Of Human Bondage

Filmmaker Atanu Ghosh’s latest film, Mayurakshi, is winning critics over with its terrific performances and a fine script

Written by Anushree Majumdar | Updated: January 10, 2018 12:27 am
Mayurakshi is gradually gaining a buzz outside of Kolkata, thanks to terrific performances by Soumitra and Prosenjit, and a script that strikes a fine balance between melancholia and reconciliation, without being mawkish.

It began with an interview, four years ago, says Atanu Ghosh, over the phone from Kolkata, a few days after attending the Mumbai premiere of his latest film, Mayurakshi (pictured). “A Kolkata-based newspaper had set up a session with Soumitra Chatterjee and Prosenjit Chatterjee, just before the release of my third feature film, Rupkotha Noy. They have known each other for years, Prosenjit’s father Biswajit was Soumitra’s contemporary. I watched them together and saw a chemistry between them that was born out of mutual respect and love — something not common amongst Bengali stars,” says the 48-year-old filmmaker. He began to wonder why nobody had ever thought of writing a tailor-made script for just the two Chatterjees, who have a career span of nearly a century between them. So he decided he was going to do it himself.

Mayurakshi is the story of Aryanil, a middle-aged man (Prosenjit), who rushes home from the US after receiving news that his 84-year-old father (Soumitra) is unwell — dementia is setting in, robbing him of clarity, and muddling his memories. Surfacing from the deep recesses of his mind, is Mayurakshi, a name of a woman long gone, and somebody Aryanil must locate. “I’ve been asked if the film is autobiographical, because my father too, was suffering from dementia, and I stayed by his side. But I am not Aryanil. I wrote this part for Prosenjit, who once told me that he wanted me to write him a role people would remember him for. As for Soumitra, he has expressed confidence in my work, and I wrote the father’s role for him,” says Ghosh. Since his debut film, Angshumaner Chhobi (2009), Ghosh has won a slew of awards in India and abroad, and is considered one of the most sensitive filmmakers in the country today. Since its release, Mayurakshi is gradually gaining a buzz outside of Kolkata, thanks to terrific performances by Soumitra and Prosenjit, and a script that strikes a fine balance between melancholia and reconciliation, without
being mawkish.

“I know that Bengalis are often ribbed for making intellectual, melancholic films. But I do want to explore beyond the epidermis;
serious art, serious cinema demands that,” says Ghosh, adding, “One of the things that struck me the most is that the elderly, the infirm, the wounded, are usually not protagonists in our stories. What I wanted to say in this film is that no matter what your external circumstances are, regardless of age, one has to rely on an inner strength to make sense of the world, and move on.”

Ghosh is happy to admit that he isn’t working on a new project: “I’m not one of those people who can jump from one film to the next. I like thinking of details, and those things take time. I make a film once a year or in two years, and that’s fine with me.”

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