Monday, 30th October 2017

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Red Sofa

t2 tunes into a father-daughter chat, with filmmaker Buddhadeb Dasgupta and Alokananda on the Red Sofa

  • Published 2.10.15
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Buddhadeb Dasgupta and Alokananda at the Red Sofa Conversation with Rita Bhimani

He is a maverick filmmaker; she’s a music composer. He doesn’t believe in promoting his films; she believes self-publicity is the way forward. Father-daughter duo Buddhadeb Dasgupta and Alokananda Dasgupta bridge the generation gap as they open up to Rita Bhimani at the Red Sofa Conversation (Season 2) in The Conclave, in association with t2. 

Ray and I 
Buddhadeb: I don’t know why people club me with Satyajit Ray. I respect his work but that doesn’t mean he has influenced me. The kind of images I have been working with in my films is very different from his. The images in my films are inspired from daily life, from my dreams and nightmares. I am also indebted to poetry because poetry has given me the strength to derive a kind of style which is my own. Ray was a great, great, great storyteller. But I like to follow a non-narrative structure. I believe the real and the unreal are one, you can’t separate the two. My cinema is a shake. I put some reality, some dream, some magic and make a very good shake! 

I live my life, awards live theirs
Buddhadeb: Awards are good. You feel very happy, specially when it comes with a thick envelope! But awards can also be dangerous. That’s why I live my life, awards live theirs. I have nothing to do with my awards. Even now I feel very shaky, afraid and depressed before I start a film and awards can’t save me from that depression. 

I make films on my terms
Buddhadeb: Well, people often accuse me of not promoting my films but, you know, some people like chicken and some people want to have something altogether different. Why I haven’t promoted my films is entirely my decision. I know cinema can bring millions of money but I knew what I wanted. I am a very private person and my needs are very limited. I don’t need much. Give me dal-bhaat and I am happy. I am very fortunate that all my films have done very well abroad. 

I never wanted to use cinema for making money. I would like to share a story. Suresh Jindal, the producer of Shatranj Ke Khilari (directed by Satyajit Ray) was a good friend of mine. When Shatranj Ke Khilari released it didn’t last in the theatres for more than two weeks. Suresh told me: ‘Buddha, I lost everything’. I told him, ‘Don’t worry this will come back’. After 10 years we met again and he told me: ‘Buddha, you know Shatranj Ke Khilari is now selling like hot cake and is a big hit, every distributor wants to buy it!’ See, films that released alongside Shatranj Ke Khilari were big hits but were forgotten but Shatranj Ke Khilari lived on forever. I want my films to be watched silently and I know there are people all over the world right at the moment watching some great films. These films will live on and will be watched by generations to come. Why are you still listening to Mozart and reading Shakespeare? 

Producers come to me knowing fully well that I can’t give them great business. Years ago Bappi Lahiri met me and asked me to make a film for him. I didn’t take it seriously. He kept on insisting and I told him, ‘Okay, I will make a film for you but on one condition — you will not ask me about the story, cast, language, and you are allowed to come to my sets only for three days’. He agreed but insisted on doing the background score. I said, ‘But if I don’t like it you will have to do it again’. He agreed and together we made Lal Dorja. I make films on my own terms and conditions. I am very finicky about the music in my film. We imbibed music from my mother who could play the mouth organ very well. 

Madhu Neotia welcomes the father and daughter at The Conclave. Pictures: Rashbehari Das 

Finding my niche
Alokananda: I composed the music for the teaser for Asha Jaoar Majhe. I was raised on a recipe of films. We watched a lot of films and somehow what stayed with me more than the films was the score. I was very interested in background score. I studied piano in Calcutta and then music in York University. I knew from the very beginning that I would never be a pianist. But I wanted to do something with music. I realised that I didn’t have to be good at everything. I had to find my niche and then I watched Aamir. I really liked the score and the songs, but I realised that I had no place in Bollywood because I couldn’t identify with Bollywood. But I would like to make songs like this and I started assisting Amit Trivedi because I like how he balances Bollywood commercial music and the quirky original experimental music. I assisted him in Udaan and eventually started composing songs as well. 

My dad is a hard taskmaster
Alokananda: He is a hard taskmaster and he wouldn’t compromise. There was no special treatment, barring the fact that I had him next to me all the time (Alokananda composed the music for three of her father’s films— Shei, Trayodashi and Anwar Ka Ajab Kissa). He actually made me redo the music of Trayodashi. He just called me and said, ‘I don’t like any of it. Do everything from scratch’. I was in Bombay and said, ‘I can’t do everything from scratch’. He said, ‘It’s all bogus’! 

Bollywood and women musicians
Alokananda: There are very few women in the music scene in Bollywood. Bombay is technologically very sound. A lot of it is about programming and sound engineering. I don’t think they expected me to understand this and I didn’t. Suddenly I realised that the only way I could survive here is to learn the recent production of music. And there are deadlines to meet. Very recently I was working on the music and my room caught fire. The first thing that came to my mind was my equipment and my deadline. I called my producer and apologised  and asked for some more time. He said, ‘Sure, take until 5am this morning’! And it was midnight then. It’s very method-oriented and there’s a method to madness. There’s a lot of organisation and time management. 

It’s great for people who can promote. Self-promotion is very important; unlike what my father said, I really believe that you have to package your film, you have to market it. Even with music, you really need it but my personality will dictate my work. So if I change myself completely, then I wouldn’t be able to handle it at all.  

Text: Kushali Nag