The Bengali Panorama section of the 29th Kolkata International Film Festival is for the first time a competition category this year in the festival and features seven films of first-time directors. Abhijit Sridas along with producer Sujit Raha is showcasing their debut film as director and producer in this category, titled Bijoyar Pore (Autumn Flies). This slice-of-life film was screened to a full house for the first time on December 7 and has another screening at the festival today at Nazrul Tirtha. “This is my first film and the story is set in the backdrop of Durga Puja. It is a story of a family and their daily life. It has a social message and throughout the film there is a play of questions conveying that message and everyone will feel it is their story,” said Abhijit.
Veteran actors Deepankar De and Mamata Shankar are the protagonists in the film, playing a couple. “There are many films based on Durga Puja but this is a different story. It is a family story and the Puja has a significance in the story. When Abhijit came to me for the first time, he had in mind Jaya (Bachchan), Sharmila (Tagore) and then Anashua (Majumdar) but nothing worked out. At one point, I only got irritated and felt like not doing the film. But then I suggested Mamata Shankar to him and that worked out. His dedication to the work made me feel he will be able to do something, so I agreed. Mamata and I used to fight a lot but there’s also an understanding between us,” said Deepankar De.
The poignant story laced with nostalgia develops while revealing the complexities of family bonds and weaves in aspects of social and communal issues, but its subtle suspense is what keeps one engaged till the very end.
The film also stars Swastika Mukherjee. Talking about working with first-time directors, Swastika said: “It has been 30 years of my career and I have worked with new directors more than I have worked with established ones. Everyone has a first day. I also had. I know the pain of rejection even before starting. I keep in mind to not repeat my characters. If I expect people to come and watch me on screen, it is my responsibility to present myself as a different person every time. I felt it is a touching story.” Talking further about her role in the film, she said: “The story is of an orthodox family and Deepankar jethu is my father. He always reminds me of my father (actor Santu Mukherjee). The actors of that generation had something similar in their walk and the way they talk. They are the last people of that generation that we should hold on to. There was a lot of space in terms of performance for me in this film. I always come to the festival to watch other people’s films but this is the first time I am coming to the festival with my film. I have two films and I hope at least one wins.”
INDIAN LANGUAGE FILMS:
The makers of Ozhuki Ozhuki Ozhuki at KIFF
The 2023 Malayalam film Ozhuki Ozhuki Ozhuki had its first India premiere at KIFF this year on Day One of the festival. This is the first film where filmmaker Sanjeev Sivan directed his 12-year-old son Sidhanshu Sanjeev Sivan. The film is competing in the category called Competition on Indian Language Films. “The poetic meaning of the title is 'Quiet Flows the Dead' and literally, Ozhuki means 'to flow'. Our son has been watching films since he was seven years old and by the time he was nine, he wanted to be an actor. Now he is 13. He decided on it and tried to convince us too,” said his proud mother, Deepti Pillay Sivan, producer of the film. Sanjeev Sivan shared a funny anecdote in this regard. He said: “At one point I told him who wants to see your face and he sternly told me not to underestimate him and gave me Shah Rukh Khan’s example.”
The story based on late writer B.R. Prasad's last work is an ode to the numerous unidentified bodies that float in the waters every year and don’t get a proper farewell. The story revolving around this subject takes an interesting turn involving its 12-year-old protagonist who wishes a decent funeral for his deceased father who was a boatman. “He (Sidhanshu) used to tell my parents to tell his father to take him in one of his films. We are a family of filmmakers. There are 33 people working in the family but all are technicians, working behind the camera. He is the first in our family who wanted to be an actor. His grandfather told his father that if we don’t encourage him then who will. But still his father wasn’t convinced. Then my mother came and threatened him saying, ‘I don’t know how you will do it but you should take my grandson.’ And after this both our parents passed away with the same last wish. And then this happened,” said Deepti.
Talking about the choice of the story, Sanjeev said: “It was a great story. We have to be careful with the subject we choose. Today’s cinema is all about content. Today everything has changed and it is an exciting time for filmmakers. I told my son about this story and he wanted a proper script with the dialogues. After I gave him that, he used to prepare a little every day and show me how he prepared for the role. And then I told him how his mother has been putting all her savings into this film and he suddenly became very serious about it. We completed a 20-day schedule in 12 days.”
An award-winning crew worked behind the lens to give the film its final form, with A. Sreekar Prasad as the editor, Tuomas Kantelinen in charge of the music and Manoj Pillai as the cinematographer.
Prosenjit Chatterjee at the inauguration of the exhibition ‘Evergreen Dev Anand’
On Day One of the festival, two exhibitions were inaugurated, honouring the centenary year of two legends of Indian cinema — Mrinal Sen and Dev Anand. Actor Prosenjit Chatterjee inaugurated the Evergreen Dev Anand exhibition at Gagandra Shilpa Pradarshashala. The exhibition with a vibrant display highlights the legendary actor’s life focussing on his career in the film industry from being an actor to a filmmaker, the style icon that he was and the actresses he romanced on and off screen. The display concludes with a mention of his awards and recognitions. “This man’s energy was admirable. He has worked for so many years and worked with so many actresses who later became stars. Dev Anand is an evergreen hero. He did great films. Hare Rama Hare Krishna is a favourite; there is also Guide and Kala Pani. Dum maro dum is a cult song from his film,” said Prosenjit while inaugurating the exhibition.
Ranjit Mallick, Mamata Shankar, Goutam Ghose and Anjan Dutt took a walkthrough of the exhibition ‘Mrinal Sen: The Maverick’
Mrinal Sen: The Maverick was inaugurated by Ranjit Mallick, Goutam Ghose, Anjan Dutt and Mamata Shankar. The exhibition comprehensively highlights the life and works of Sen, starting by highlighting the subjects of his films and moving on to the actresses he worked with and the different phases in his career and life and how that impacted the films he made. “I was not only his actor, I wrote the story for him in Mahaprithibi and also worked as an executive producer for him. The film I made on him, Chalchitra Ekhon, has it all. I have never worshipped him, he has also not worshipped anyone. He was a great man and a modern man. If you see my film you will know,” said Anjan Dutt, whose tribute film to Mrinal Sen, Chalchitra Ekhon, is also screening at KIFF this year.