Birsa Dasgupta has experimented with almost all mediums when it comes to Bengali cinema. Son of filmmaker Raja Dasgupta, the 41-year-old filmmaker has films such as ‘Bibaho Abhijan’, ‘Crisscross’, ‘Gangster’, ‘Shudhu Tomari Jonno’ and ‘Obhisopto Nighty’ to his name. He has also done a remake of his film ‘One’, a comparative rarity in Bengali cinema. One of the few to have dabbled in television, Birsa is the director of a moderately successful television serial based on the Bengali superstar of yesteryears, Uttam Kumar.
The man behind web series Black Widows, he returned to streaming with his bilingual show, ‘Mafia’. In a conversation with indianexpress.com, he speaks about his upcoming film ‘Mukhosh’.
What is ‘Mukhosh’ (The Mask) all about?
A series of murders happens in the city, which seem like a serial killer at work. A special team from Kolkata Police is assigned to investigate the crimes. Parallelly runs the story of the protagonist, Kinshuk, who is studying psychology and is a consultant criminologist. He understands how a criminal mind works. Here too, he starts unmasking the real motive, so the title.
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Why did you choose such a story?
I have always been intrigued by such stories, stories that reveal a reality that is not in black-and-white. Revenge is the confession of pain. This idea, like we have seen in ‘Seven’, appeals to me. The very fact that no one is a born killer rather circumstances make a killer, excites me. And thrillers are always fun to make.
Why Anirban Bhattacharya?
I wanted to cast someone who will become the character. The school of acting needed in this film is non-acting. It’s very tough. Anirban has done this before with success.
Music has always been an integral part of your films. What about the music of ‘Mukhosh’?
This is my 11th film. All my films have music and are hits. I am good with songs, plus they help in promotion too. But ‘Mukhosh’ has no songs. It’s a realistic thriller with all the finesse of sorts put into place. Let’s be honest. I don’t need a 20-second thrill of a song just for promotions.
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The urban space, the city, has always been your forte in your films.
I love the urban space. I was born in Kolkata and have always lived here. There is so much more to them than just the glamour and lights. There are many cities hidden within a city. Every time I go out to shoot, I discover a new and a different side to it. This film is based in central Kolkata, the colonial Kolkata that is murky and decaying. You view this city from within a web of so many things. That is the Kolkata I have tried to explore.
You’ve come a long way since the days you assisted Anurag Kashyap in ‘Black Friday’.
I keep exploring languages through my films. Before ‘Mukhosh’ I finished ‘Mafia’ which is bilingual and then ‘Black Widows’ which is in Hindi. In 2000, I went to Mumbai and started working in Mid-Day. That’s when they planned ‘Black Friday’. I got introduced to Anurag and we became friends. I was a part of everything – from location hunting to the shoots through the entire post-production, edit, music. Not only Anurag, I became friends with the entire team of assistant directors who are all big now. Then the film got stuck. All these ups and downs have been quite a learning. Mumbai moulded me, but then when I decided to make a film, I decided to make it in my mother tongue. So, I came back to Kolkata. I made ‘033’ which was appreciated by the likes of Anurag and Mani Kaul. I made 10-11 films in Bangla, made a hit television series, ‘Mahanayak’ on the life on Uttam Kumar. Then in 2019 I again went back to Mumbai to make ‘Mafia’ and ‘Black Widows’. Now again I’m back to Kolkata.
So, life has come full circle.
Yes, you can say that. I realized since I don’t know Tamil, Telugu or Kannada, the only space that I can work in apart from Bangla, is Hindi. In that way, I am lucky to have bagged two projects. One is a Hindi film to be released on OTT and theatres, and the other is a Hindi series to be telecast on OTT. Both are due at the end of this year.