Arun Saha is an electrical engineer and a Western Classical music enthusiast; a classical guitar teacher and trumpet player. I came across this friendly, polite but spirited person a few years ago on a group bicycle ride, and discussed various common interests on many subsequent meetings. It was after a year that I came to know (almost accidentally) that it was he who had played Dipu in the 1996 film “Dipu Number Two” made by Morshedul Islam based on Muhammad Zafar Iqbal's novel of the same title; possibly the only Bangla teenage cult classic for our generation. In his only acting assignment ever, Arun had won the National Film Award that year for best child artiste. In a recent conversation with The Daily Star, Arun -- who never voluntarily mentions to anyone about that glorious childhood chapter of his -- recalled how it all happened.
“When the film was being made, the producers had put up notices in school notice boards and newspapers, and it was my sister who noticed it and insisted that I apply. Thankfully, I had read the book already, so I went in. The audition venue (at Charukala) was incredibly crowded, with some of the familiar TV faces of our age among them. Their smugness and confidence demoralised me a little particularly because I had never done any acting before, but I went in to sort of 'show off' how cool and smart I was. I was first selected for the character of Nantu, but when I went to their office the next time, Morshed uncle asked if I could do Dipu's role, and I said yes.
“Then the shooting began; that was a great experience. I was in class seven at the time; it was the first time I went to Rangamati, Banderban and Sylhet, and saw those mountains, tea gardens and rivers with crystal-clear waters … it was all very thrilling. Even the shooting at FDC was a brand new experience for me. But to be honest, it was very taxing too; the film is over two and a half hours long, and I am on screen nearly the entire time. So while the rest of the kids had a lot of fun, I had to work that much harder. Plus, keeping costumes ready and maintaining continuity, for me at that age was challenging too.
“The experience after the release was something else. I was in some sort of a trance, you can say (chuckles) ... if someone gets such fame at that age, it's sort of hard to digest. Our home phone never stopped ringing, there were letters and cards, from boys and girls alike, seniors, juniors and classmates at school were all hyped up, there were posters on the road, I had to sign autographs and things like that.
“Stardom, especially of that scale, can become an addiction, and I did want to continue, but my family encouraged me to concentrate on my academics. I learned a lot of things every day of the shooting, and near the end of the shooting, most of the scenes we did were okayed in the first take; I could never use that learning and experience elsewhere, and that is one thing I regret.”
Despite being limited to a one-hit star as an actor, Arun has seriously ventured seriously into other forms of art. He learned the classical guitar from Iftekhar Anwar in Dhaka and later at a summer camp in Kolkata under noted Bosnian classical guitarist Deniz Azabagić, and has been playing the trumpet for the last couple of years. He has also done online courses on music theory, and one on “Developing Your Musicianship” under the Berklee College of Music, the largest independent college of contemporary music in the world. He dreams of working on composition development, teaching music theory, and to perform jazz improvisations.