For Dhrubo Banerjee, making Bogla Mama Jug Jug Jio has been like going back to his childhood when the character created by author Rajkumar Moitra would have him busting a rib. The director of the Guptodhon films chatted with us about adapting Bogla Mama on the big screen and why it has been a challenging project for him.
Bogla Mama Jug Jug Jiyo is based on author Rajkumar Moitra’s Bagalamama character. What about him appealed to you?
Dhrubo Banerjee: Bogla Mama is a part of my childhood. I came across the stories of Bogla Mama for the first time when I was in school and I was hooked. It was unlike anything I had read before. Somewhere I had decided that if I ever got to make films, I would definitely try adapting Bogla Mama on screen. The stories were written in such a manner that you would roll with laughter just by visualising them. Today when I look back, I feel that it is my desire to share that fun that I had experienced as a child and to be able to translate that for my audience is what I had in mind.
The script is completely different from the story. One of the thumb rules of turning a classic into a film is to remember that they both have their own rules. Cinema is a different language. I have just taken the basic structure of the story. Rajkumar Moitra’s text is the inspiration.
How did you approach a genre like comedy?
Dhrubo Banerjee: Comedy is a tough genre. This is the toughest film of my career, be it in the writing or the execution. I feel you can only do a comedy if you feel it yourself. People say I laugh a lot, I laugh too loud. You need to be a happy person. This is how Bengali comedy has been over the years.
For Bengalis, comedy films mean Basanta Bilaap, Dhanni Meye, Dadar Kirti, Sriman Prithviraj. I can say that Bogla Mama Jug Jug Jio follows the same narrative structure that our predecessors had explored so successfully. For me it is an ode to them and it is an accomplishment if I have been able to recreate it for my audience all over again.
What convinced you that Kharaj Mukherjee would fit the role of Bogla Mama the best?
Dhrubo Banerjee: It was during the shoot of Durgeshgorer Guptodhon that I worked with Kharaj-da for the first time. We were shooting the scene where he is revealed as the antagonist and I told him, ‘Kharaj-da this is the first of many. I am planning a full film on you.’ I don’t think he took it seriously. He never thought that somebody could think of not just a film but a franchise around him.
When it finally happened, I could sense the commitment in him. This is also a physical comedy. We had a body double on set as there was a lot of running around that he needed to do. But he would insist on doing things himself for the simple reason that the energy was very high with a bunch of youngsters working in the film. In every scene, he could be seen matching up to the youngsters. The film was difficult to make because we had one protagonist and 18 ancillary characters and in the film they all have a part to play.
Set has always been an important part of your films, be it the Guptodhon series or Golondaaj. What went behind creating the set design of Bogla Mama Jug Jug Jio and the 1980s feel?
Dhrubo Banerjee: We had a specific section that was very well curated by art director Shibaji Pal and his team, which is the opening section of the film. We had gone to extreme levels to find locations that would resemble the time period. The costume designer and cinematographer had to play an important part in this. Technically, it was a very challenging film to shoot.
You have a background in animation. How has that influenced your filmmaking career?
Dhrubo Banerjee: Animation has been a great influence on my career. It has influenced Bogla Mama Jug Jug Jiyo for sure. When I explored illustrative animation in Guptodhoner Sondhane, it set a trend of sorts. We tried 2D animation as part of a song for the first time in Bogla Mama Jug Jug Jio. It is a very expensive and difficult thing to do. I would like to believe that others will now take it up and improve it. I think it is a great step from my end.
After Golondaaj, you had announced Raghu Dakat with Dev. At what stage is the project in?
Dhrubo Banerjee: If you want to do a project like Raghu Dakat in today’s financial situation and in the ecosystem of Bangla cinema, you need to be prepared. If Shah Rukh Khan’s Jawan takes five years to write, Dunki takes almost four years to write, and the making starts only after that, you understand why. They have all the resources and yet they give it time. We don’t have the resources and on top of that, if we don’t give it time how will we ever develop a project? Raghu Dakat is in incubation stage and is taking the time it deserves.
People eagerly wait for the Guptodhon series. Any plans for a fourth film?
Dhrubo Banerjee: Sonada (Abir Chatterjee), Abir (Arjun Chakrabarty) and Jhinuk (Ishaa Saha) are on holiday. They are after Sonada’s life because they haven’t yet met Semanti Sarkar (Sonada’s secret love interest). I don’t know if they have finally gone to meet her. I’m waiting for them to come back and then sit with them and discuss. (Laughs)
What are you doing next?
Dhrubo Banerjee: Thankfully, I’ve done all projects one at a time. I am still figuring out what my next one is going to be.