Home / Entertainment / Director Arindam Sil on the challenges of creating the period drama Maayakumari

Director Arindam Sil on the challenges of creating the period drama Maayakumari

Maayakumari stars Rituparna Sengupta, Abir Chatterjee, Arunima Ghosh, Rajatava Dutta, Indrasish Roy, Sauraseni Maitra, Ambarish Bhattacharya and Saurav Das

Soujannya Das   |   Calcutta   |   Published 20.01.23, 01:27 PM

Characters from two time zones, a film within a film, the nostalgia of a bygone era of celluloid. With Maayakumari, Arindam Sil took on the task of creating a period drama around an enigmatic actress while also capturing the century-long journey of filmmaking in Bengal. Arindam shares with us the challenges of translating Maayakumari — starring Rituparna Sengupta and Abir Chatterjee in the lead — on to the screen. 

On the genesis of Maayakumari


Arindam Sil: Devlina Banerjee had written a few concepts and I liked one of them. I took the basic outline and developed the story. After the first draft, Suvendu Dasmunsi and I worked on the screenplay. 

Maayakumari shows the nuances of modern-day film shooting, the fun moments and the dark moments behind the screen. While making the film on Maayakumari, the modern-day director comes across a mystery. Through the film, I wanted to take my audience to a different era altogether. 

Maayakumari also draws inspiration from various real-life stories and incidents. For example, Suchitra Sen leaving the film industry and going away. When Kanan Devi came into acting for the first time, she felt burnt by the film lights. All these little things are told like a story. 

I wanted to portray a candid way of looking at the 100 years of Bangla cinema.  It is not an encyclopaedic work on Bengali cinema.  We have tried to bring in information that is unknown to everyone, like Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay was an editor of a film magazine. How many of us knew that?  

On the music 

Arindam Sil: There are 11 songs, which makes it a musical. The visual treatment, editing and storytelling are very lyrical. Most of the songs were written by Suvendu Dasmunsi. He was writing them as part of the screenplay process. We realised we’re having to use many songs, so we decided to make it a musical. 

The music making process was very swift. We were writing, making music, calling the artists and recording the songs. Haimanti Shukla, Indranil Sen, Manomay Bhattacharya, Madhubanti Bagchi, Ujjainee, Ankita Bhattacharya — everyone sang a song for the film. It was quite a challenge for Bickram Ghosh. He has tried to hold two different eras through this soundscape.

On the production design 

Arindam Sil: The production design plays a very important part in the film. The most difficult part was locating the style of posters used in the 1940s. I had made a book of old film posters and recreated the posters of Kanan Kumar and Maayakumari from those. 

In the film, we have shown the shooting of the film, Shakuntala. We created the set inside a studio. The scene shows Shakuntala going to her husband in a palanquin, and her ring falls in the river. In earlier times, the background of the set used to be drawn by hand. So, we drew the canvas of the set by hand. The songs in the previous era would be shot in a single room. We shot a song in a similar way. We did a huge amount of research. 

On the film within the film

Arindam Sil: We have shown three different narratives in Maayakumari — a film within the film, past story and present time. Shubhankar Bhar has done a wonderful job with the camera. There are a lot of shot divisions that were predetermined. There is actually a remarkable difference in the shooting angles of the previous era and the present time. This is something both of us wanted to be reflected in the film. 

There’s a sequence where Arunima and Rituparna are playing Maayakumari at the same time. Both of them are delivering the same dialogue and acting in the same way. That has been one of the incredible scenes and this was done without any cuts and joints. It was not even done on edit.

On the costume and make-up

Arindam Sil: Abhishek Roy is the costume designer for the film. The texture, design and colour of the clothes are unique. There are transitions in the film where we had to use the same costumes. Even the stitching and designing of the clothes were different. 

We used prosthetic make-up on Abir, Rituparna, Arunima (Ghosh) and Rajatava (Dutta), and Somnath Kundu did a terrific job. We shot mostly inside a house under the air conditioner. Hema Munshi and Suchitra Mondal put in a great effort to create the different hairstyles. We have also used VFX to take the characters to the perfect level. Creating the look of the 1940s was really fascinating for me.

On the casting process

Arindam Sil: I usually cast actors after I finish writing a script. Abir was the only one who was always on my mind when I was writing the script of Maayakumari. I felt he was the best person to play both Kanan Kumar and Ahir Chatterjee. After writing the script, I felt nobody other than Rituparna Sengupta could take up the challenge of playing Maayakumari. Arunima is back on screen after a long time. I did not want a resemblance between Arunima and Rituparna’s characters.

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