Mir at South City Mall CCD with t2 where he and Sreyashi Sen came up with the idea of Darpan over a cup of coffee. Picture by Bhubaneswarananda Halder
Movies to migrant workers, hard talk on the industry to night-outs with the film frat — Darpan 2012, the first Bengali film festival in Singapore organised by Mir and his Singapore-based friend Sreyashi Sen in association with t2, ticked all the boxes for Tollywood. Mir rewinds to the roller-coaster ride...
We’ve never seen a more serious Mir, who’s known as the funnyman!
Are you seriously saying this? (Laughs) Sometimes you need to be serious and when tasked with this festival, I really thought of ways of getting some seriousness into my body, my persona. Whenever I talk, even the most serious of people say, ‘You must be joking!’ When I went to the sponsors, they either said, ‘Are you serious?’ or ‘Oh, you must be joking!’ I even switched to trousers and ties, got myself visiting cards for the first time in my life.
So that explains your new wardrobe of satin shirts, waistcoats and ties...
Yes, and they were all on hire! My dresser wanted to give me new clothes at a discount but I wasn’t ever going to wear them under normal circumstances, so I insisted that he give me a set of clothes only on hire, to help improve my all-new serious look.
How many hats were you wearing for Darpan?
I was co-conceptualiser of the event, also the emcee. At first we thought of hiring a local emcee, who chickened out because handling a Bengali fraternity was too much for him! Literally looking into people’s tastes, likes and dislikes starting with ‘Apni ki kheyechhen?’ to ‘Ashchhen toh?’ like in a biyebari.
Those six days, I hardly slept for more than three hours a day. But with a super-efficient volunteer team and my Bandage guys carrying the 35mm cans to co-ordinating transport, we managed it all pretty decently. Finally, I got a big can-can [a Singlish term that means ‘sure, we can’] from all the industry people! Actually, they had never seen me in this avatar. So, me without a track record planning a large-scale event such as this in pardes, they were sceptical and so were we but we crossed the bridges as and when we got there. Next time around, all of them want to be there, not as guests but to handhold us through the entire process. Even if I don’t do another Darpan, this will remain a wow experience.
What was the best part of the festival?
I don’t remember seeing Bumbada (Prosenjit) on a beach, so relaxed and rewinding to the days when he was a theatre worker, getting Rs 500 a month to becoming the hottest star in the industry. He just plonked himself on the sand and chatted away under the stars. Also memorable was the last night on Arab Street when the entire jingbang, despite a long and tiring day, discussed films, friends, music... having fun. I don’t know when we’ll have such an opportunity again. These are moments of the festival that I will cherish forever. But the bestest part of the festival was the meeting with Sicci (Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry) followed by a walk into an antechamber only to find maachher jhol-bhaat that brought together a perfect mix of business and pleasure. Hopefully, this December at the Ficci meet in Calcutta, we’ll have Sicci.
|The finale of Darpan 2012 in Singapore was a moment to remember
Do you think Darpan managed to catch the multi-ethnic audience it was targeting?
It did. I was sitting next to a Chinese couple while watching Bhooter Bhobishyot and people followed the story word by word. All our brochures were designed by the Chinese. This partnership wouldn’t have been possible had it only been Bengalis. They were truly encouraging and enterprising.
What were the biggest on-ground challenges?
Handling a group of 20 stars is like driving a rocket to the moon! Most of them came to Singapore on separate flights. So airport to hotel transfers needed to be smoother than silk. And then taking the Big Bang group [meaning the Tolly team] from the hotel to the festival venue was another exercise. Since we were screening the films at a multiplex, we had to ensure that nobody was late. When you’re on time in a foreign country, everything’s fine. But if you’re not, you need to pay a fine!
That apart, many of our celeb friends kept asking us at every screening, ‘Will we have to watch the film? Again?’ (Laughs) Also, getting the group together for the parties and then later packing them into a coach and sending them back to the hotel when they had just started to have a good time and we were looking at our watches.... Unlike on local shores where even after 1am we can request a restaurant owner to keep entertaining us with the typical half-shutter down scenario, Singapore strictly follows a time schedule. So, how not to be rude to our guests and at the same time not overstay was also a big challenge!
Who was the best behaved?
Hands down, Prosenjit! I remember when we met him at the airport, he had just arrived from Iceland, I told him he had the entire day to relax till the 22shey Srabon screening but he turned around and told us that he just needed an hour. He was willing to be ‘used’ and ‘utilised’ in anyway that would serve the festival’s purpose. So we had tears rolling down our eyes in typical Bengali filmi-style… What dedication! Never late, always on time: that’s Prosenjit Chatterjee for you!
Best festival discovery?
The Danger Girls — Raima (Sen), Swastika (Mukherjee), Ananya (Chatterjee) — who were getting too close to the Pacific Ocean on our night-out on the beach. Pacific means pacifying and trust me I was nowhere in peace! Churnidi (Ganguly), as the godmother, constantly keeping an eye on people and making sure everyone was all right.... Kaushik Ganguly, as the soothsayer, always forecasting a topsy-turvy turn of events: ‘Dekho dekho Mir, khonj nao, ke kothay achhe, khonj nao!’ Whenever anyone asked me if they could do something, I would say, ‘Shauk se’ (with pleasure) which was sometimes misinterpreted as ‘Shock se’! (Laughs) But thankfully, not too many shocks (smiles). On the other hand, it was wonderful to see Srijit (Mukherji) and Prosenjit bonding on the beach after all those endless comments on their lost romance!
The beginning of every panel discussion. There were mini private parties happening everywhere the previous night. Either in someone’s room or on Arab Street or at Clarke Quay. So the challenge was to keep reminding everyone of their next morning session. My best ploy was to go up to a person and say, ‘Look... I know I can only say this to you because only you will understand my situation and be on time’ and I’d do that with everyone (laughs). And it actually was successful.
Some important lessons learnt?
Keep a very cool head and no thanda tel in the world can do that to you. I’ve had a tantrum-free contingent this time and the ones who did throw tantrums, my CCTV is still on, darlings!
Are you ready for Darpan 2013?
I need a bit of time to detox. I’m waking up everyday with the thought, ‘Oh no, breakfast till 10.30am only’! (Laughs) But we’re not looking at a one-year gap. We can do this more frequently and therefore looking at a deadline in the next six months. We want Darpan 2013 to travel around Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia so that it becomes truly multi-city, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic. I want to take a small team of around five people from the industry who stay behind the scenes — a spotboy to a hairdresser — and show them that this is what you had worked for!
Any dos and don’ts for the next edition?
Do be on time and please don’t party late if you have an early morning session! Do carry loads of cash for you shall be seduced to shop. Do believe me when I say the hotel is very strict on smoking rules. Don’t smoke in the toilet (grins). And don’t call him Bumbada at an official event. It’s always Prosenjit!