The year 2022 has been pivotal in my journey as a film producer so, even though the yearend is a time to look back at the year that was, I choose to call it a moving forward because 2022 has given me the opportunity to move out of the shadow of the pandemic and move into 2023, the year in which Friends Communication is celebrating the completion of a decade in the film industry.
The years 2020-21 were a dark period for everyone. The entertainment industry was hit hard. But in those long months of lockdown I also realised that only overthinking would not help. I would have to get up from that rocking chair of crippling doubt and take up the challenge of once again pitching my all to start doing what keeps me going, which is making movies.
Many years back, when I was mostly into distribution and had made only a few films, I incurred a huge loss. Many who had started out with few resources, like me, may have thought of leaving this business but I always had the unwavering support of my friend Hasnu and drew strength to keep at it.
I realised that I had incurred a huge loss but I also convinced myself that to find it again I would have to look for it right here, in this industry. It’s like, if you lose your purse at Howrah station, would you look for it in Sealdah station?! So I continued to move ahead, even though at a snail’s pace.
The entertainment industry was plunged into a very difficult phase during the pandemic. Theatres were closed and no one was wanting to take the risk of making big films. Even when we started making films postpandemic, everyone wanted a safe subject.
But the two comeback films of Friends Communication, which were shot during the pandemic, were on two subjects which were pretty risky, as in unconventional, from the POV of the producer.
Aparajito, a tribute to Satyajit Ray on his centenary year, was based on the anecdotes that tell the story of the making of Pather Panchali. And our film Mahananda was based on the ideologies and the work of Mahasweta Devi, the famous social activist. Yet, we felt compelled to tell these stories, maybe because we needed to motivate ourselves, to keep going. And what can be more inspiring than the lives of personalities like Satyajit Ray and Mahasweta Devi. I knew that the subjects were challenging and was not sure if people would come back to theatres to watch films on such subjects but I would never work on something that I do not find meaningful. For me, cinema is not only a means of entertainment. It is woven into the life, the time, the art and culture of any given audience and I make films from this faith. That is why I took up the challenge and in spite of many hurdles made Aparajito and Mahananda. Both the films were accepted extremely well by the audience. When I plan a project, I always believe that I am an Indian producer, making a film of international standard for world cine-lovers in Bengali.
A moment from Aparajito
A moment from Mahananda
So that is what I keep in mind while choosing the subject, or the making, or the budget. Cinema transcends the barriers of language, country, religion and culture. Good cinema helps create a certain bond among people across the globe and that is the kind of films Friends Communication wants to make.
I am grateful to the audience for being so receptive to both films. Mahananda was the only Bengali language film to be selected for screening among the top 20 Feature Films in the Indian Panorama, IFFI, 2022, which is very rewarding.
Mahananda has also been selected in festivals in USA, Dhaka and the prestigious Chennai Film Festival.
Aparajito, I would say, brought back the audience to the theatre. The response was overwhelming and it was one of the top three box-office grossers this year in Tollywood. We released Aparajito commercially, internationally across five continents and simultaneously in 13 states other than West Bengal. Aparajito also got selected for numerous prestigious film festivals like the Shanghai Film Festival and the Toronto Film Festival. So 2022 was in a way a comeback year for Friends Communication.
The year 2023 is equally important for us because Friends Communication will be completing a decade in the industry this year. We thought of celebrating by doing what we do best. We have slated some very good films and will move ahead with them in 2023. We plan to express our gratitude to the wonderful audience by gifting them with five new films in our 10th year.
We have plans to release Shesh Pata by Atanu Ghosh on Poila Baishakh. It stars Prosenjit Chatterjee in the lead role; Bratya Basu’s film Hubba, has the renowned actor from Bangladesh, Musharaf Karim in the lead role.
We are fortunate that our 10th year also happens to be the centenary year of Mrinal Sen. We will be paying a tribute to Mrinal Sen with our film Padatik by Srijit Mukherji. Our film Joto Kando Kolkatay by Anik Dutta is also slated for this year. We are working on Saheb Bibi Golam 2.0 and a yet untitled film by Indranil Roychowdhury (Kobi) as part of our forthcoming projects.
The last 10 years and surviving the pandemic has been a learning experience for Friends Communication. Looking back, we made Roopkatha Noy in 2013, then moved ahead with Take One, Family Album, Abby Sen, Natok er Moto, Meghnad Bodh Rohoshyo, Mukhomukhi, Dictionary, Saheb Bibi Golam, Mayurakshi, Mahananda and Aparajito. That’s a bouquet of 12 successful films of very different flavours in 10 years. Friends Communication has also made two serials, Udon Tubri for Zee Bangla and Saathi for Sun Bangla in 2022.
We have two more serials coming up. Faguner Mohona is chalked for January 2023, on Sun Bangla. We are the only production house who also has a play, Rangini, to our credit. So I would say that my journey has been rather fulfilling because I am still being able to do what I enjoy doing. If we only think of profit in terms of finance then we will not feel motivated to continue with our passion.
As a producer, I want to continue to gift good films to the audience who I believe are equal stakeholders in Friends Communication. We have learnt to rely on our strengths in the last year and I want Friends Communication to create a body of work which we will all be proud of. We will continue to move forward with faith and fortitude.