Call of the colony

Read more below

By [+uc('Kushali Nag ')+]
  • Published 25.11.10

Arjun Gourisaria, who had produced Patalghar and Teen Ekke Teen, teamed up with Moinak Biswas, reader at Jadavpur University’s film studies department, to direct Sthaniya Sambaad (picture right), which hits the halls this Friday.

t2 finds out what makes their story out of the box...

What is Sthaniya Sambaad all about?

Moinak: It’s the story of changing Calcutta. We start with the refugee colony area on the southern fringes and then move to central Calcutta, ending with New Town. Atin (played by Anirban Dutta), a young boy from a south Calcutta colony, keeps looking for the girl he secretly loves. This is the thread that connects a lot of characters, all of who end up roaming around the city for various reasons. Atin and his neighbour Dipankar (played by Suman Mukhopadhyay) are at the centre; there are some thieves who have chopped off the plait of a girl which they want to sell. Atin loves this girl.... The film switches from stark realism to a dream and then to delirium.

Arjun: The film is at times absurd and grotesque but not complicated. The overarching motif is ‘urban development’ which looms large over Atin and his refugee ilk. In a way, it is the story of how Atin comes out of his reverie and faces the cruel transformation of his environment.

Where did you shoot?

Arjun: Almost entirely on location in Sree Colony, Bijoygarh, Naktala, Patuli, Park Street, Wellesley and New Town. We shot it over November-December in 2008.

What prompted you to choose a subject like this?

Moinak: We wanted to do a film which would reflect the city that is lost in our films nowadays. The city is always being represented by the upper middle-class now. But there are people like Atin who live in the colonies and are jobless. There are people like Mr Paul (played by Bratya Basu) who once had shady business dealings and are now the owners of educational institutes.

How did the two of you come on board?

Moinak: We have been close friends from our university days. We were in the Jadavpur University Film Society together, and have thought of making a film together ever since. When the script was ready, it was obvious that it would be a joint venture.

How did the film take shape?

Arjun: Moinak has lived in colony neighbourhoods all his life. He started with a number of vignettes, memories of real people and incidents, and then a story was born. We felt we knew these people. We also found this a great opportunity to move out of the upper middle class domestic drama that dominates bhadralok cinema in Bengal.

Why did you cast Bratya and Suman?

Moinak: We wanted to cast two known faces. I needed a strong actor for the role of Mr Paul. He stands near an under-construction building and speaks absurd dialogues. Bratyada is so natural in the part. For Dipankar, we wanted an intelligent face and so we approached Suman.

Who else is there in the cast?

Moinak: There are some theatre actors, like the late Mrinal Ghosh, Dilip Sarkar, Anindya Banerjee and Kasturi Chatterjee, and also TV actors like Nayana Palit and Manali Dey. But we have mostly cast non-actors. There are many characters. We wanted to create a canvas teeming with people. Weaving many lives into the story of a place was our primary concern.

Why didn’t you get a star or an established actor to play the protagonist?

Arjun: A star would have thrown the sense of everyday, ordinary reality off balance. We wanted to use faces, speech and gestures that come close to the impression you get when you enter a typical refugee neighbourhood. It is impossible to find a star who could melt in this crowd.

From film studies to filmmaking, how has the switch been for Moinak?

Moinak: It’s been very challenging. But then I thought, why couldn’t I bridge the gap? So far I have communicated either by writing or teaching; filmmaking too is a great way to communicate. I would like to make films that are closer to reality. I have had a few screenings of Sthaniya Sambaad and people have enjoyed the film.

What kind of audience did you have mind?

Arjun: We would like to think it is for everyone. The unusual plot, the laid-back style and the absence of stars might make it look like minority business, but there is no conscious attempt to make it incomprehensible anywhere. And it is full of jokes and songs.

What’s next for both of you?

Moinak: We do not know when we’ll get the chance to make another film but we are putting a script together.