Anjan, Suman, Aniruddha and Pratim.
Picture by Anindya Shankar Ray
Filmmakers Anjan Dutt, Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury and Suman Ghosh got together at Barista (Lake Road) on Thursday morning to talk Paanch Adhyay with debutant director Pratim D. Gupta.
Pratim: I found one thing very interesting, that all three of you told me — ‘I didn’t expect a film like this from you.’ So what were you expecting?
Anjan: I know that you’ve been writing since 2008, when you read out your first script to me, but it was not working out and it kept getting delayed. I had really liked your earlier script, thought you had different ideas, so when I heard that you were making this film, I never expected you to make a premer galpo, a story about a relationship. I honestly thought you were doing it as a second choice because you could not make the other one. But when I watched the film, I was intrigued by its structure, the way it is made. See, usually directors experiment with the structure and style of filmmaking only after making three or four films. Before that it is only about the story, which your first script was — a very powerful story. But the way you have played around with the narrative — the time jumps and space jumps — this I did not expect. I always thought you were a very simple, old-fashioned, classic Hollywood kind of a filmmaker. This notion was completely changed.
Suman: I have told you this before and I believe you are one of the best film critics in the country. You are knowledgeable about world cinema, so I was a bit apprehensive that there might be a lot of in-your-face showing off. But I found it very pleasant that it was nothing like I feared. Everything was so subtle and beautifully narrated. Also, these days people look down on relationship stories, but this film showed how the manner of filmmaking, its presentation, can make it so interesting. It shows that relationship films are not clichéd.
Aniruddha: So then we must ask who are these people who are seeing relationship stories in a derogatory light. Because I think it is ridiculous. An artiste’s support of another is crucial, sensitivity is very important, we should encourage each other so that we can come up with new ideas and stories. What appeals to me most in any film is the making. It is like a bandish, just like a tune suddenly hooks you. Paanch Adhyay also has something which strikes you. It has something very mature about it. In fact, after watching the film, I told Pratim, ‘Don’t lie; this can’t be your first film!’ See this does not look like a first film. The way he has crafted the film — the camera work, the editing, the framing — it is a new voice. Also, the scenes are so beautiful. In Paanch Adhyay, I found cinema in every frame, which is a very interesting and important experience for the audience. Only if we welcome films like these, in four-five years there will be some kind of improvement in the industry. And it is we who have to create this opportunity for each other. See it is very important to tell our story for our sake. So what if we make mistakes? What is important is the spirit. You may say I am wrong but I sincerely believe in it.
Anjan: Speaking of expectations and achievements, I have another point to add. How old are you, Pratim? Around 30, I am guessing, like my son (Neel). What struck me is that in one sense Paanch Adhyay is a very conventional, extramarital relationship film. But in a usual tale, the relationship falls apart because a woman or a man comes into their lives. What interested me here was the coming together of the couple. I can’t imagine a 30-year-old, single man being able to conceive something which only struck me a while back. In fact, I was thinking of doing a film on how an extramarital relationship brings a couple back together. I expected Pratim to linger a bit more on the part where the crisis, whatever it may be, brings Ishita (Dia Mirza) and Arindam (Priyanshu Chatterjee) back together. There were a couple of scenes that I liked a lot, like when Ranjabati (Sampurna) and Arindam are talking and they are role-playing, trying to second guess how Ishita is going to react to the news of his affair.
But I expected a more racy thriller or a young film from you, the kind Mainak (Bhaumik) makes. Definitely not a tale about a husband-wife and a relationship falling apart, one man’s journey that comes into perspective only after the age of 40-45. Maybe it is because, as Suman says, you have watched so many films. You have made a very different film.
Suman: Coming to what runs and what does not, Anjanda, considering you are a king of the box office, tell us who decides and what happens to films with a difference. Do they just die out?
