A few years ago,the guns were blazing in Nandigram,West Bengal,and the dead body count was on the rise as land acquisition protests took a bloody turn. Chokher Paani,a Bengali film,highlights the human cost of the violence in Nandigram and was screened at the Berlin International Film Festival recently. The film will release in December.
We noticed that many people in the audience at Berlin had tears in their eyes as the end credits rolled, says Dweep Mithun,an alumnus of FTII,Pune,who plays the protagonist Meghnath. In the film,Meghnath is forced to choose sides between the villagers and the Harmads (political murderers). Circumstances force him to cross the small rivulet separating the village from the camp of the Harmads,over to the other side with his pregnant wife. What follows is the tale of irony in the life of Meghnath. While he has moved to the Harmad camp,his heart still lies with the villagers, says the Pune-based actor.
The crew did get a first-hand experience of the violence while shooting in December 2010. They recall seeing burning houses,people running helter-skelter,and an angry mob. Though this left them shocked and scared,it also enabled them shoot their film with double conviction,informs Mithun.
Directed by Shyamal Karmarkar from the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute of India,Kolkata,the film explores the tales of the many people who were affected by the violence. Shooting finished around August 2011 and the film made its rounds of film festivals in Iran and Japan besides the International Film festival of India.
It was a chance meeting in Kolkata with Karmakar that set the ball rolling for Choker Paani. I was in Kolkata for another project,which got postponed. On my FTII seniors reference,I went and met Karmarkar. As we got talking about the project,I found it very exciting since it was based on a real life incident. After that it was a matter of time where it all fell in place, he says. The film also stars Heerrok Das and Bidita Bag in major roles. Prior to this,Mithun has shared screen space with Bag in the recently released film From Sydney With Love .
Even as he gets ready for the launch of the film,Karmarkar is aware that the sensitive nature of the plot could rub many the wrong way. He adds that shooting of the film had been stalled once,in May,for political reasons. Nandigram,the shoot location,he says,had become peaceful when the crew revisited it after one-and-a-half months,prior to the elections in West Bengal. But,the pain of the people was very evident in their horror-struck eyes, adds Mithun.
Poignantly,the cast also discovered that Nandigram wasn’t a metaphor for pain and suffering. They are others memories that will remain etched forever in my mind. Despite the tension and the riot,the villagers were kind to us. They would personally guard our sets while we were shooting, says Mithun.