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Simple tale of a complex search

To cut a long story short, expanding a few pages of fiction on celluloid is more challenging than squeezing a 300-pager into three hours. With Faltu, releasing on Friday, Anjan Das feels he has tackled the most difficult text in trying to translate it into cinema. His earlier films based on literature were Saanjhbatir Roopkathara (Joy Goswami's eponymous novel) and Iti Srikanta (Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's Srikanta).

Produced by Planman Motion Pictures, Faltu, starring Indrani Halder, Yash Pandit and Manjari Fadnis (both of Rok Sako To Rok Lo), Soumitra Chatterjee, Nirmal Kumar, Masood Akhtar, Biplab Chatterjee and others, is based on Ranirghater Brittanto, a 12-page short story by Syed Mujtaba Siraj.

'In Saanjhbatir Roopkathara, Joy had etched out the characters with dialogues. My task was to find a format, edit and focus on scenes that justify filming. Faltu required a lot of addition. There was just the crux in Ranirghater Brittanto and I had to add to it,' says Das.

Ranirghater Brittanto starts in 1951 when a mad woman takes shelter at Ranirghat, a habitation of some uprooted people, after the partition of Bengal. Raped by a gang of villagers, the woman gives birth to Faltu. Twenty years later, a census survey in the area draws the villagers and Faltu, who now earns a living as a truck driver, back into a sordid past. The youth, restless to know who his father is, embarks on a journey of self-identity.

'I found two significant strands in Siraj's story. One was Faltu's quest for identity and the second was the sense of guilt that remained years after a crime was committed... The effects that sexual repression and uprooting have on people,' Das explains.

'So I gave a free run to my imagination. I was thinking in terms of visuals. The story had a river and a village on its banks and I had to make the most of the visual element. Unlike my other films where others write the script and I concentrate mainly on the visuals, I was involved with the Faltu script for a year-and-a-half... There is a lot more creative freedom in creating a film from a short story.'

Several recces were conducted before the shoot in Behrampore, when Das hunted for locales by the riverside. After the Santiniketan schedule last April, the crew waited till monsoon for an overcast sky. The film was finally shot on location in Murshidabad in dull weather with sporadic spells of rain. Cinematographer Shirsha Roy has brought in 'a lot more fluidity to the film', attests the director.

The soundtrack, scored by Jyotishka Dasgupta, also features a Baul song and an Alkaap mukhara.

'I feel visually I have been able to come close to Siraj's story' This film will be less difficult to understand than either Saanjhabtir Roopkathara or Iti Srikanta and that I think will pull in more people than the other two films did. One had to diligently follow the dialogues in Saanjhbatir' while Iti Srikanta had some subtle nuances. Faltu is more simple,' says Das, who was initially apprehensive about casting Yash Pandit as Faltu. The Mumbai boy camped in the district for a month before he finally got the look and feel of a Murshidabad truck driver.

'Indrani has given an out-of-the-world performance. There is scarcely any dialogue and she only howls occasionally,' Das adds.

The marketing muscle of Planman Motion Pictures is already making its presence seen. Faltu will be the first Bengali film to enjoy simultaneous releases in Mumbai and Delhi with English subtitles. It is also the first Bengali film boasting promos alongside a Rang De Basanti and a Fight Club on national television.

The panel discussion at Oxford Bookstore, Calcutta, on adapting literature into films was followed by another one in Mumbai. If the Calcutta one had the likes of Rituparno Ghosh, the speakers in Mumbai were Shyam Benegal, Kalpana Lajmi, Vijay Tendulkar, Anurag Kashyap, Sudhir Mishra and Anjan Das.

'We are quite keen on doing films sourced from literature. We are looking at other talented new directors from Bengal who are willing to work on literary texts,' stresses Subho Sekhar Bhattacharya, CEO, Planman Motion Pictures

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