of passion and part of interest.

And which was more rewarding: making your startup(s) a success, or being able to continue keeping them successful?

I think PRIYA was an important case history in this. This was a theatre where I remember in earlier days I did not want to watch movies but putting it back on track  and making it a choice of sorts before the plexes came in and there was a time when PRIYA was the choice of the gentry to watch movies. Even some of the leading media houses always patronized PRIYA in their columns. Today it is THE ICONIC theatre Hall in Bengal and surely it was highly satisfying and a major achievement. Rest is ofcourse added achievements as we added on screens, plexes, tourism, acting and so on. Even today we are known as the First Family of Bangla Film Industry. I think I need to make a mark, make a difference and make space for myself in the tourism sector where I can be mentioned. Maybe it shall take another 5-6 years to make a chain of events, and have the activities to make it synonymous with tourism in this region. It's ok to make lodges, hotels but to make it interesting with lots of activities attracting youth and different kind of clients shall be the major challenges. 

Any venture you would do differently?

Whatever we have done till date I am reasonably happy with but may be one mistake I made was not getting into film production as I was not comfortable with a lot of grey areas. But thinking 20 years down the line I think I should have as my Family had given me one more item, without being modest, to display my works. But I do not regret my decision too.

Who inspired you?

My mom has been my mentor guru and inspiration, she always pushed me to do the maximum and has been my umbrella. I must acknowledge Mr Uday Singh who was the Managing Director of Columbia Tristar and Sony Pictures and shaped my views on marketing of films, in fact we initiated marketing of films in India but the push, idea creations, the changes  that we made, most of which came from him. Today he looks after Motion Pictures Association in USA which represents Hollywood Studios. But he helped shaped my views about the film industry

Were there any periods of struggle or difficulties in following your dreams and how did you deal with them?

Yes, Probably when I took over as I came back to the film industry as my Mom had to handle PRIYA after my father passed away. There was a struggle period when  she had to do the most difficult period of leveling off the dropping graph, I took it from there. There was a period when family income dropped when only PRIYA was the only screen. Slowly from 1995-96 the graph started moving up with acquisition of Globe cinema, Geetanjali theatre, District Theatres, Multiplex chain Bioscope, revival of Piyali films as a distribution chain, which had a glorious past of producing 3 National Award winning films and President's Gold Medal. There was a tough period of 6-7 years when I came in but the previous 6-7 years were tougher for mom. 

Which entrepreneurial initiative has been the most  challenging till date?

Surely tourism. The film industry business is comfortable to handle. Now tourism is the latest challenge and yes hospitality is a sector where we have opened VAULT LOUNGE BAR, BURNT GARLIC at PRIYA, we are opening up VAULT at DURGAPUR ( it is ready), also planning to open one in North Bengal.   

The hospitality bit is also challenging along with the tourism venture which is our biggest challenge , it will take a couple of years but we know we have to do it.
You have been at the helm of both multiplex and single screen. What do you have to say about the rapid obliteration of traditional single screen halls by the growth of fancy multiplexes all over?

 Agreed. The situation is that for National and International films, multiplex is the best option as the audience has become niche. The biggest problem is the attitude of a lot distributors where they give directive/fatwas to single screens who have become weak that you have to screen  certain films and not screen certain films making them even weaker. Time will come when only multiplex will survive where large international/ national multiplex chains shall gobble up the local multiplex players and we have already gone through the process.Alternative is slowly being lost by shortsightedness of many who are actually playing into the hands of bigger players and it is unfortunate. I am not enjoying this anymore and all the more reason that I am moving to the hospitality sector. There are no more challenges left in the film industry and it is a matter of muscle power and I am not the type to say YES SIR YES SIR THREE BAGS FULL.

You have had notable screen presence in over 36 films, including the internationally acclaimed Madras Cafe. Was there any role that was particularly tough, and/or a role that is close to your heart and which you enjoyed playing?

I would say Shunyo Anka by Goutam Ghosh apart from Madras Cafe. I really enjoyed doing, I had to break myself, I had to break my body language, the way I spoke. I was playing a Maoist, I was in the Purulia hills for 7 days, after seeing the movie I was extremely satisfied. These 2 films were truly memorable breaking away from the flamboyant villain roles that I am offered . Of course Goutam da gave my first break in Abar Aranya where I was a villager.

However, acting doesn't really allow one to work on his terms, so do you harbour any desires to turn director some day?

I did get an offer from a person who finalized a script and story whose condition was he will produce it only if I directed the story. I am a little circumspect about this as Director's job is a specialised job, though you find a lot of people who do a little bit and get in to film direction but never has worked out much. The offer is still there, so let's see, maybe I will need someone to help me out.

Considering your passion for nature and wildlife, what would your message  keeping in mind how forests and so many species are at constant threat from mankind?

The message is for the Government. Stop felling trees for commercial use. If the forest is there wildlife will be there. We are losing hectares of forest every year. Either illegal felling or Government is giving away forest land. There should be total ban on use of wood. As soon as there is ban on wood , forests shall be safe. It should also not be import of logs from the East Asian countries but that may also lead to cutting of tress with the same code as those imported. It is about time there should be total ban on wood and once deforestation stops animal kingdom shall also be secured.