Srijit Mukherji’s Shah Jahan Regency comes alive at Taj Bengal at 2am!
The shoot of Srijit Mukherji’s Shah Jahan Regency, a modern-day adaptation of Shankar’s iconic novel Chowringhee, started off in the dark of the night at Taj Bengal. The time? Midnight! “Let’s go for a rehearsal,” called out Srijit, eyes glued to the monitor. It’s 1.44am and the room throbbed with energy. The first scene featuring Anjan Dutt took off at 2am, and was okayed by 2.07am. A round of applause from the crew marked the occasion. t2 caught up Srijit just before the cameras rolled...
What’s the first scene?
Anjanda’s character talks about his life and some incidents from his life. Parambrata Chattopadhyay and Abir Chatterjee’s call time is at 4am. Babul Supriyo’s call time is at 6.30am. This is the first time I’m starting the shoot of my film in Taj Bengal at midnight!
You’ll be shooting in various hotels...
Yeah. Shah Jahan Regency is an imaginary hotel which we will build visually. The identity of the imaginary hotel is very important. Why is it called the Shah Jahan Regency? Why the emphasis on the Mughal period? It is very crucial to the plot. In order to make it consistent, we are changing the decor in various places so that the hotel has a uniform look.
For example, you can see the Mughal paintings and sculptures here. Also, I’m tinkering with the light scheme of the place.
What are your Taj Bengal memories?
Taj has been a part of my growing-up years. The first five-star hotel I went to was Taj Bengal. I was in Class IX then. Two friends and I saved up to have lunch at the Chinoiserie. It was incredible for us. We even offered to give a tip, but the amount was so small that it was given back to us! Later, of course, it became one of my favourite hotels.
How does it feel on the first day of the shoot? Is it like taking fresh guard every time?
Yeah… every time it’s a new innings and you start from zero. When you are coming out to bat, you don’t think about Autograph, 22shey Srabon, Chotushkone, Yeti Obhijaan or Zulfiqar… it’s a blank scoreboard. When it comes to camera angles, I thrash it out with my cinematographer beforehand.
This is my second film with Gairik Sarkar after Ek Je Chhilo Raja (yet to release). I am addicted to Gairik... he is one of the best things that has happened to the industry. He is a fantastic cinematographer. Ek Je Chhilo Raja is possibly my best shot film, along with Chotushkone and 22shey Srabon. What sets Gairik apart is his hunger, his uncompromising attitude, his vision… he challenges me, contradicts me, fights with me, questions and pushes me, which makes me stronger in my convictions. It is the essence of any director-DoP relationship.
Anjan Dutt was the man of the match in Uma. Did you have a word with him after that?
He finally believed me when I told him that he is my muse (smiles). This is my third film with Anjanda on the trot. He is one of my faves and he is one of the best in the country. He is completely different in this film, in terms of acting style and look. You won’t be able to recognise him. I’m giving him things which he is not comfortable doing.
We know you are a huge fan of non-canonical literature. Abir Chatterjee’s Bidaay Byomkesh released yesterday, and the film is based on an original story. You also wrote two plays on Feluda and Byomkesh…
I wrote a play called Feluda Pherot in 2008, with an ageing Feluda, and then a Byomkesh play, Checkmate, in 2009, which was about an ageing Byomkesh with a twist at the end. I didn’t get permission to stage Checkmate retaining the actual names. So I had to use names like Hrishikesh Bakshi and Ajoy Bandyopadhyay (to stage it in Calcutta).
Bidaay Byomkesh is special to me since I’m hoping this film will open up a new spate of work in non-canonical literature in Bangla. And Checkmate is special to me because it got a review from professor Ananda Lal in The Telegraph. Incidentally, Anjanda was supposed to play Byomkesh in that play. He pulled out at the last moment. However, I got to know him then and I could assist him on Madly Bangalee. I am all for non-canonical interpretation. With those two plays, I wanted to reinterpret and rediscover and to not accept the fact that the cannon is dead. One is in love with the characters so much. Barun Chanda played the ageing Feluda, Parambrata played Topshe and I played Maganlal Meghraj.