AT first when he approached them with the concept, studios never understood the story of Pink. “It’s a everyday thing, what’s new, where is the recovery, they said. It angered me immensely,” said filmmaker Shoojit Sircar on Saturday, who is in city to attend the Chandigarh Literary Festival. Fuelled by the anger and rejection, the studios’ lack of trust on a filmmaker’s vision, Sircar’s drive to make Pink got stronger. “It became my zidd for I felt they were challenging my sensibilities. So, for the first time we made, distributed and produced a film all by ourselves,” Sircar narrates the behind-the-scene story of Pink.
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Directed by Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, penned by Ritesh Shah and produced by Sircar, Pink stirred a national conscience and transformed into a talking point — something that every Sircar film manages to achieve. Vicky Donor brought the topic of infertility up close while Piku broached the subject of sex and virginity and Pink highlighted women’s safety and suffocating existence.
Here at the fest for a session on Pink, Sircar, Chowdhury and Shah stressed on the need for bringing out a Pink every Year. Where Chowdhury’s motivation stemmed from his intolerance to moral policing women are subjected to, Sircar’s “real realisation” to make this film happened when his 14-year-old daughter was told to sit “properly”.
“She is a tennis player and had just come from a game, exhausted. She just wanted to lie down and was instead, by folks in the family (not the wife), told not to sit awkwardly. Prejudices begin like this, when we ourselves bind our girls,” shared Sircar. The second time it hit him was when his wife sarcastically commented, how “India made it to Mars but is still talking about women’s empowerment”. “I felt shameful as a man, a husband, and a father at that time,” added Sircar.
Social stereotypes and prejudices is what he has seen growing up. His 20 years in Delhi, the Nirbhaya case, Kolkata’s Park Street case, how lawyers can be even more brutal in courtrooms, exposed him to the discrimination women face and how she is always under scrutiny. “I’ve seen my cousins’ freedom restricted in public space, and it is within the confines of home that they felt they could break free. I weaved that in in the opening scene of my film, Yahaan, when a pair of jeans is secretly smuggled in the household and how it’s a big deal for the girls,” points Sircar, adding how girls could relate to Pink’s Minal, Falak and Andrea.
He adds how he was even criticised for having a male lawyer defend the girls in the film. But that’s a point Sircar wants to make — of progressive men in society too. “There is a lot of me in Piku’s Bhaskar and Pink’s Deepak Sehgal.”
It is this element of reality that renders an endearing quality to Sircar’s films. Here’s a filmmaker who believes “writing is the key to cinema and writers are my heroes, the spine of a film while making is a mechanical technical process. While choosing a subject he also makes sure it is engaging, makes a connect, has human touches, a takeback, hits emotionally and most importantly, a vision that one can sustain. “Because sometimes brilliant concepts can rarely convert into a two-hour film whereas ordinary ones can transform into extraordinary scripts,” said Sircar. The extraordinary element also lies in his characterisation — everyday people created out of observation and reflection.
“They are never forced or deliberately humourous. I love to be real and situational, something I have learnt from Satyajit Ray’s cinema,” he adds.
Speaking of reality and situational, Sircar’s biggest connect is Punjab, and Shaheed Bhagat Singh is his idol. “There is a strong community of Sikhs in Bengal who migrated long back. And it’s a fact that all Bengali women feel safe in a taxi with a Sardar driving it,” he says, in love with Punjab, a place with “heart, warmth and vibrancy which is evident in his films too”.