Of Bengal, for Bengal
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- Published 31.01.11
|Location-hunting: Producer Shoojit Sircar with director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury and cinematographer Ranjan Palit in Lake Tahoe|
Barrackpore boy-turned-Bolly man Shoojit Sircar has kept his promise of making Bengali films. As the producer of Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s Aparajita (under the banner of Shoojit’s Rising Sun Films), the man who gave us the beautiful Yahaan is ready to give his best shot in Tollywood. Here’s a t2 chat with Shoojit who is just back after scouting locations in and around San Francisco with his director for a March shoot.
You had once told us that you want to direct a Bengali film, but here you are producing one. How did that happen?
Yes, the intention was always to make my own Bengali film, which I will, very soon. What happened was the man called Shantanu Moitra! He is a very good friend. And after he scored the music for Antaheen, he got heavily involved with Bengali music, Bengali cinema, Bengali shows and all. So, he used to always tell me: “Bangla-r jonno kichhu kor... Bombay-te boshe achhish, Bangla-r jonno kichhu kor”. He introduced me to Tony (Aniruddha) and as it happens with like-minded people who want to be associated with good things, we got together. My wife also said: “Bangla-r jonno koro.” Also, I feel a filmmaker understands another filmmaker better. There is a comfort zone for the director if the producer is a filmmaker. You can’t ask for more if you have a creative producer who has made a film himself.
Has your experience in Bollywood taught you this?
Very much! Producers can be good but the passion is what matters. When you have a production team which is equally passionate about the project as the director and his technical crew, then it’s a dream scenario. And I have learnt it the hard way in Mumbai. This has been in vogue for so long in the West, where all the major directors are executive producers for other directors’ films. Even in Bollywood, now, we have directors who are producing films for others. I think it’s a healthy practice.
What will be your primary role as the producer of Aparajita?
One is putting it all together. The idea is to try and realise Tony’s vision as much as possible. I have read the original story (Dui Naari Haathey Torobaari by Sunil Gangopadhyay) and the adapted script also. So, Tony has certain ideas and I am trying to make sure that they are accomplished on celluloid. The major roadblock initially was how to shoot the entire film in the US with the budget we have. Aamra anek matha phatalam. And then we just decided, let’s do it. Kori, tarpor dekha jabe! We will figure out as we go along.
Won’t you have any creative say in the making?
After reading the script, whatever I have felt I have told Tony. Yes, there were a few suggestions that I made. But it is entirely his decision whether he wants to take them or throw them away. Till now we have been on the same page and we have mutually agreed on things. The casting too was a mutual decision and we are very excited with our main cast of Prosenjit, Kamalinee Mukherjee, Padmapriya and Chandan Roy Sanyal. The songs by Shantanu are turning out well. Aparajita is a very mature coming-of-age film and has these two very powerful women as protagonists. Plus, it’s shot in the US. So, as a producer I am really gung-ho about the film.
What is your impression of the Bengali film industry? What are they doing right and where are they going wrong?
What I can see is that Bengali films are now starting to cross the edge. For Bengali films to create an impact they have to be edgy. Not just in terms of making but the story should have an edginess too. Regular potboilers will always be there in every industry. I am not talking about them at all. I am talking about cinema which gives you entertainment and also makes you a nice human being. With Aparajita we are trying exactly that. We are not sure whether the audience will accept it or not but the change has to come.
Is it economically viable to make an urban Bengali film which costs more than Rs 1 crore?
See, you can’t compare the economics of the Bengali film industry with the Bombay or south Indian film industries. We are obviously not doing a film like Aparajita to make a lot of money. Of course it’s important to cover the costs, so that we can make more such films. But the product is priority. If you ask me if I am here to run a successful business in Bengali cinema, no. I would be happy if we break even with Aparajita.
|Amitabh Bachchan in Shoebite|
Feel the Shoebite
Shoebite, Shoojit’s second film as director, starring Amitabh Bachchan, has been ready for quite some time. But the script being similar to M. Night Shyamalan’s unproduced script Labour of Love, Fox (with whom Shyamalan’s script is registered) has slammed the brakes on its release.
Shoebite’s producer UTV has bought the remake rights of Labour of Love from Fox, which now is insisting that the original film be made and released first before Shoebite can arrive at the theatres. With no signs of Shyamalan’s script being produced, Shoebite is stuck indefinitely.
“Yes, it’s frustrating that the film is ready and yet not getting a release. So much has been spent on the film too. But I can’t do anything about it,” says Shoojit. “Ronnie Screwvala and UTV are looking into. My job was to direct the film and I have done that. UTV is trying... even Mr Bachchan is trying. Whenever the film does release, I can assure you that it will be regarded as one of Mr Bachchan’s milestone performances.”