he has walked down the coveted red carpet which Satyajit Ray had trod before. And he has rubbed shoulders with Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai. The journey from suburban Barasat to the blazing arc lights at Cannes could not have been more exhilarating for Tridib Poddar.
Khonj, a half-an-hour diploma film that Poddar made during his final year at Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI), has catapulted him to dizzy heights. The short film is the first Indian entry ever to have been nominated in the Cine Foundation section of the Cannes Film Festival. The section — whose jury president was film-maker Martin Scorcese — had 12 entries from India this year.
“Cannes is a grand affair… the screenings, press meets and interactions between organisers and film-makers… the entire atmosphere was electric,” says the SRFTI graduate in direction and screenplay-writing.
The special moment, however, was when Iranian film-maker and jury member Abbas Kiarostami singled out and commended Poddar for his effort. “I am very fond of Kiarostami’s films, especially And Life Goes On. I was extremely touched when he comforted me as I had hoped Khonj would win me an award,” reminisces Poddar. “Cannes is a film-makers’ paradise. It is the only festival which screens the world’s best movies made in the past one year.” Union minister of information and broadcasting Sushma Swaraj, too, squeezed time out and dropped in when Khonj was being screened.
With a modest budget of around Rs 8 lakh, Poddar shot Khonj at Ghatshila for 15 days with a 50-member unit. “It’s about the protagonist’s journey of self-realisation and inner metamorphosis, featuring veteran actress Gita De,” says the 28-year-old. The film has been nominated for the competitive sections at Teleride Festival, Colorado, and Fidec Festival, Belgium. Poddar has also sent a project for the Cannes Festival’s residence programme. If selected, the organisers will provide financial aid.
Having finished schooling in Barasat, Poddar did a B.Sc in agricultural science from Bidhanchandra Krishi Viswa Vidyalaya, in Kalyani. He took up a marketing job in a corporate house after graduation. But the desire to make films had always been there. “I used to dream of going to a film school some day. SRFTI gave me the chance to see good films and get into the process of film-making.”
Poddar has assisted Subhadro Chowdhury, a Pune film institute graduate, in directing his debut film Prohar, which will be released some time later. Currently, he is working on the script of his maiden, yet untitled, Bengali feature film. “I want to make films in Bengali. The handicaps that exist in the Tollygunge film industry can definitely be overcome,” he adds, exuding confidence.