A social agenda needs commitment, persistence and determination that take the activist with his activism to goals he might never have envisioned when he undertook this project. But trust Bobby Chakraborty to reach far beyond his goals and more… His goal, when he took up his unique brand of activism – no fees for his lecture-demonstrations at schools and educational institutions in India and the US being the prime motive, he had no idea that it would become his lifestyle, his ideology and his philosophy. It is difficult to believe that a young man in his 30s who is an actor to boot, can think of a commitment that brings him no material benefit in cash or in kind. His single-minded mission is to liberate young girls and boys from addiction to drugs, alcohol & tobacco if they are already addicts, or to keep the rest who are not addicts, away from these deadly addictions.
He has now been invited by educational institutions in the USA to take his movement there as his earlier tour to the US in 2014 was a grand success. He has a way with words, the power of mesmerising persuasion and a smashingly handsome personality. His facility with languages – Bengali, Hindi and English and the power of his pen add to this list. But what triumphs above everything else is his success in his mission. “I have built and army of soldiers who are fighting this big war along with me, beside me, in different schools carrying the message I have imbued them with to further this movement,” says Bobby. In the US which he will be touring between mid-April and Mid-May, Bobby will present a musical play called My Wonderful World he has directed and the developments of his anti-addiction campaign he is already carrying out in rural and urban schools, colleges, communities and corporate sections. “My visit to the Universities and schools of will cover two of the largest universities in the continent namely, the Minnesota State University and the Mayville State University.
I will also be giving a talk and screening the film at Cheney Middle School, one of the largest schools in the US,” says the thrilled-to-bits head of his veritable army of soldiers, Bobby.“My Wonderful World is a fund-raising initiative by DCI International, North Dakota Chapter (Distressed Children and Infants International that works for the upliftment of lesser-privileged children,” adds Bobby.
What is My Musical World about? “It is a musical drama co-authored by Ipsita Mallik and me which Ipsitadi has choreographed. This is a tribute to the memory of the 17-year-old boy Sreejon Lala who died in a fatal car crash in December 2014. I am portraying Sreejon in the play and Ipsitadi is my Godmother, an imaginary figure symbolising motherhood. The drama celebrates life and Sreejon’s dream to live life to the fullest. The first show is in Fargo North Dakota on April 22,” Bobby elaborates.
Bobby Chakraborty heads an army of soldiers who are fighting a war that uses no traditional weapons, no nuclear armaments and no war-centred strategies. He is fighting a different war. It is not a silent war either. It is a war against the rampant spread of addiction in school children to smoking and often, drinking and drugs too. It is an army that is growing in strength, numbers and conviction every day. “Five-year-old Kavin Roy was the youngest soldier in my army till a couple of years back. She has stopped her father from smoking She walks up to anyone smoking on the streets and politely asks the person why he/she is smoking and even tells the person to kill this poisonous habit,” says Bobby.
“This mission of mine is not a business proposition. I do it for free to raise social awareness against addiction and substance abuse”. He has already carried his mission to more than 200 schools in West Bengal and several outside the state and country. It is more than just a two-hour session against addiction where he tries to condition young minds to be the King of their Minds so it teaches a child to rule his own mind, to learn the values of life, health and family. This campaign has already crossed the boundaries of schools and colleges to enter into the red light areas of Sonagachhi where the children of sex workers are addressed, extending to Kalighat and Munshiganj. It has also reached the under-privileged children of several NGOs.
“My fight against addiction began in early childhood, after I lost my uncle to addiction when he just 29. In school, I was an active member of the anti-addiction drive. It continued while I did my engineering and then later when I served in the merchant navy. When I switched to the entertainment industry in 2002 this drive became stronger. But taking the movement to a more organized and planned way in schools which form the epicentre where it starts became important.”
In response to why most crusades and campaigns are rooted in personal tragedy, Bobby says, “I guess this is because acute awareness comes from something within our own family. Just like positive values are imbibed and taken forward, tragic incidents move us deeply enough to decide to do something concrete about it. It was no different for me. If my uncle was not so talented and gifted in everything he touched, and shown me the dark side of addiction, if he had not died at 29, perhaps I would have taken life for granted minus this crusade. I narrate this story in every school I visit.”
Bobby has a special Facebook page on his campaign that has more than 18000 members whose commitment does not begin and end with posts but extends to helping him actively in his campaign. “Among them the first name is of Arjun Sarkar, my brother who studies computer engineering. South Point High School students Saurav Banerjee The other prominent soldiers of my army working actively with me at present are – Manish Maheswary, Aritro Saha, Siddharth Addy, Ankit Seth, Chirag Tolasaria, Smit Agasti, Shresth Biswas,Subhro Sanyal and Yudhajeet Dey.”
Recounting one experience, Bobby narrates how during his presentation at a rural school in 24 Parganas, a boy in the XI standard approached him. “In front of the entire school and teachers, he confessed that he smoked and drank but has realised his mistake. He promised me that he would never touch these poisons again. It is now more than six months he has neither smoked nor drank. I am in touch with his parents who thank me for the dramatic change in their wayward son. If needs be, I have told them that I will pay for his higher education because the family is far from affluent.”
In October 2015, Bobby was bestowed the prestigious Shrestha Samman award and in August 2016, he received the very honourable Asadharan Award. Both were handed over to him by the Honourable Governor of West Bengal Shree Krishna Tripathi and Bobby was recognized as a “Changemaker” of society. Let us wish him all success in furthering his unique mission on his second US visit on invitation.
Written byShoma A. Chattterji
Dr. Shoma A. Chatterji is a freelance journalist, film scholar and author based in Kolkata. She has 20 published titles, has won the National Award twice and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rotary Club of Kolkata Metro. She has done her post-doctoral research on cinema and has juried at national and international film festivals over time