Kaushik’s salute to Sir
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- Published 27.06.13
|Saswata Chatterjee and Raima Sen in C/O Sir. (Below) Kaushik Ganguly as advocate Neogi in the film|
You almost always come up with innovative ideas for your films. What’s the novelty of C/O Sir?
As you know, there’s a conscious effort from my side to do very different kinds of films. C/O Sir (produced by Jaspreet Kaur) is a strange combination of romance and thrills. The plot is multi-layered. It’s not another hero-heroine film. I have gone beyond happy and sad endings in C/O Sir. The protagonist Jayabrata Ray (Saswata Chatterjee) is a teacher. Whatever happens in the film is all due to him and that’s why the title.
A teacher is someone who shapes our life. Whether we become good, bad or ugly depends a lot on our teachers. I have myself been a teacher for eight years — five years in St. James and three years in St. Xavier’s. I still consider myself a teacher.
In C/O Sir I have shown a teacher who is not just concerned about his students and the classroom. To him teaching is a profession which is not bound by administration. That is what C/O Sir celebrates.... Sad that I made the film at a time when Rituda (Rituparno Ghosh), our teacher, is no more. C/O Sir is a tribute to Rituda.
But you and Rituda had your differences...
See, I am lucky that Aarekti Premer Galpo is a remake of one of my telefilms, Ushno-tar Jonyo. Thank god for that, else people would have thought that Aarekti Premer Galpo is Rituparno’s film. Yes, during the post-production there were a few differences. Rituda’s aesthetics are different from mine. Rituda likes to shoot in a nicely decorated set while I like shooting in dingy alleys and dirty factories. So whenever our ideas clashed we had major debates. But we did sort those out. Our friendship remained. He was such a broad-minded colleague. He never took the upper hand with me and always respected me as a director. Rituda never disrespected me because I was technically equipped.... I had made quite a few telefilms in between...
Do you think your feature films have matched the popularity of your telefilms?
Post-Aarekti Premer Galpo they have. Shunyo-E-Buke (2005) was popular but it failed for various other reasons. After Aarekti Premer Galpo, it’s been a different scenario... including Rang Milanti. And Shabdo has surpassed the success of all my earlier films.
What has Shabdo done for you as a filmmaker?
It has made me courageous and brave. I have understood that in Calcutta if I make a 100-minute film without music and songs people will watch it. Producers now have a lot of faith in me.
But you’ve always been brave as far as the content of your films is concerned...
Are you talking about Shunyo-E-Buke and Aarekti Premer Galpo? Well I haven’t yet made Shunyo-E-Buke the way I had wanted to. The point is whether your confidence is saleable, that’s very important. As long as I can offer variety it’s exciting for me. I want to break myself with every film. That’s why I don’t rely on literature. The day I can’t tell the stories I want to tell I will stop making films.
Did you cast Saswata in C/O Sir because he is very popular now?
I believe Saswata’s best performances have been in Rang Milanti and Meghe Dhaka Tara. Kahaani for him is bikel bela singara khaowar moto (just a snack, not even a whole meal)! Success is always accidental. But his best will be seen this Friday! I had Prosenjit in mind when I wanted to make C/O Sir many years ago. The film didn’t happen then and now age-wise I thought Saswata suits the role. He is my favourite actor. He is no less than Naseeruddin Shah in Sparsh or Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman! The other surprise is Raima Sen, who plays a solicitor.
You had played a visually challenged novelist in Laptop. Is C/O Sir an extension of that?
See, the visually challenged bit is only a part of the story. C/O Sir doesn’t revolve around this. But I have definitely seen visually challenged men from very close quarters. My grandfather-in-law was blind. I spent a lot of my childhood with visually challenged people. I studied in Narendrapur Ramakrishna Mission and my best friend Sukhomoy Mishra was visually challenged. I used to read out to him. I have given Madhyamik twice, once for myself and once I wrote his papers.
C/O Sir is about a legal proceeding and law maneyi printed matter, legal papers.... And when someone can’t see then you are in a mess. You have to rely on others. So the physical disability turns out to be a major crisis when you go through legal trouble. It doubles. What does Sir do then? I also believe people who can’t see through their eyes sees a lot of things which we can’t.
How differently do they see the world?
They really see things, you know. In C/O Sir Jayabrata’s blindness is different. He lost his eyesight in an accident. So he wasn’t really prepared for this blindness. That’s why he is very irritable. I can proudly say that the level of performance in my films is always A-class! Rarely has an actor performed poorly in my films and Saswata is a superstar.
You’ve dabbled in romance, comedy and other genres...what do you feel is your forte?
I think I can make all kinds of films. If I am a good storyteller I should be able to make all kinds of films. I write my scripts. Basically I am a storyteller and I want to tell a variety of stories. That’s why after a film like Aarekti Premer Galpo I made Rang Milanti. That was very deliberate. I wanted to forget Aarekti Premer Galpo. I was under huge mental pressure. A year spent with Rituparno Ghosh wasn’t easy! He was a hard taskmaster. And I felt claustrophobic sometimes. After Aarekti Premer Galpo I have visited Rituda’s house only twice. I went and took his blessings when Shabdo won the national award and then on May 30 when he was no more. I had just run away from a stalwart filmmaker like him!
I always feel that if I stay close to people who are very, very talented I will get baked! There’s a fire around them. Rituda called me after Laptop and said he was very happy with the film. He said ‘I’m a member of your audience, never disappoint me’. Not that he praised me for every film I made. He has been very harsh sometimes, telling me on my face that he hated my films. If I make a good film I don’t know what people will call me. If I make bad films people will say I make jhaalmuri. Telling a story is my forte. For me Tapan Sinha is a very interesting filmmaker. He made films on a variety of subjects from Galpo Holeo Satti to Aadmi Aur Aurat to Ek Doctor Ki Maut. I follow him.
But what do you enjoy making the most?
Romance and comedy. But I also want to address social causes… I also want to tell unusual stories. I had made Collage, a telefilm on dementia with Nandita Das... these things really fascinate me. My next film is on dwarves. I have made 11 films so far and all are different from each other. I have made mistakes when I started making films. I messed up films like Shunyo-E-Buke and Waris. I couldn’t handle the film format. I want to remake Shunyo-E-Buke. Maybe in Hindi. It’s a very important film. I feel this subject will work now. I was scared then. Now I am fearless. I just want to enjoy my filmmaking process. Now success and failure don’t bother me. Hits and flops don’t matter.
What have the 11 films taught you?
Well, my most precious film is Waris because that’s my first film. Shunyo-E-Buke niye aami repent kori. I couldn’t handle a marvellous subject properly. Maybe it was too early for me. I am unhappy about Brakefail. The budget should have been high. It looked tacky. I am unhappy about the final story of Laptop. I couldn’t write it well. The best film I have made so far is Progress Report, which was a part of Ek Mutho Chhobi. The most interesting script I have written so far is Jackpot but I messed up. Now I disqualify the film as a filmmaker! My most socially aware, important script is Rang Milanti. Regarding Aarekti Premer Galpo I feel if I could have made the film with a different cast and in a different way maybe it would have been much better. I was satisfied making Shabdo. I don’t want to comment on C/O Sir. Let people watch it and decide.
You are also a very good actor. Your cameos or bit roles are invariably eye-catching...
I think people think so because they see so little of me. But yes, I am a natural actor and I know it’s a big skill. But let one film release after the other then watch out for the flak that I get for acting in so many films! After Laptop, directors are offering me bigger roles like in Kangal Malshat (directed by Suman Mukhopadhyay) and Shunyo (Rudranil Ghosh’s debut as director).
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