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Mr Bhooter Bhobishyot breaks his silence

Anik Dutta is moving on to his second film Ascharjya Pradip. But the scars of Bhooter Bhobishyot are yet to heal. In a no-holds-barred chat with t2, the admaker-turned-director shares some of his bitter memories involving “the people in power”!

Your debut film Bhooter Bhobishyot is the only Bengali entry at the River to River 2012: Florence Indian Film Festival...

Well, nobody knows that Bhooter Bhobishyot was invited for a screening at Cannes. I got a call from their representative and they were surprised that we didn’t even register! They then asked us to send the film to the Berlin International Film Festival, but for some reason the DVD was not sent. I have heard that Bhooter Bhobishyot may not be sent for the National Awards either.

It was released in the US through Databazar and it had a full house during the weekend screenings. According to Databazar records, no Bengali film’s business has been anything close to Bhooter Bhobishyot. In fact, someone from Seattle called to say that they had a theme party where everyone dressed up like the Bhooter Bhobishyot characters!

Oh yes, it was also selected at Osian’s Cinefan but strangely wasn’t screened. I gave up. The people in power [Bhooter Bhobishyot was produced by Joy Ganguly and Mojo Productions] had a condition — if I wanted Bhooter Bhobishyot to travel to festivals, I had to do something which I wasn’t prepared to do.

But the people in power didn’t even pay me my remuneration... for writing the story and the lyrics, and directing the film. And the money was peanuts, mind you. One of the producers, I won’t name him, told me before Bhooter Bhobishyot had released that the only decision he regretted in life was making this film!

You know, I was the EP (executive producer) and also the spot boy on the sets! There were times when I didn’t know if we would shoot the next day. I would carry my own money to the shoot every day. But that’s fine because it was my first film, I was ready to do anything.... Now I got to know from a third person that Bhooter Bhobishyot is being screened at River to River 2012 in Florence, the only Bengali film to be shown.

I didn’t want to talk about it and now finally I have moved on. People have appreciated the film. I am concentrating on my next film Ascharjya Pradip.

Why didn’t you talk about all this before?

See, I don’t want to wash dirty linen in public. There was some disagreement over the copyright to the story and other issues, which was extremely unfair. The way I have been treated… the film was held to ransom. Finally, the decision was made by the people who had the power to decide that the film would not be sent to any festival. There was a huge problem before, during and after the film was made. Basically, the issue was about the story rights. Meanwhile, I came to know that the rights of Bhooter Bhobishyot were sold for Tamil, Telugu and Kannada remakes. These people were also about to sell it for a Hindi remake without my consent. The story is mine but they claim to have the copyright!

How? Was there no agreement?

There was an agreement but it has been interpreted differently by my lawyer and the producers.

What about the offers from Mumbai to make Bhooter Bhobishyot in Hindi?

Endemol, Venus Movie Production and Anurag Basu have shown interest. Bhooter Bhobishyot ran for three weeks in four multiplexes in Bombay. Anurag Kashyap tweeted good things about the film. I also got calls from Venus and Endemol. I said I was not sure if I could make a film in Hindi and if I wanted to make this film in Hindi. If it’s a question of selling the story or the rights then I would have to check with my producers.

So you cannot make a Hindi remake because the rights are with the producers?

That is something my lawyers are looking into. It’s a legal issue now. But coming back to your question, well, I don’t know whether I want to make Bhooter Bhobishyot in Hindi at all. If I do make a film in Hindi, should it be this film? See, if I make Bhooter Bhobishyot in Hindi the whole cultural reference has to change. I don’t want to do an exact thing in Hindi. I may not change the location but at least the characters need to change for them to speak fluently in Hindi. Initially I thought the location had to change but then I realised that ghosts didn’t need to travel and Calcutta is the only place that is slow to change. So, a Parsi guy from Bombay can easily land up at Chowdhury Palace (the setting in Bhooter Bhobishyot). But I can’t write Hindi. I need someone to collaborate on the script. I don’t want to make a fool of myself.

Okay, let’s move on to Ascharjya Pradip. When do you start shooting?

Yes, I have moved on too. I start shooting on December 11. Rose Valley Films is the producer.

Tell us about the film...

It’s about a modern-day Aladdin. An ordinary middle-class man whose wife scoffs at him at the slightest mistake and whose boss scolds him almost every day. He gets the ascharjya pradip (magic lamp) one day and what happens thereafter is what the film is about. There’s a genie too.... It’s based on a short story by Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay. I had bought the rights long ago and wrote the script about seven-eight years back. I have changed the story a bit. I had to because it’s a very short story and I had to stretch it. Secondly, the story itself was quite difficult to film. Not all stories are cinematic but the basic funda was very interesting, which at that time was very novel. I had thought of making a film on it in the late ’80s!

Why didn’t you make it then?

We went through a lot. I came very close to making this film three-four years back, it didn’t happen. I had done the casting too. And within a short time of writing the script and narrating it to a few people, some coincidences started happening which I shall talk about after the release of the film! (Laughs)

Besides, this was too ambitious a film to be my debut. It would have needed a little more money than, let’s say, Bhooter Bhobishyot. I actually wrote Bhooter Bhobishyot in a month.

Who are the key players in Ascharjya Pradip?

Rajatabha Dutta plays the genie and Saswata Chatterjee, the ordinary man. Sreelekha Mitra plays Saswata’s cranky wife. Mumtaz Sorcar plays a supermodel. The rest of the cast includes Haradhan Bandopadhyay, Manoj Mitra, Mir, Biswanath Bose, Kharaj Mukherjee, Sumit Samaddar, Arindam Sil, Bobby.... Raja Narayan Deb is composing six songs.

So you’ve got most of the Bhooter Bhobishyot cast...

Rajatabha wasn’t there in Bhooter Bhobishyot. Saswata had played a small role. In Ascharjya Pradip, he is the protagonist. Sreelekha had just a cameo. Mumtaz, of course, had a biggish role. But none of the main cast of Ascharjya Pradip is from Bhooter Bhobishyot. I chose my cast purely on the basis of who will suit which role. Ascharjya Pradip is about Saswata and Rajatabha’s journey together and their meeting with various characters in the process.


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