Here is a simple question, how many directors does it take to make a film? Five, if you are making Chatushkone, whose cast includes three National Award-winning directors, Goutam Ghose, Aparna Sen and Kaushik Ganguly, along with actor-directors Parambrata Chatterjee (Kahaani fame) and Chiranjit Chakraborty. The Bengali thriller that releases in select theatres in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune today, is already running to packed houses in Kolkata. Chatushkone also happens to be director Srijit Mukherji’s fifth consecutive hit, an impressive feat considering the fact that this is only his sixth film.
But that doesn’t explain why a relatively new filmmaker would take the risk of casting three of the most respected filmmakers of the country in the same film (collectively, they have 27 National Awards under their belt). Wasn’t he afraid of being bullied into creative submission? “By now, I have gained enough confidence as a director. I have delivered five hits, which have won critical accolades too. But more than anything else, I took strength in the fact that Rina di (Aparna Sen), Goutam Ghose, Kaushik Ganguly, Parambrata and Charanjit really liked the script. They had a lot of creative inputs, which I absorbed but the final call was always mine,” says Mukherji.
Chatushkone, which uses the film-within-a-film format to narrate a tale of love, betrayal and revenge has Mukherji doffing his hat at the Bengali film industry several times. “Yes, it is a tribute to the industry, which has shaped my sensibilities to a large extent. With filmmakers such as Goutam da and Rina di on the sets, with the conversations we had, it was like a lesson in 100 years of Indian cinema,” he says. Though Mukherji is aware that much of Chatushkone’s industry references will be lost on the pan-India audience, he hopes that the story of the film shines through. “The film is adorned with some great performances too,” he says.
The film, which was supposed to be made four years ago, faced several roadblocks along the way. “I was supposed to make it right after my debut film Autograph (2010). There were several casting changes. Rituparno Ghosh was supposed to play the role that Parambrata plays. After his untimely demise, we were left shattered. But then I decided to dedicate the film to Ritu da ( Rituparno Ghosh), who gave me a lot of inputs during the scripting stage,” he says.
The film also stands out because of the way it presents Bengali star Chiranjeet, known for his commercial potboilers, in an intellectual avatar. “We decided to give him a makeover. We wanted to make him look very urbane and suave. His character too is of a director who makes commercial films but wants to make meaningful cinema,” he says.
With Chatushkone releasing in some of the major cities, Mukherji is hopeful about the crossover appeal of Bengali cinema. “There is a huge market for Bengali cinema outside Bengal, provided they have some substance,” he concludes.