Director duo Nandita Roy and Shiboprosad Mukherjee: Rooted in reality
Director duo Nandita Roy and Shiboprosad Mukherjee’s films stand out amidst the huge number of Bengali films being churned out these days. SWATI SENGUPTA talks to them about their passion for films rooted in reality
In what way are your films different from the ones being made in Bengali these days?
Nandita: Well, we wouldn’t like to compare. We are just happy to make films that appeal to us. We don’t choose subjects thinking ‘this will make it a commercial success’, but go by what makes us laugh and/or cry. If it touches a cord in us, it is bound to touch the audience too.
We make films that explore adult relationships, but not necessarily films on love triangles. Filmmakers probably don’t want to deal with subjects like mother-son relationships. But for us there is a whole gamut of relationships that can be explored; the canvas is much larger...
Do you think that worked for you? From Icche to Muktodhara to Alik Sukh, in just a few years your films have done well even commercially, and you’ve created your own identity…
Shiboprosad: We haven’t made films consciously for a particular audience. Initially, no one wanted to take our films for multiplexes. There were just two shows of Icche in a multiplex which no one ever came to know — the timings were so odd. But it was a hit in standalone halls and from our subsequent films — we found takers in multiplexes too. Muktodhara was houseful along with houseful shows of the Salman Khan film Ek Tha Tiger. Which means no film — no matter how big it is — can snatch our audience away.
That’s a great consolation. So how do the stories come to you?
Nandita: Lot of it comes from real life. Our film Accident was based on a real incident — a doctor close to us had lost his grandchild in an accident. We saw how it affected him and when we probed it, we understood the conditions in which public bus drivers work in Kolkata. There is rash driving, but it is also true that drivers are bullied by owners to drive old, shoddy buses prone to accidents.
Shiboprosad: I had lost a car and met an insurance agent who gave us interesting insights into his job.
Nandita: Muktodhara was derived from the story of a dancer, Alokananda Roy who went inside prisons to train hardened criminals for dance dramas. I found it fascinating; we met her and watched prisoners’ performances of Rabindranath Tagore’s Balmiki Pratibha. It was overwhelming that jail inmates were holding a show under tight police security, the audience gave them standing ovation, but they went back to prison for a crime they had committed at some point in life. Some were undertrials and their crimes have not even been proved in years.
And then you actually got a former convict to play the lead role in the film!
Nandita: When we met inmates of correctional homes (prisons), we saw a young man who stood out. I wanted him to play the lead role. Everyone was against it, including Shiboprosad, because they felt it would be tough to train someone who had not acted in films earlier. But I knew that in Shiboprosad’s hands, the young man, Nigel Akkara, could do it.
Shiboprosad: We did workshops with Nigel for several months and he did a great job. Many episodes in the film are taken from his life.
Are your other films too derived from real life? There would be a lot of reportage involved in the research…
Shiboprosad: You could say that. For our next film Ramdhanu, we did a whole lot of research on parents who want to admit their children to English medium schools. There are such loveable characters who exist out there, somewhere amidst us. We have taken these characters from real life. Since our stories are so much rooted in reality people can actually identify with them.
Do you wish or feel your films may change certain things?
Shiboprosad: May be it is too much to aspire to bring about a social change through one’s films. But as a creative person, I feel that if our work touches someone to an extent that she/he ponders and makes an effort to avoid something unethical, a crime or a wrong, then that is reward enough.
What are your next films going to be?
Nandita: The immediate one is Ramdhanu — The Rainbow — which will release in mid-2014. It is based on Suchitra Bhattacharjee’s story Ramdhanu’r Rang. There are plans for a sequel to Muktodhara, another on today’s youth in Kolkata. There are plenty of ideas brimming in the head, we hope to translate them to as many films as possible.
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