Shrabanti as Chaitali
Kaash phool! The tall brushy white kaash invites the season of festivities into Bengal. Tall and elegant, like a rustic beauty, it sways under a startlingly blue sky trimmed with dispersing clouds. Kaash swaying on the edge of the river Ajoy was the backdrop for the first shot of Aparna Sen’s Goynar Baksho.
It was Mahalaya and the air was blessed. In a moment of madness, I had decided to plunge myself into filmmaking, with one of the leading directors of the country whose body of work speaks a language of sensitivity, perception and dynamism, stretching and evolving, intricately weaving stories in backdrops of social concern, political upheavals, identity crisis and personal contradictions.
Goynar Baksho or The Jewellery Box is a story by Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, encompassing three generations in post-Independent India, where the key protagonists travel through time, evolving beyond the material world, challenging norms, defying tradition encased in a delicate value system. Bengal’s very own Shrabanti, along with Kaushik Roy, and an awe-inspiring number of vehicles and crew worked for hours to ensure a minute of perfection, which would fit itself snugly into a beautifully driven narrative after edit.
Learning the ropes is tough in a format where teamwork and expertise work hand in hand, concretising ONE individual’s vision. When we watch films, we all turn into critics so smoothly. Agreed that many of the films that are made every day are avoidable, but the effort that goes into making a film boggles the mind. Months of planning, budgeting, detailing and coordinating pile up to give birth to a method, while glitches, hitches and loopholes appear from nowhere, creating impossible moments which are resolved with improvisations.
My first day with the cast and crew at the reading session was a memorable one. Two-and-a-half hours we all listened spellbound, to Rinadi’s (Aparna) voice unfolding the tale as conceived by her, with nuances and twists helping us visualise, frame by frame, the plot, the theme, the characters, the situations.
When cinema gets real as it does with Rinadi’s work, always, one can’t take liberties with anything at all. Logic plays a huge role, rationality is not killed, detailing is perfect. Yet there are touches of magic realism, there are moments of madness and one can’t do away with the willing suspension of disbelief in any true work of art. Goynar Baksho has characters that are real and unreal, images that haunt, backdrops that stir, relationships that are reborn.
Pre-production saw sets being designed, costumes created, looks tested, props collected, colour palettes discussed, changes, setbacks, highs and lows. Late-night meetings, Sunday sessions, hurried postscripts and more. Post-production will bring it all into focus. The shoot-execution of a dream.
A Shree Venkatesh Films production, Goynar Baksho will be seen through Soumik’s (Soumik Haldar) lens while the inimitable Debuda ( Debojyoti Mishra) composes, adding melody to a multilayered story. Shubha Mudgal is here, singing for the film. Simple yet evocative lines by Srijato, touched by Debuda’s musical magic, took us to an extraordinary realm as Shubha’s unusual voice spoke of love, longing and desire.
Can’t resist the temptation of ending this column with a quote from one of my favourite poets. “I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life. And I am horribly limited.” —Sylvia Plath.
What better way to combat this human limitation? Working with Aparna Sen on a script that speaks volumes! So much to look forward to, so much to learn. So many characters coming alive. So many skilled artistes excelling in their respective fields. Film, the one medium through which I can become so many. It has taken me a quarter century to dare to dream. But they say “beginning is half done” and “better late than never”. I know that this will be a learning, an exposure, an eye-opener, definitely an interlude, and may be life-changing.