Pratim D. Gupta rustles up a slice of Bangaliana in his third film maacher jhol

His first film Paanch Adhyay was a love story. His second film, Shaheb Bibi Golaam, a thriller. Now, Pratim D. Gupta, who has for years “chewed and chomped anything that spelt cinema”, is set to whip up a food film called Maacher Jhol (produced by Joy B Ganguly and Sony Pictures Networks).

  • Published 1.04.17
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His first film Paanch Adhyay was a love story. His second film, Shaheb Bibi Golaam, a thriller. Now, Pratim D. Gupta, who has for years “chewed and chomped anything that spelt cinema”, is set to whip up a food film called Maacher Jhol (produced by Joy B Ganguly and Sony Pictures Networks). “Food is the hero of the film and Ritwick Chakraborty is the actor,” smiles Pratim. Anupam Roy will be the music man. Maacher Jhol hits the floors on Sunday. A t2 chat with t2’s Pratim.

What is the film about?
It’s about a masterchef who comes back home... it’s a kind of search for his identity... it’s a rediscovery of his roots. He is the man behind a couple of Michelin-star restaurants in different parts of the world but it’s not that easy on home turf. You might hit nasty bouncers out of the park on a green pitch in Perth and then struggle to play the googlies at the Mohun Bagan maath! As is evident from the title it is a very Bengali film. It celebrates Bengaliness, it celebrates the Bengali’s love for food, it celebrates relationships, family... it’s a very intimate film... an emotional relationship drama.

How did the idea come to you?
After the shooting of Shaheb Bibi Golaam got over in 2015, my wife and I went on a European holiday. In Italy we found out that in every restaurant, in every trattoria, they celebrate the food of grandmothers and mothers. While here we go out to eat exotic fare, there they celebrate home food in restaurants. This dichotomy really fascinated me and I remember the germ of the idea of Maacher Jhol struck me when we were on a train from Lake Como to Milan.

Joy and I have been chatting for ages about making a film. In January I had come  for an award ceremony and I met up with Joy. I told him this idea and he loved it. I wrote the script in January and it turned out to be something else altogether, which excited both me and him and in February we decided to go ahead with it. We’ll shoot the film mostly in Calcutta.

We hear Ritwick has a very interesting name in the film...
Ritwick is called Dev, Dev D! His real name is Devdatto but when he becomes a famous chef in Paris, no one can pronounce Devdatto and they call him Dev D. Ritwick had a huge laugh when he heard his name.... That man is such a bad habit. After Shaheb Bibi Golaam, I knew I had to do a full film with him. He is there in almost every scene of Maacher Jhol. Mamata Shankar plays his mom.

You’ll be working with Paoli Dam for the first time....
Paoli plays a very special character in the film. She has a very important role. Her character changes the film. And I believe Paoli can pull this off really well. Because she is a fighter in real life and Sreela, her character, is a fighter too. She has an incredible dignity. She is one of the finest actors in Calcutta. There is incredible strength in her which is very important for this role... 

Why call the film Maacher Jhol?
It represents Bengali food in more ways than one. If we are making a Bengali food film, Maacher Jhol is the quintessential title. It encapsulates Bengaliness and food. 

What’s your personal connect with the dish maacher jhol?
My mother used to make maacher jhol on exam days. Fish curry with aloo and potol and without any spices. Just jeere phoron. Simple, watery, almost like a soup. Her theory being that you can easily digest the jhol and it won’t come back to haunt you during the exam. On exam days, I used to be fed that with rice... and I’m sure this happens in many Bengali homes. I remember, at one point of time I had started hating it... it was like oshudher-moto...  but I realised that I started missing it if I did not have it for two-three months at a stretch. And I knew there was a film somewhere... all that food as memory is a major part of the film. Mothers can make many kinds of maacher jhol, many kinds of dishes that get ingrained within us through our growing-up years. That also in many ways makes us who we are.
 
Why call it a food film?
The protagonist is a chef and cooking is second nature to him. One of the main plot points of the film is food. This is a food film. 

What’s your take on the trend of food-named Bengali films like Shiboprosad Mukhopadhyay-Nandita Roy’s Posto, Anindya Chatterjee’s Projapoti Biscuit and Pavel’s Rosogolla?
Maacher Jhol is a true-blue food film. Whatever I have heard, Posto and Projapoti Biscuit are not food films. However, there is no war going on here! Films are like a grand buffet, where everyone is invited. The more on the menu the merrier for the audiences.

Arindam Chatterjee

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