Goutam Ghose in Purulia’s Ayodhya Pahar
His voice has cracked, his skin is sunburnt and he hardly finds the time to eat. For over two weeks, Goutam Ghose has been shooting relentlessly for Shunnyo Onko in Purulia’s unforgiving Ayodhya Pahar, where you have rain and shine in equal measure. After pack-up, Ghose chatted with t2 about his film starring Konkona Sensharma, Priyanshu Chatterjee and Priyanka Bose.
Shunnyo Onko is a curious title. What does it mean?
That’s a bit of a surprise! Zero went from India and zero made this modern world. Had there been no zero, there would have been no scientific development. The zero went to the West from India through the Arab traders. It has changed the world. There’s fun in it, and also our last act is zero!
And what prompted you to make Shunnyo Onko?
You see, in a way, it’s a very patriotic film. Patriotic in a different sense. For us, patriotism means songs sung during the India-Pakistan war! But true patriotism is to know your country. It’s a really incredible India with all its problems, poverty, discrepancies.... Every time you move around, it’s wonder after wonder, unbelievable! The tribals here are so gentle, so disciplined. We can learn so many things from them, especially about sustainable living which is very important, otherwise we will destroy this planet. To love your country and that the young generation is doing a lot for this country, those kind of examples are there in my film.
You’ve developed the story from a line from Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. How did it shape up?
The line from Hemingway is ‘A man can be destroyed but not defeated.’ It’s a very spiritual line, in my opinion. You can’t destroy the human spirit; you can defeat the man but not his spirit. My film has mostly urban characters and they confront rural India, tribal india, which was very peaceful at one point of time. Tribal India was the red corridor, almost. It’s the Maoist corridor. The question is why they have taken up arms... very unfortunate. But it’s not a preachy film. I am just putting the characters in these situations.
How far are you exploring the Maoist angle?
A little bit. Naturally when I am showing the tribals and why tribals have taken up arms, it will be there. But this is just one part of the film. Agni (Priyanshu Chatterjee) and Jhilik (Priyanka Bose) face two different situations — work brings Agni here and he goes to holiday in Manali with his wife (Priyanka). But what he realises is that in both the places, there is external or internal tension, which is life itself.
Priyanshu has a significant role. You must have been pleased with his performance in Moner Manush.
Yes, in a different role absolutely. In Moner Manush he had played a historical character (Jyotirindranath Tagore), the role suited him. Priyanshu is a very sincere actor, very cerebral. This is a very important character in his career, I believe. He’s been living it.
|Priyanshu and Konkona in Purulia
Konkona is like my cuddly baby, I have known her from the time she was in the nursing home! I am very happy that I gave her this character because I was thinking what to offer her.... India is a diverse country and a lot of young girls and boys are exploring it. She plays a journalist. For a reporter, only the truth is the consideration. The real story, and finding the real story sometimes is very risky and she takes the risk and tries to build up the story and while doing so she strikes up a friendship with Agni.... If a director can guide her properly, Konkona can be absolutely brilliant. She understands my point of view very quickly. I have been watching her since the beginning of her career. I had shot Mr. and Mrs. Iyer and she was a newcomer then. She has an instinct.... Priyanka, too, has done very well. She is a real discovery!
Is Ayodhya Pahar turning out to be the most hectic part of the shoot?
Yes, it’s quite difficult. The terrain, the logistics... but it’s a very interesting place which has its own character. Manali is a tourist spot with a lot of amenities. But this is an unchartered territory. Basically, it’s a tribal homeland and I felt I could connect it with the story because the main character (Priyanshu) goes to a tribal area in search of bauxite and then there is tension.
Like in your last film Moner Manush, here too you are taking precarious top shots from cranes...
(Laughs out loud) You know, I love using space because time and space is the main thing in cinema. How you place your characters in space is very interesting. I really don’t like typical sequences. Like there are a few interior shots in the film... it’s very conversation-oriented, so I don’t do much kayda! I shoot these scenes in typical old Hollywood technique, mid-shot, close-up, composite.... I like crane shots, I have been doing it for a long time. You can utilise space even without moving your camera... especially when I am shooting in a terrain like this (Ayodhya Pahar). This is a fantastic terrain... boulders, laterite, granite, small hillocks, forests, very interesting....
Didn’t you decide to shoot Lala and a film with Prosenjit before Shunnyo Onko?
Yes, a lot of projects are on. Lala is fixed. We are doing the pre-production. It’s an Indo-Italian production. Late Theo Angelopoulos’s executive producer Amedeo Pagani is the executive producer for Lala. I will start shooting in December.