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Monday, October 18, 2021

From Kolkata to Cannes via Colombo

It marks the end of a 13-year long wait for Sri Lankan filmmaker Vimukthi Jayasundara. In 1998,he had his first tryst with Bengali cinema,when he watched Satyajit Ray’s black-and-white classic Jalsaghar.

Written by Debesh Banerjee |
April 26, 2011 2:11:58 am

Sri Lankan filmmaker Vimukthi Jayasundara’s Bengali film Chatrak is India’s entry at the Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival

It marks the end of a 13-year long wait for Sri Lankan filmmaker Vimukthi Jayasundara. In 1998,he had his first tryst with Bengali cinema,when he watched Satyajit Ray’s black-and-white classic Jalsaghar. |That prompted him to nurture the dream of directing a Bengali feature film. Years later,his 90-minute Bengali feature Chatrak (Mushroom) not only signifies the realisation of his dream,but has also made him proud by being selected in the Directors’ Fortnight section at the annual Cannes Film Festival,which opens on May 11, at the seaside town of the French Riviera. “I was deeply influenced by the Bengali cinema of the early ’60’s when people like Ritwik Ghatak and Mrinal Sen made compassionate films,” says Jayasundara.

Incidentally,his film will be the only Indian entry at Cannes,besides an Out Of Competition entry by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra titled Bollywood-The Greatest Love Story Ever Told. “I am very excited since this is the first time I’ve made a film in a foreign language,” chirps the 33-year old,while in the midst of editing the film at his studio in Paris. The Directors’ Fortnight is a non-competitive section of the Festival,which has featured screenings from greats like Werner Herzog,Sofia Coppola and Ken Loach. This year sees 46 screenings,out of 2,000 entries received.

Set in Kolkata,the narrative revolves around Rahul,an NRI architect,who returns to the city after wrapping up business in Dubai. Lost and forlorn,he meets his girlfriend in Kolkata and takes up a construction project to design plans for residential condominiums. By opting for a non-linear narrative,Jayasundara highlights the differences in the standard of living among the old and new parts of Kolkata. “When I visited Kolkata last year,I travelled extensively through the North and was intrigued by the chaos and pollution. When I saw the abundant skyscrapers along Rajarhat,the new part of the city,I wondered how the North would react to that development,” explains the filmmaker who came to India last summer on the invitation of Bengali filmmaker and friend Bappaditya Bandopadhyay,who is the co-producer for the film. “He could see how the different Kolkatas exist in harmony,something that resident Bengali filmmakers have overlooked,” says Bandopadhyay.

Critically acclaimed for his 2009 Bengali feature Houseful,Bandopadhyay first met Jayasundara at the Osian’s Cinefan Film Festival in 2005,where the Colombo-based director’s award-winning feature

Sulanga Enu Pinisa (The Forsaken Land) was being screened. “I never found it difficult to adapt to Bengali culture since I felt I had already gained an insight into the cinematic sensibilities after watching Bengali films as a student at the Film and Television Institute of India,where I studied for a year,” says Jayasundara,who spent six months exploring Kolkata. Shot over a duration of 24 days,in Rajarhat and Shantineketan,the film stars mainstream actors from Bengali cinema,including Paoli Dam,Sudip Mukherjee and German actor Tomas Lemarquis. Written in English by Jayasundara,the script was translated into Bengali by Bandopadhyay.

No stranger to Cannes or international acclaim,in 2005 Jayasundara’s debut feature Sulanga Enu Pinisa was awarded the Camera d’Or award for the Best First Film and his second feature Ahasin Wetei (Between Two Worlds) was officially selected for the Competition Section at the 66th Venice International Film Festival and nominated for the prestigious Golden Lion. While the verdict on Chatrak will be out at Cannes next month,the movie releases in Indian theatres only in October.

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