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regular-article-logo Friday, 23 February 2024

Producer Atanu Raychaudhuri pens down his memorable shooting experience of Pradhan

‘It was a dark night but still all of us could see two elephants moving fast through the jungle'

Arindam Chatterjee Published 29.11.23, 07:12 AM
Dev and Soham in the film Pradhan, which releases on December 22

Dev and Soham in the film Pradhan, which releases on December 22

We finally wrapped up Pradhan’s shoot in the first week of November, after an extensive 34 days of shoot spread across three months. Though we have only come half the way, as I look back on this journey, I can only say it was really a lifetime experience for all of us.

Undoubtedly, the most memorable part was our 20-day-long schedule in North Bengal. The first time that our art director, Tanmay, told me and Avijit (Sen; director) about the picturesque town of Matellibazar, it sounded just perfect for our story. Avijit, Shubhadeep (screenplay and dialogue writer) and I were still building the story when they went to Chalsa to do their research. Thus started our journey towards building the world of Pradhan with the backdrop of the beautiful Dooars.

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Before we finally went for the shoot, the core team went to North multiple times for recce. The challenge was to find out uncommon locations, which the audience had never seen on the big screen. We were determined to give the audience an absolutely new vision of North Bengal. But that was just the first phase.

Producer Atanu Raychaudhuri and director Avijit Sen

Producer Atanu Raychaudhuri and director Avijit Sen

The next phase started once the casting was finalised. If I am not very wrong, there isn’t any recent Bengali film which has 20 major actors cast in one film and the majority of them had to be in Chalsa for more than 18-19 days at a stretch. While my production team worried about their dates and availability, I was absolutely sure that this was going to be an enjoyable experience for all of them. I am glad to say, I was right. Everyone jumped at the offer. It was more like a family holiday for them and that too for 20 days.

With Kharaj (Mukherjee), Kanchan (Mullick), Ambarish (Bhattacharya), Biswanath (Basu), Koneenica (Banerjee), and of course Paranda (Bandyopadhyay), Mamodi (Mamata Shankar) and Dev, it was like having a reunion for us. Added to that was the warm presence of Soham, Anirban (Chakrabarti) and Soumitrisha who had joined the team for the first time.

Every day after pack-up it was like coming back home at Oxytel, the resort all of us were staying at. We lived there like a family and obviously, I was the head of the family, looking after this big, happy group. Even consecutive days of early call times could not deter the spirit of Team Pradhan for a single day. Everyone would have dinner together, sing and chat till late into the night, and give their hearts to their work the next day morning. We had Avijit’s birthday party on September 6, Anirban’s and our associate director, Toy’s birthday before that on August 31. And there were more birthdays of many team members throughout our schedule.

Right beside the beautiful Murti river, our resort was a heavenly place with the Gorumara forest on the other bank of the river. On nights we would spend some time looking at the beautiful darkness on the other side or take walks in the garden. Unfortunately, in the last couple of days, walks became rare once a rock python was spotted near our resort. But that was not the only adventure. Paranda spotted a cheetah cub while coming back from a location on the roadside. While that would have scared many, this ever-young gentleman was very excited about his adventure and told the whole unit about it.

Till we were in North Bengal, I don’t think he ever stopped looking for another cheetah. However, I think the biggest adventure we had was when visited the Mahakal temple inside the Gorumara forest. We were going to get done with our shoot the next day, so Avijit and I decided to visit the Mahakal temple with a few of our other team members. It was a dark night but still all of us on the other side of the road could see two elephants moving fast through the jungle. Though curiosity took over first and we waited for a while to have a better look, our local drivers panicked to get away from the place. Everyone ran towards their cars and we fled from the jungle immediately.

On the first few days we faced unpredictable rains but even the weather started cooperating with us once it saw our determination. One evening we had to halt our shoot for more than an hour because of torrential rain. While everyone was suggesting that we pack up and go, Avijit was determined to complete the shoot. Believe it or not, the weather cleared up and we could continue shooting. I don’t think anyone in our unit had ever seen clouds floating under lamp posts before that night. I hadn’t and it was magical to see roads get covered by clouds.

The winding roads through the sprawling tea gardens, the beautiful line of hills and mountains on the horizon, Dooars is wonder every time I go back there. The best thing every morning was the drive to our locations at Samsing, Rocky Island, Mondol Gaon, Ranichera and more. The people there have also been so hospitable and helpful that it never really felt that we were shooting there for the first time. A special mention goes to Samir Ranjan Gupta, who was the manager at the Goodricke Tea Estate at that time, and his family, for such warm hospitality and support. The local police station at Matellibazar, the hospital, the local authorities at every level helped us make this film and we shall be forever grateful. Every day was made memorable by the local people who helped us and also the calm and quiet hills.

Though I would love for more people to visit this beautiful hamlet in the lap of Dooars, the destruction of wildlife to make space for the innumerable resorts is worrisome. I have to say that we should do our best to keep Dooars the way she is, calm, green and full of wildlife.

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