The director duo of Shiboprosad Mukherjee and Nandita Roy are back with their third film, Accident, which hits the screens on Friday. A t2 chat with the Ichhe and Muktodhara makers.
Is Accident based on a particular incident or have a lot of incidents been strung together?
Shiboprosad: The idea struck me when someone in my dentist’s family faced a similar situation. We saw how the family was left shaken and shattered. Then came the Keshtopur bus accident in 2008, after which a lot of things like worn-out tyres, the role of bus unions... all came to the fore. Didi (Nandita) and I decided that we really wanted to do a film on this.
Nandita: Yes, the story has been in our heads for that long. We started shooting only in December 2010 but we decided to release Muktodhara first, so it is coming out now.
Tell us about the film...
Nandita: Accident is the story of Arka, played by Shiboprosad, who decides to take up the cause of his son’s death. A bus driver (Rudranil Ghosh) runs over his son. It is a story which reminds you that accidents are not always due to the pedestrian’s fault. It brings to light the fact that no one is safe on the streets and that life could be a little better if we all tried to do something together. Debshankar Halder plays the insurance agent involved in the case, Kanchan Mallick plays the bus conductor and Kharaj Mukherjee is the owner of a fleet of buses.
Didn’t you feel that choosing this kind of a subject might narrow down your audience?
Nandita: It does not. Initially, many thought it would. See, Ichhe was an unusual subject, Muktodhara was an unusual subject. After these two films did well, we knew that as long as we do a good job, tell a good and relevant story, we will have an audience. The notion that the audience wouldn’t take it does not work today.
Shiboprosad, you were applauded for your performance in Muktodhara and you have a pivotal character in Accident. Are you passionate about acting?
Nandita: I feel he is an actor first and a director later. So I decided that he had to do this role.
Shiboprosad: For Arka, we wanted someone more or less of Rudra’s height, stature, age... in order to build an ironic similarity between the culprit and the victim... that they could have easily been in each other’s shoes. For me, acting is a passion. I am a director’s actor. I need a good script to work with. So while pursuing acting, I decided that if I act again, it will be for myself. The equation is simple. If my performance adds a point to the film’s ratings, it will only be for our film. Nobody will have me, only we will have me (laughs)! But that does not mean I will act in every film we make. I will only do so if the role demands it.
While Muktodhara has been loved by many, some felt that the treatment was over the top. Will Accident be any different?
Shiboprosad: Accident has a completely different approach. It is very real, in fact there are some scenes that are so real that you will feel as if they are getting under your skin. There is one scene where my character is standing at the same traffic signal where the accident had happened and he’s just staring at the traffic lights, thinking whether it was red or green when his son’s hand slipped from his. The thought process is something so many have gone through, guessing and wishing things were different. There is also a fight sequence between Rudra and me in a bustee that was not choreographed. It was so real! We were tearing into each other without a thought, like street dogs. Didi wanted the fight to be raw, it was so realistic that in the end we forgot it was a shot, we were just fighting. We did that shot twice, I still have an injury mark on my shins and Rudra has a scar on one side of his face.
Nandita: It won’t feel like you’re watching a film. You will feel like you are living a nightmare, facing the situation... the effect is that real. It is almost frightening! Shooting this film has been a nightmare for us, especially the bus racing and accident sequences. Anil Singh, our director of photography, who has worked in films like Guzaarish and Chak De! India, insisted that we shoot the bus sequences at 10.30 in the morning to get the full effect of crowded streets! He was strapped to the front of the speeding bus, Rudra was at the wheel. We knew that if even an inch went wrong from what we had planned, so many would be left worse than injured. I could not take it for long. I would leave the shoot because I was scared to watch.
Ichhe, Muktodhara and now Accident… you have a penchant for gritty, intense stories. Is there no room for light-hearted stuff in your plans?
Nandita: (Laughs) I must admit we do stuff that interest us and that which we feel the audience would be equally interested in. So if the audience wants a full-scale blown-up Yash Chopra melodrama film from us, we are game as long as we can find an interesting story around it.
Shiboprosad: As for issue-oriented stories, it is simple. There are so many things around us that need to be addressed. I have this house in Baranagar and our ground floor is occupied by these tenants who don’t pay rent and refuse to vacate the premises. We had to go to court to reclaim our own property and this case has been going on for the last 18 years. It is ridiculous, and don’t be surprised if we make a film on it! It is comic in such a nightmarish way.... So we feel it is important to portray these everyday horror stories in our films. That’s all.
How do you zone into an issue that both of you feel should be made into a movie?
Nandita: We just sit down and say, ‘Hey, I think this is interesting’ and we discuss it in detail, and if there are two ideas we judge which one we are more passionate about and say, ‘Let’s do this’. It’s as simple as that.
Muktodhara had Rituparna Sengupta, otherwise your films don’t bank on stars...
Shiboprosad: We cast someone who is needed in a role, it does not matter if it is a big name or not. For Muktodhara, we needed Rituparna. We needed an elegant lady, a dancer who would do justice to that role. The story holds the audience in the hall, so that is the key.
What’s next for you?
Nandita: Currently, we are working on Suchitra Bhattacharya’s novel Aleek Sukh. And we have got some new ideas floating....