The story goes that decades back, one Suman combed the city looking for another Suman…
Suman Mukhopadhyay (SM): Tomake Chai hadn’t released then. I had just worked in a play — Madhab Malanchi Kanya, where I was Madhab. And just before the play, Sumanda had done a solo show.
Kabir Suman (KS): Amio khep dhorchhi tokhon. There were a few well-wishers who would give me work — maybe a 40-minute programme before a play…
SM: So that’s where I first heard his songs. I was dumbstruck. The music stayed with me, but I couldn’t find the man. All I’d heard was that he lived in Bhowanipore. So, one fine morning, I reached Hazra and started looking for him. But guess what, I was taken to a wrong Suman Chattopadhyay!
KS: That Suman was into Hindi songs…
SM: Kumar Suman. I knocked on his door, and there in front of me was a man in a lungi with a gold chain round his neck. I was like, ‘E toh shey noy!’ Finally, after much effort, I found Sumanda. He met me and the first thing he said was, ‘Arre Madhab, esho.’ We spoke for four hours. That was back in 1992-93.
As both of you keep saying, it’s a rare friendship, where age is of no consequence…
SM: Never. We talk about everything, including personal stuff.
KS: Somehow we have always been together. One important point could be the mutual respect. Suman is the only one I know in Bengal, who has kept travelling over the years.
How was actor Kabir Suman discovered?
SM: Long back. In 1992, when Tomake Chai released, our generation found an idol in him. He is erudite, can speak about everything. While I kept travelling, I knew there was someone who was travelling at the same time. We talk about everything…
KS: Including affairs.
SM: (Laughs) Kothao premer samashya hole, I ask him, ‘Sumanda, what do I do?’
KS: Amio preme porle oke boli. We share togetherness, we share the same concerns. Recently, I fell in love and he was the first one I called up and said, ‘I’m in love.’
SM: I remember my friend was shooting a docu on him and I got hooked. I had, in fact, started shooting one too, but I couldn’t complete it. I was producing it myself. But the footage got lost.
So, how did acting happen?
KS: I heard he was making Herbert. I called him and said, ‘Listen pal, you are making your first movie. If I don’t get cast, I’ll screw your happiness.’ I wanted a simple appearance — like an old man having tea at a joint where maybe the hero and the heroine are sipping on coffee. Then he said he had a little role for me.
SM: After the shoot, I said, ‘Sumanda, I can’t offer you a fee.’ He told me, ‘Are you mad?’ He refused to take any money. I’ve also worked with him in Chaturanga, Mahanagar@Kolkata. In Kangal Malsat, he is playing a pivotal role.