|Prosenjit as Kakababu
Kakababu in the OAT area. “I have a lot of memories of that place. We used to have parties here! It becomes lovely on moonlit nights,”
You’ve wrapped up the Calcutta and Delhi portions of Mishawr Rawhoshyo almost in a hush-hush manner...
Yes! Somehow I’ve always maintained that be it thrillers or adventure films, the less you speak about them, the greater is the intrigue. The Calcutta schedule was so tight that we thought of doing it at one go. We wrapped up on January 29 and the next day we left for Delhi. There was no breathing space.
What did you shoot in Calcutta and Delhi?
We shot Kakababu and Santu’s house and their family. Al Mamun (Rajit Kapoor) comes down to Calcutta to offer Kakababu an investigative case, and Kakababu goes to Delhi to pursue it. He goes to JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University) to consult a friend who’s a professor there.
Was Prosenjit always the first choice for Kakababu?
Yes. Who else? Bumbada’s (Prosenjit) age, his charisma... fell in place with Kakababu. If you look at the illustrations and also Sunilda’s (Gangopadhyay) book, imagining anyone else is difficult. Kakababu has a charisma that you can’t really act out.
The JNU bit isn’t there in the book...
Yes. And shooting in JNU is so difficult. I was struggling with the permissions even while shooting. The book mentions Kakababu going to Delhi and then Santu accompanies him and Kakababu gets shot. I added JNU because of its dramatic landscape. The JNU sequence happens very close to the interval. The description of Delhi given in the book is very 1980s. I couldn’t relate it to today’s Delhi. I needed a Delhi where I could unfold the twists in the plot my way. I am very comfortable with the place [Srijit did his MA and M.Phil in economics from JNU] and it also has a natural vastness and beauty which is unparalleled in India.
What other cinematic liberties have you taken?
From day one, Bumbada, I, Sunilda and my producers (Shree Venkatesh Films) discussed what line to tread. I am looking at Kakababu from a contemporary angle. The double crutches mentioned in the book are almost obsolete now. There are corrective surgeries for the injury that Kakababu had on his heel. Now if I’m telling a story set in 2012, I should take into account that if a man is an international adventurer, he would obviously undergo those surgeries. At the same time, I don’t want to snatch away the spirit of Kakababu — of a handicapped person going to far-flung places. So I gave him a single crutch. For his look, I’ve gone with the Kakababu illustrations, but I made small changes. I’ve given him a slightly sun-burnt look, highlighted his curls a bit... just to make him more 2012-friendly. Santu’s age I have increased by three years — I have made him 19. Kakababu’s age, I have brought down slightly. I have reduced a few peripheral characters to make it tight.
Did Sunil Gangopadhyay know about the changes?
Yes, yes. In fact Bumbada had brought this up in a meeting with Sunilda once. He was very excited and said: ‘Look, the time I had written Kakababu, the teenagers then and now are as different as chalk and cheese, so feel free to make any changes. Just make Kakababu.”
How many Kakababu stories have you taken the copyright for?
As of now, three — Mishawr Rawhoshyo, Paharchuraye Atanko and either Jongoler Modhye Ek Hotel or Kakababu Bajra Lama. We’ve drawn up a contract where no one can make Kakababu films for the next seven years. We are going to do one every year or one every two years.
Why did you choose Mishawr Rawhoshyo first?
Well, Mishawr Rawhoshyo was a dream for me. After my niece Spandana told me, ‘Mamu, you only make films for adults’, I thought I should make something for children. The Egypt element also makes it romantic and big. I chose Mishawr Rawhoshyo first because of the ongoing unrest in Egypt. My story is set in 2012. The original was set in 1980. This is a brilliant time... there is a revolution which is also in the story, so I thought why not use the revolution of 2012 to tell the story, so it automatically makes it much more contemporary. When I read Mishawr Rawhoshyo, I was immediately excited as a child. I thought it would make for a riveting adaptation.
You had planned to make Kakababu in the begining of 2011 but you had a fallout with Prosenjit. How did things fall back into place?
Yes, there was a small misunderstanding. I have a lot of well-wishers in this industry! And despite their best efforts to create a rift, we sorted things out. In fact, in a lot of ways it has turned out to be a blessing because Aryan (Santu) had a date problem back then. Had I made it then, I probably wouldn’t have been able to work with Aryan and he’s turned out to be an absolute gem.
How feasible is it to shoot in Egypt now with the unrest?
It’s not very bad. There are disturbed areas but we’ve constantly been in touch with our co-ordinators and they said things are under control. The violence and clash happens only in pockets. We will shoot mainly in Cairo, Giza and Saqqara.
You went to Egypt twice for recce and you will shoot for 14 days there. How expensive is Mishawr Rawhoshyo turning out to be?
The budget of this film is clearly not the ideal budget. But they (Shree Venkatesh) supported my dream because they thought it’s going to explore a certain genre and add something to the last five years of Bengali films! See, there are certain films where you have to stop thinking about the budget and Mishawr is one of them. Who knows, it could be a franchise and bring in more adventure films in Bengal! See, someone has to lead, budgets have to increase.
Key players in Mishawr Rawhoshyo
Rajesh Sharma: Narendra Verma, CBI officer and Kakababu’s friend in Delhi
Indraneil Sengupta: Hani Alkadi, an Egyptian revolutionary
Neel Mukhopadhyay: Siddhartha, a foreign service employee and Santu’s neighbour
Swastika Mukherjee: Snigdha, Siddhartha’s wife.
Tridha: Rini, Snigdha’s sister and Santu’s friend
Indranath Mukherjee: Kakababu’s professor friend from JNU. (The character isn’t there in the book)
Rajit Kapoor: Al Mamun, a businessman who hands over the case to Kakababu
Barun Chanda: Mufti Mohamed, Al Mamun’s relative
Biswajit Chakraborty & Tulika Basu: Santu’s parents