Recipe for Posto

Bela Sheshe makers set to rustle up posto in Hindi with Pink writer

  • Published 30.05.17

Shiboprosad Mukhopadhyay-Nandita Roy’s Posto has been ruling the box office since May 12, earning “Rs 4.5 crore” in 17 days. Now, the director duo are set to make Posto in Hindi, with Pink screenplay writer Ritesh Shah penning the script. A t2 chat...

Ritesh, what were your first thoughts after watching Posto?

Ritesh: See, I had read the script. The film met my expectations. I feel the best thing about Posto is that different characters from different age groups have an opinion. With a subject like this, it is a great idea to have a courtroom drama in the second half. Both sides get to present their views. You remove the language and their (Shibu-Nandita) films can be seen by anyone. It has an echo of your own lives.

What kind of changes can we expect in the Hindi adaptation of Posto (to be directed by Shibu-Nandita) that you will write?

Ritesh: I have a theory about retelling. If it’s not broken, don’t mend. The milieu has to change and it has to be true, whether it is set in Kanpur or Delhi or Bombay. It should be true to that ethos. The cultural reinterpretation has to be there.

In terms of actual writing, we’ll have a slightly more diverse audience. The narrative strategy will essentially remain the same. There are bits that are humorous and emotional, and bits that are knowledge-based. There is a debate, there is some philosophy to it. There will be no stylistic mismatch. Their stories have to be told in their manner. Just like they are so integrated in the ethos of this place, that ethos has to be very strong (in the Hindi film). It cannot be fake.

If the man is not in Calcutta anymore, then who is this guy? Where does he live? Who is his wife? What are his concerns? You make it so localised that it becomes universal. Suppose, Shibuda had made Posto in Hindi first. It could have been a Calcutta-based film. Now the only question that will come is why are these people speaking in Hindi. They could have been native Hindi speakers. It could have been set in a Marwari household. So, you use their stylistic choices… just take this ethos, this style and marry it with the viewing habit of a Hindi film.

Ritesh Shah, Nandita Roy and Shiboprosad Mukhopadhyay. Picture: Pabitra Das

In Posto, Arnab (Jisshu) and Susmita’s (Mimi) first scene is on a train. Was it a throwback to Praktan?

Nandita: No, no.

Shiboprosad: Every weekend Arnab catches this train to Santiniketan. Whoever has gone to Santiniketan on a weekend remembers the train ride.

Arnab is not very secure when it comes to jobs. He leaves his sixth job and moves to London to start a business. His future is uncertain. What makes Susmita leave her job and go with him?

Shiboprosad: I have seen this in life. Peculiar things happen.

Nandita: People have turned down promotions so that they can be with their families. Susmita would like to support her husband because her family/husband is equally important to her. There are women who’ll stay on in their jobs, while some think of supporting their husbands. Susmita comes from the second category.

Shiboprosad: I have met women for whom family comes first. Susmita is based on a real-life person whom Mimi has met for workshop sessions. Susmita is seen making choices that a real-life character has made.

When the child is torn between his father and grandfather, why doesn’t Susmita take a stand? We don’t really get a sense of what the mother is going through...

Shiboprosad: What you are saying is there in the film. Which is why Susmita says that it is like a battle of egos between the two. She says, ‘What about me? I have an equal right.’ And if you see Soumitrada’s reaction, you’ll feel may be he is rethinking his stance.

Ritesh: The answers are there in the film itself. If you look at the fact that Susmita doesn’t have parents… for her to enter the debate forgetting the seven years the grandparents took to raise the child.... The film gives me an impression that she is really thankful for what the grandparents have done. I don’t think she would enter the area of confrontation until it hits her. 

It is very difficult to make politically correct films, because then your central conflict will be confusing. Then the mother-in-law should also join the debate. You make choices for what suits the central arc of the drama. Many storytellers do not aim to please by making it perfectly politically correct. They are out to tell a story and generate a debate.