Anjan: See, the sad situation is that today, every film has to have more than four weeks of packed theatres. It must have songs, it must be loved by all... only then will it become a hit. Calcutta always used to be tolerant of the alternative arts, but I am sorry to say, and this is about the audience, there has been a downfall. It is time the audience and the media start thinking what they want to really focus on. Every film should be celebrated because it is a new voice. If we want something different to happen, to ensure films of every kind can thrive, we need to promote it. When in 2006 I made Bong Connection and Tony (Aniruddha) made Anuranan, the audience was looking for something new. It did not matter if Dia or Priyanshu was there. What mattered was that there was substance and something new.
Suman: When I came down to Calcutta, I heard so much... like a whisper campaign against Paanch Adhyay. Why?! Give the film a chance. Procheshta ta ke support koro (support this attempt)....
Aniruddha: Exactly! I can do anything but I will expect Anjanda or you to come up and say, ‘Bhalo hoyechhe re, keep it up.’ And it will be the same if Anjanda makes a film. Just by watching one frame you know that this boy (Pratim) can make a film. If you say I am wrong, I will stop making films. We should be encouraging him to do one more. It is never about the box office and how much you pull in, especially in the first few weeks. See, at South Point I never came first in class but does that mean aami kharap chhele? No. The mentality has to change. We can’t run any film down. We should discuss and debate, not attack it.
Pratim: Today, in order for a film to be ‘good’, it has to be a box-office hit, has to win National awards and do festivals. I mean, it is crazy! But my producer ????(Kaustuv Roy) is extremely proud of the film. He is very happy that Anjanda told him Paanch Adhyay is the best film he has produced.
Anjan: Today if a film does well at the box office, it is a good film. And born out of this is a sense of insecurity in everyone. They alll want to keep to the formula and be successful. If they are constantly told they are fools to back alternative films, they will back off.
Aniruddha: Yes, we can’t afford to let it get to us. We can’t fall into this trap. In fact, I had lost my confidence....
Anjan: Absolutely, because then even I have to start thinking whether the only reason my films are watched is because I am a successful singer and I have sung Ranjana... and Bela Bose? So, if tomorrow I make a new film, which does not have songs, will no one watch my film? Do I always have to have yuppy, young people in my film? Arrey, some people are saying aami part pai na boley natok korchhi. Can you imagine?!
Aniruddha: Watching Paanch Adhyay, you can’t figure out its budget. It looks like a Rs 5-6 crore film, its production value is so high. Pratim has tried to create an expressive canvas.
Anjan: See, today what the audience wants is emotional shurshuri. Pratim’s film does not give that till the very end. And even at the very end where the other woman sits in the coffee shop, you feel a sense of empathy towards her. So who is bad, who is good... everything gets blurred. I find that very interesting.
Pratim: A lot of people have come out crying too, by the way!
Anjan: Yes, my wife (Chanda)... how much she cried! But seriously, I feel people should watch Paanch Adhyay because it has been intelligently crafted. It is a familiar story told completely differently. For instance, the shot where Priyanshu comes home after work, which is repeated later on. There was an uncanny feeling... I knew that I will see something different. I think it’s my favourite scene from the film. Also, I liked how in the beginning, during their youth, so many of the shots were in the lanes and bylanes of north Calcutta, so much of the heady world outside. But when they grew up and settled down, it became very practical, claustrophobic, all within four walls.... I am not saying Paanch Adhyay is the most brilliant film ever made or that it’s Pratim’s best, but it is worth seeing.
Aniruddha: Pratim’s use of magic realism, especially towards the beginning of the film, with the use of light and colour... this too creates a kind of drama that you have to appreciate. Beyond the script, there is a language of the lens that has to be savoured because these create the actual, poignant moments.
Suman: I loved the moment where Arindam and Ishita go out to eat, to reveal their secret. That moment had so much subtle drama. It was so deftly and maturely handled.
Anjan: I loved Priyanshu in this film. I think he has delivered a very mature performance. Despite being the most negative character, he has such an interesting position in the film.
Aniruddha: Dia looked beautiful. The close-ups have been taken so well.
Suman: I think we would like to end this chat by simply saying, go and watch Paanch Adhyay. You might not like the film, in which case you can come out and abuse Tony, Anjanda and me… because it might be that we do not understand films. But at least give it a chance and then decide for yourself. Come out of the theatre and let’s have a healthy debate.