By Shoma A. Chatterji
Your films carry an invisible tagline that goes, “Life beyond right or wrong”. Does this philosophy sustain in Buno Haansh?
I have never consciously thought of it that way. I felt this philosophy run through the story of my earlier film Aparajita Tumi where things happen whether you want them to happen or not. I liked Samaresh Majumdar’s original story and stuck to the philosophy in Buno Haansh.
How different do you feel Buno Haansh is from your earlier films?
I have widened my target audience to reach out to the masses. In Buno Haansh, the protagonist and his close ones belong to the lower middle-class of Kolkata, living in a sort of ghetto. Besides, I wanted to make an edgy film for a change, not just a thriller but a thriller that is socially-relevant, contemporary in character and something I can closely identify with. It is very important for me to be able to identify myself with my films, their characters, stories etc. This is a new subject for me so it became a challenge for me to be ‘different’ from my earlier films.
How do you interpret the causes that led Aparajita Tumi to have become a disaster?
Who said it was a disaster? It wasn’t and in fact, it did much better than other mainstream films released around the same time that year. It ran for 50 days which was more than the run of Antaheen. This ‘hit-flop’ business is based on wrong perceptions for whatever reasons. Critically, it was panned negatively.
What kind of motivation drove you to make Buno Haansh?
Every creative artist is driven by the emotional and social realities that sustain during a given time – mostly contemporary – to tell a new story perhaps using different ways to tell it than he did before. He needs different people to be able to narrate that story to his target audience. My mind and body responded to my creative instincts to make an edgy and dark film and Buno Haansh is the result.
Buno Haansh is led by some of the most successful commercial actors in Bengali cinema like Dev and Shrabanti. What made you cast them?
The first reason is that I wanted to work with these actors who have been very successful in mainstream Bengali cinema and have hardly worked in this kind of film which is slightly non mainstream. Besides, they exude a strong aura of freshness and youth. The second reason is that Buno Haansh is content-driven and though the characters are important, they do not dominate or overshadow the content. Thirdly, I wanted to address a larger audience — my earlier films were dubbed ‘niche’ because they addressed an urban, educated and elitist audience. Fourthly, my film is rooted in the Bengali identity and is defined by down-to-earth, middle-class Bengali characters. I felt these youngsters had it in them to deliver what I wanted them to. And to their credit, I must say that they have shone brilliantly. The audience’s perception of Dev as an actor will change completely after seeing this film.
You have shot on location in Bangkok. Was this a strategy for commercial success?
Bangkok happened because the original story features it. We have shot extensively on location in Dhaka and Manikgunge in Bangladesh, in Mumbai, Pune and Kolkata. In a way, it is a road movie because it charts the journey – real and metaphorical – of its protagonist Amal that includes the ‘metaphorical’ journeys of people he is connected to.
How much liberty did you take with the original story?
A story is like a piece of land while the screenplay is like the platform. The film takes off from there. It is a very organic process, almost like a cosmic connection and I allow it to take its own shape, to grow, to happen.
As a film-maker, which do you think plays a more significant role – form or content?
It is a fine blend of both, like the right malt. A story needs technical expertise and a lot of elements go into its making. Cinema is a collaborative effort because everything is co-related and one can not prioritise the one for the other.