Also, what’s with courtrooms and your films? In Alik Sukh, Bela Sheshe and Posto, the crisis is resolved in the courtroom. Shiboprosad: Courtroom dramas never fail. The success rate is 100 per cent.

Ritesh: With debate-oriented films, you tend to go there (to the courtroom). You want to give a viewpoint and a counterpoint. If the father didn’t sue the son, there would have been no film. 

Nandita: It is the demand of the story.

Shiboprosad: The family matters.  And if you talk to any lawyer, you’ll know that the family ultimately goes to court.

Your films are often labelled as melodramatic. Is this by design?

Nandita: This is what the story demands. I wonder why people end up crying… I didn’t feel like that when I was editing the film. And when I see the audience coming out of the hall crying, I feel very awkward. Because this was not my intention.

Is this the biggest takeaway for you as filmmakers?

Shiboprosad: No. The biggest takeaway is touching people’s hearts. Everything should be there, from laughter to tears, which is reflected in the box office. I go to the balcony of a theatre and look down. If you see a mobile blinking, you know you have lost that person. If you don’t see that, then you know everyone is hooked to the story. The good thing about the Bengal audience is that you can experiment with your subject. They are ready to accept. It’s a fantastic market. The audience is so good. There will be a reaction.

Ritesh (to Shibu-Nandita): Your audience clearly believes in your solutions and your choices. 

Shiboprosad: A courtroom drama is paradise for a scriptwriter.

Ritesh, have you been following their films for some time now?

Ritesh: Except for Praktan, I have watched all their films. Ramdhanu onwards, the dilemmas faced by the characters in their films are being faced elsewhere also… across India. You don’t need to be a film lover or an intellectual to like their films. They make sense in a basic middle-class, upper middle-class thinking… anybody can react to that. The issue in Ramdhanu affects everyone’s lives. There is a sense of worry. Both Bela Sheshe and Posto generate some sort of a debate about issues that we see… they are right in front of our eyes. It is always about something, it is not just the plot. There are themes.

Shiboprosad: We are great fans of Ritesh’s writing, be it Madaari or Pink. The admiration was always there. We were trying to work together for Muktodhara, but it clicked this time, for Posto.

How did you zero in on the idea of making Posto in Hindi?

Ritesh: These stories have to reach a larger audience. The effort was to get those stories across to a pan-Indian audience. 

Shiboprosad: We decided to write the Bengali and the Hindi versions of Posto simultaneously.

Ritesh: I got to know the plot of Posto before it was shot. Shibuda described the father and the son and I got fascinated with the son. I knew that the father was an author-backed role, but the son represents a certain generation. It is not an outright dark character. Arnab is a generational conflicted guy. He is like you or me or anybody.... Shibuda had reached that point in the narration when I said I wanted to do it — the moment when Dinen (Soumitra) says he is going to take his son to court, and then Arnab tells the defence lawyer that he’s wary of his father being insulted.

Did you visit the sets of Posto?

Ritesh: No, they shoot so fast!

Stories of custody battles appear in the papers. But when you are making a film where a father sues the son, did you think that the audience will be able to accept it? To what extent would the case be believable within the realms of cinema?

Shiboprosad: Cinema shows you the impossible. Sometimes a situation like that arises within a home, and cinema shows you that. In 50 years of marriage, you won’t find too many cases like you see in Bela Sheshe. That film is a metaphor. Through that case, you are exploring marriage. This case in Posto is actually a metaphor, exploring various modes of parenting — good, bad, correct, ideal parenting, the role of a mother, father, working parents...
Nandita: ... Quality time. To me it’s a challenge to present the audience with a film that they’ll be able to relate to. Even if it is unbelievable like a father filing a case against a son. But when you go into the hall, you believe what you are seeing.

How do you choose your subjects?

Shiboprosad: You should take subjects from your surroundings, from life. Incidents that affect you. You would want the film to start a debate in a household.

Arindam Chatterjee
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