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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Out of Africa

It takes the highest budget in Bengali cinema to bring Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay’s novel,Chander Pahar,to the big screen

Written by Ranjib Mazumder | Published: December 20, 2013 5:27:05 am

If the budget is anything to go by,Bengali movie Chander Pahar has definitely become the talking point in the eastern part of the country. Directed by Kamaleswar Mukherjee,the film boasts of a budget of Rs 15 crore,the highest so far in Bengali cinema.

The film is based on the adventure novel by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay,the author widely known outside Bengal for his creation of Pather Panchali that gave Satyajit Ray the subject for his sparkling debut. Set in 1909-1910,Chander Pahar follows the adventures of Shankar,a young Bengali boy hailing from Keutia,West Bengal. Unwilling to work in the jute mills like his contemporaries,he secures a job at Uganda Railways as the station master of Nakuru station. The dream of adventure soon turns into a game of survival against pouncing lions,poisonous snakes and every possible threat a jungle can produce. Shankar rescues a bruised Portuguese explorer,Diego Alvarez,and comes to know about diamond mines,the treacherous Richtersveld Mountains and the fabled creature,the Bunyip,which in turn sets a life-altering adventure in motion. It’s a novel that has stirred the imagination of every Bengali child while growing up. The expectations from the film will

be high.

Mukherjee knows it,as he says,“A lot of directors in Bengal,since the advent of cinema,have tried to adapt the novel. But there have been many constraints that made it a difficult proposition. For a story that is completely set in the continent of Africa,this required shooting with animals,which in turn required a massive budget. The unavailability of computer graphics too posed a problem. Now,a budget of Rs 15 crore might not be a big thing for Mumbai or Chennai film industry,but for Bengali cinema,it’s huge.”

The unit shot in Africa over a period of 43 days. “We shot in Kruger National Park that is known for its flora and fauna and a wide range of wild animals,” says the director. However,shooting the desert sequence was most difficult for the unit. “We were shooting at Kalahari desert,in the interiors of Botswana and parts of Namibia,and the shooting location was around 300 kms away from civilisation,” adds Mukherjee.

The film is multilingual,as it has actors speaking in various dialects — including English,Portuguese,Zulu,Swahili,Masai,and of course,Bengali. “Since it’s a story that is youth-centric and can appeal to a pan-Indian audience,it will be released in other parts of the country too,” says Mukherjee.

Starring box-office favourite,Dev,Chander Pahar also employs a heavy dose of CGI for impossible to recreate scenes such as the death of animals,fires in jungles,an erupting volcano,and the Rhodesian monster,briefly mentioned in the novel as the Bunyip. Interestingly,Bandyopadhyay never travelled to Africa,and wrote the novel based on research and his lush imagination. Like the protagonist,Shankar,perhaps this film will pave the path for a new voyage in Bengali cinema.

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