We went around the stunning locales of Manali, Kothi and nearby Rohtang Valley and this sequence is a continuation of the same song that we were shooting in a place about 50km from Manali. It was a very scenic spot with small prayer flags dotting the bridge and you could see the snowtop mountain in the backdrop. It was surreal and so beautiful. The interesting contrast of areas gives the film a very big scale. The location itself becomes a character and adds a lot of value to the story. Unlike the weather, the locals were very warm and helpful. They seemed quite excited about the shoot because they felt that the film would help make the place look attractive and bring in more tourists. I visited the local market a few times and picked up a warm shawl typical to that area.
This is a very symbolic image taken in Manali. The barbed wire represents the boundary between the locals and the tourists. What’s happening to a place that is so scenic and beautiful yet bathed in blood? The barbed wire mirrors the ugliness that plagues the serene. We were in Manali for an eight-day schedule in March and it was super cold. We would wake up at 3am in sub-zero temperatures, fingers frozen and all layered up in thermals, woollens, jackets, mufflers, caps and boots. We were twice our weight because of that and when trying to walk, one foot would go several inches into the snow and pulling that leg out to take the next step would be quite a task! But by the time we would get to the spot, the sun would be out and we’d see golden rays of the sun kissing the snow. What a fabulous sight… like a valley of gold. The snow was slippery and there were invisible rocks underneath. Luckily we all got back injury-free! It was a difficult location but we had fun because the team comprised a bunch of like-minded people who all believed in the story, the film. Tai thandar chotey kanna paayni (That is why the cold did not reduce us to tears)!
A real set, a shop in Rajarhat. Both Konkona (Sensharma) and I are the city-bred kind who stop midway on the road to have some bhar-ey cha. The two characters seem to know each other quite well at this stage and there is a growing fondness. With Konkona I had done workshops during Iti Mrinalini but this was my first time working on a film together and she was a delight to work with. She has this very non-interfering way of working.
A picture of the commercialisation of another place of natural beauty called Manali. It shows the dismal attempt of the city-bred to try and enjoy nature! And how? It was a song sequence and we were trying to ski. It was a lot of fun because neither Priyanka (Bose) nor I had skied before. We kept falling down and getting up and finally we did manage to ski a bit. There was a time when Priyanka tripped and fell while trying to ski downhill and I was following closely behind her; I was very scared that I might hurt her with that huge ski so I purposely fell down! It was funny and somehow what happened compliments the song, with lines that go ‘Ki bibhotsho moja (What crazy fun’)!
It was my good fortune to work with a living legend, Mr Soumitra Chatterjee. This scene is also a picture of two generations intrigued by the newest beast created by man — technology. A beast created to serve mankind and how it’s progressively taking on a life of its own and feeding off fear.
This sequence took us to the tribal land, a land of the simple, of the truly living — Purulia. A place where the focus is to live without useless adornments and in harmony with all that surrounds us. This picture summarises the scenic locale of Ushuldungri, where we shot amidst Ayodhya Pahar. The stark reality of day-to-day life where people cross hills and valleys to gather their meal. We were there for almost 16 days and I had picked up the English translation of Mahasweta Devi’s Chhoti Munda and his Arrows to learn more about their world and what it is that makes them tick.
Shunyo Awnko releases on january 18