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A second take

It’s the nerve-wracking few weeks that every movie director dreads — the twilight zone when shooting and editing are completed and a film is about to be released to the waiting world. Director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury colourfully calls it ‘pre-natal depression’. “I’m tensed and anxious but it’s part of the game. We’ve done our best,” he says in a matter-of-fact tone.

His second movie Antaheen releases on January 23. But the director’s already moved on to new projects. He’s ready with two more scripts — one Bengali and the other Hindi. The Bengali film is based on Sunil Gangopadhyay’s Dui Nari Haate Tarobari while the Hindi one will be a love story with terrorism as the backdrop. If that’s not enough, he’s also about to produce a movie to be directed by ace cinematographer Avik Mukhopadhyay, which will start shooting in a few weeks.

Nevertheless, there’s a lot riding on Antaheen, which Roy Chowdhury calls a “new approach to love”. “It’s a personal film and consists of moments from life which have been either experienced by me or which I have seen other people experience,” he says.

(From top) Roy Chowdhury during the making of Antaheen; Aparna Sen and Sharmila Tagore in the movie

This is Roy Chowdhury’s first movie after the success of Anuranan in 2007. Like Anuranan, which was the first Bengali movie that ushered in the trend of New Age urban movies, Antaheen too scores several firsts. It’s the first time Bollywood composer Shantanu Moitra has scored for a Bengali film, and Roy Chowdhury has also got popular Bangla band Chandrabindoo to pen the lyrics.

The movie offers up more firsts. It brings together yesteryear heartthrobs Sharmila Tagore and Aparna Sen. Also, there’s Sen’s real-life husband Kalyan Ray who plays her reel-life husband.

Antaheen revolves around the lives of three couples,” says Roy Chowdhury. There’s Rahul Bose and newcomer Radhika Apte who bond over the Internet; Aparna and Ray who play man and wife and Mita Vashist and Shauvik Kundagrami (he’s back after the cameo as a Bangladeshi cabbie in The Bong Connection). And then there’s Tagore, who lives all alone but has a hidden love in her life which the audience would be able to feel, says the director.

All of Roy Chowdhury’s projects deal with love. “May be I am a very romantic person,” he says, winking. It took the director two years to make his second film but he says that’s not too long. “I believe in taking time unless I am in love with a story which just can’t wait,” he says.

Roy Chowdhury says he always has lots of ideas bubbling around in his mind. “Certain threads of the story come to my mind…certain faces, locations, motions and movements spring up,” he says. He tosses the ideas at friends. “It’s not a planned lovemaking process. The baby just happens,” he says, passionately.

But the director admits that there’s often more than one story flitting around in his mind. He simply picks the one that appeals to him the most. “It’s the same way in which one particular person takes priority in your life,” he says.

Made for a budget of slightly over a crore, Antaheen was completed in about six months and was shot entirely in Calcutta. “The way Avik has photographed it, the movie looks delicious,” says the director who had to wait for 10 years before he could gather enough funds for his first movie.

Roy Chowdhury says he wanted to get into films “from the time I was in class four or five”. He did amateur theatre with groups like Theatre Arts Workshop and Shakespeare Society Of Eastern India in the early ’80s. “I figured out then that I wanted to earn my living through films,” he says.

He briefly tried to be an actor and did two serials — Rudra Sen-er Diary and Abhinetri. “I realised quickly that acting was not my cup of tea,” he confesses.

Roy Chowdhury went on to direct two telefilms for Doordarshan in 1988-89 — Stepping Out, about a village boy who finds it difficult to cope with city life and The Stranger which was the saga of a lonely boy. “They gave me a taste of cinema for the first time,” says the director.

Then he joined Jain Studios to make corporate and ad films. In 1995, he started Opus Communications with director wife Indrani Mukherjee and made about 400 ads for companies like Nestle, Coke and ABP.

His company, Screenplay Films, was started 10 years later. “I wanted a new entity as feature films are hugely different from ad film-making,” says Roy Chowdhury. Their first venture was Anuranan. He had some pretty bad experiences during the making.“I believe the losses and hardships were my entry fee for cinema,” he says.

Roy Chowdhury says: “The first time was more spontaneous. Now I know the nuances of filmmaking”.

Rituparna Sengupta in a moment from Anuranan

Others seem to agree. “Roy Chowdhury has become more mature in this movie. He has worked more on his script this time and the visual work is also better,” says actor-director Aparna Sen. Actor Rahul Bose — who worked in both Anuranan and Antaheen — too feels that Roy Chowdhury has changed. “His skill has improved and his hand is more sure. He is more mature, interesting and engaging and there are layers in his work,” he says.

Says film critic Dr Shoma Chatterji: “There is a lot of poetry and lyricism in his work. Coming from an advertising background, he has good control over the medium. He deals with relationships in a subtle understated way.”

On the flip side though, Chatterji feels that the director lacks universal appeal being neither mainstream Tollywood nor purely art film. “He is not in your face. So people used to loud films may not like his work,” she says. “He has strong vision and imagination. The attention to details is very good,” says Sen.

So what’s a normal day like for the director? “I’d rather tell you what an abnormal day is like,” he jokes. He usually starts out at around 6am and heads for a game of golf at RCGC. Then, he heads to his office nearby. “I come to office, meet people, have good food and find out ways to get anxious,” laughs the director.

Roy Chowdhury is crossing his fingers and hoping for the best with his new film. He says optimistically: “If a movie has soul, it will generate money.”  

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