Director Promita Bhattacharya had explored issues of trust, faith, deception and the strength of a relationship in the web series Dujone, starring Soham and Srabanti. And now, Promita, who was the DA to Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra on films like Rang De Basanti and Delhi-6, has directed the film Payesh, which streams on Platform8 from September 17. A t2 chat with Promita...
What is the genesis of your film Payesh?
Payesh was conceived by Atmadeep. Then I was bestowed with the responsibility of fathering the sapling with utmost care. The experience melted my heart. In the array of thrillers, Payesh is like a breath of sweet fresh air. With the screenplay of Payesh I have tried to explore the sweet and sour little thrills in new relationships, very real, very anecdotal. Payesh celebrates a new beginning that comes with its teething problems. It’s the story of breaking of ice.
Why the title Payesh?
Payesh is the quintessential Bengali sweet dish that marks new beginnings. While payesh becomes the hook of the story, it also captures the essence, texture of the film, the sweetness of each relation.
What is the story-line of the film?
Paromita, from south Calcutta, loves the payesh that her mother makes for her birthday every year. She’s a doctor, yet she’s pampered at home like a little child. After she marries the brilliant boy Anindya, it’s her turn to make payesh, on the day of her Bou Bhaat. It incidentally happens to be her birthday too. She misses the pampering at home, as she tries to adapt to the new ways of her new life.
Who is Rajnandini Paul playing? Tell us about her look.
Rajnandini plays Paromita, my protagonist, quite modern, staunchly independent, very Bengali, absolutely pampered, habitually loving. She is a doctor, struggling with her new role as a homemaker in a very traditional household, pushing herself to fit in, please all, yet stand her ground, yet break some ice. She just has to adjust for two months, before she and her husband settle abroad by themselves, she tells herself. But relationships are for life. Any city girl of today will see herself in Paromita. She is carefree and comfortable in her jeans and kurtis. She looks so sweet, so beautiful in her effort to wear sari and jewellery, as long as she can, to please her in-laws. Her biggest secret concern is that her sari shouldn’t fall off unwittingly.
How did you decide on the lead cast?
The casting fell so organically in place, it was like magic! They even look related! When Pathikrit Sengupta (producer, StoriBoat) suggested Rajnandini, I felt she is so correct! Such an effortless mix of classical and contemporary! I met her first, when she came for a script narration. We ended up spending hours sharing funny anecdotes from my marriage, my mother’s marriage and from marriages of a whole lot of people we know. The way Rajnandini reacted to each situation, I realised, was exactly the way my protagonist Paromita would react in the story.
It is a coincidence that Rajnandini’s pet name is Chini. She blended perfectly in our Payesh. Then Senjuti Mukherjee came as a blessing. What a blend of power, tenderness and ease she gave to the ‘nameless mother-in-law’ who unfolds by and by.
And then Neil (Chatterjee), happened! I told him, “Anindya doesn’t get the chance to express much in words.” He said it all with his eyes. Somu Sarkar was next, who changed her speech pattern for the role so convincingly! And there was Tapati Munshi, who told me, “I hardly have any lines. I will play the role for love”. How lovely our Thamma turned out to be! Maitree Chakraborty and Tirthankar Chakraborty so convincingly fleshed out the angst of the parents, whose only daughter has just been married. Kinkini Sengupta, Suryaa Bhattacharya and little Aradhya were like gusts of fresh breeze! Even Prithwis Haldar took his character much beyond the script. Durnibar Saha, in his special appearance, is like the sweetest dessert to a happy soul-meal Payesh has become.
How was the shooting experience?
The location was far but we could not resist its charm, thus sentencing ourselves to a roller-coaster ride that the shoot was. The team had to perform a breathless coordinated dance to portray a seamless slice of life. At the end we won our race against the night curfew. The story of Payesh goes way beyond the two-and-a-half days of shoot. It spins over days of extensive planning, jamming, fighting hoarse and feasting on delicious egg-chicken rolls, till all of us were on the same page.
I have to mention how I pestered Tubanda (DoP) through his busy schedule, to squeeze our ambitious plan in no time, thanks to his magic; at the look test, how Nandini (stylist) and I bullied Durnibar (Saha), while the poor boy endured all with no celebrity tantrums; what a gala time we had jamming with Souptik-Achin (music directors). Sujoyda (Dutta Roy, editor) patiently gave shape to all our madness while Pratyush and Pathikritda (StoriBoat), Eshita, Priyanka, Subhoda, Ashitda (Platform8) became our rock support. Payesh is the story of the sweat and blood of my entire team, who have cooked it with a lot of love.
Are there any fond anecdotes of having payesh on the set?
Milk takes its sweet time to boil. No matter how much we jump, calculate, design, it’s beyond any prediction. We learnt this life lesson the hard way, during a shot. By the end of it, each one in the crew knew well how to cook payesh. At the end of the shoot we bid farewell feeding payesh to each other and whoever we met on the way.