The flavour of Kolkata

The flavour of Kolkata
The city is known for its old alleys. One such is shot by Atanu Pal.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Pratim D Gupta talks 'Ahare Mon'

Last August, he served us a delectable Maacher Jhol. Set in Paris and Kolkata, the film gave us a hitherto unthought of Ritwick as an internationally acclaimed Masterchef in a sensitive mother-son tale. It won both critical and popular acclaim.

This time around, he has trained his focus on pairs of minds of various ages and how they vibe with each other. Simply speaking, an out-of-the-box take on love and companionship, so nicely and aptly named Ahare Mon. It boasts of an eclectic ensemble cast of Anjan Dutt, Mamata Shankar, Ritwik Chakraborty, Parno Mitra, Paoli Dam, Adil Hussain and debutante Chitrangada Chakraborty.

In this short interview, Pratim D Gupta talks on various aspects of his new film in his usual candid manner. Ahare Mon releases on 22nd June 2018.

Pratim D Gupta with Mamata Shankar on the sets of Ahare Mon

Kolkata Curry: If we call Paanch Adhyay vanilla romance, Ahare Mon seems to be a layered, out-of-the-box take on on the subject. Was there a common thread in conceiving all the four stories? How did the stories fall in place?

Pratim: I had two of the stories with me for a very long time. The airport immigration officer story which I had first thought of at least 12-13 years back. And the story of the two thieves too was something I have wanted to see on screen for at least a decade. There are two friends of mine in Mumbai - Harneet and Kartik - and I would discuss with them the Michael Tendulkar-Suzie Q love story. But at that stage both were one line premises. The two other stories emerged last year when I thought of clubbing these short stories together into one feature film. The common thread is love, of course, but it's also about loneliness and companionship and the eternal wait for love.

KC: Given an opportunity in the past, you had a wish to shoot Adil's story with Mithun. They have different appeals and screen presence. What made you select Adil apart from the fact that he is a gifted actor and you admire his work? Did you have to rewrite the track for him?

Pratim: When I thought of that story, I had Mithunda's face in mind. That was a dozen years back. When I finally sat down last year to write out the screenplay, I knew Mithun da would most likely not be available to play the role of Purnendu Pahari. So I didn't have any actor in mind when I finally scripted that story. I tried a couple of actors from the Bengali film industry first and waited for each of them for weeks to confirm their dates. But they just couldn't shuffle their calendar, despite their best efforts. Adil was like an SOS call although he wasn't aware how panicked we all were. Within a day of me sending him the script, he got back saying, "I've just read a couple of pages and I want to do this".

KC: I love both the songs- Monta Ahare and Ahare Mon. Written, composed and sung beautifully, they are urbane and very contemporary in sound. But why did you limit the songs to just two in a romantic tale?

Pratim: It's more of a drama. Not romance in the sense of a Yash Chopra or Karan Johar film. The truth remains that songs hold up the screenplay. So, although I love music and participate heavily in the creation of songs and background scores of my films, I try to keep songs to the minimum.

KC: The Anjan-Mamata pair is coming back  after Jani Dyakha Hawbe (2011). Did you cast them keeping in mind, among other things, their recent and past on-screen chemistry (in Kharij and Grihajuddha)?

Pratim: Can I tell you the truth? I haven't seen Kharij. And I couldn't complete Jani Dyakha Hawbe. Sorry, Birsa! Grihajuddha I have seen but to be honest, no film or moment from earlier films played any role in scripting the Barun Babu - Charulata Debi portion or while directing Anjan Dutt and Mamata Shankar in Ahare Mon. This is a whole new pitch and believe me they have simply knocked it out of the park. Their hotel scene will remain special.

#AhareMon  #BanglaCinema  #BanglaCinema2018  #Cinema

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A freewheeling chat with Srijit Mukherji

He has studied Economics in Presidency College and Jawaharlal Nehru University. He has several years of directorial experience in Bangla cinema behind him. He takes an academic interest in tracking box office figures of his films as well as his peers' and deeply analysing audience response to his films. He has complete knowledge of the work of promising new directors and the response to their films. His contemporaries Shiboprosad Mukherjee and Raj Chakraborty have film production houses to their credit for quite some time. He has worked in Hindi cinema where most of the noted directors have their production house. I had often wondered why he was not starting his production house and taking his creative and economic acumen to the next level.

It was heartening to note a few months back that Srijit Mukherji finally started his production house, thoughtfully named Match Cut Productions, and announced its first production Chowringhee which is a co-production with SVF.

Srijit opens up on his newborn in this Kolkata Curry exclusive interview for the first time (considering all media).

Kolkata Curry: You don't need to look for producers for making your kind of films. It could be similar for web series. What was the thought behind setting up Match Cut Productions?

Srijit Mukherji: There are lots of stories which appeal to me or are close to my heart which already have a storyteller in place. So to be a part of these stories, to facilitate the storytelling process and to bring them to the world, Match Cut was formed. Also, since making films in Bengal taught me a lot of things even outside direction, like production, scheduling, budgeting and marketing, thought Match Cut could be a way to put them to use. The economist in me, I guess, was at play!

KC: What does Match Cut Productions aspire to bring to the table for the industry?

Srijit: New stories, new faces, new voices, unmade projects by known voices, indies which appeal to me, new technicians.

KC: What are your thoughts and plans of working with new directors under your banner? Or handholding independent directors whose films/ content you find promising? You are seen appreciating young talents like Manas Mukul Pal, Indrashis Acharya and Soukarya Ghosal. You presented Pradipta Bhattacharya's national award- winning Bakita Byaktigawto back in 2013. Do you plan to collaborate with some of these names under Match Cut?

Srijit: Absolutely! Much before Rainbow Jelly, I singlehandedly rallied behind the prodigiously talented Shoukarya's Pendulum which blew me away. Even when Manas' Shawhoj Pather Goppo was taken down after an initial run, I protested on social media and used whatever leverage I have, along with Shiboprasad, Shrikant Mohta and Pankaj Ladia to get it back to the halls. I am already collaborating with Paavel on a project, another fantastic talent whose Babar Naam Gandhiji I offered to present. Then there are brilliant new voices like Indrashish Acharya and Sayantan Ghoshal with whom talks are on about possible collaborations. Have been in dialogue with screenwriters like Padmanabha Dasgupta, Debapratim Dasgupta, Dipangshu Acharya and Saurav Palodhi. Match Cut will look at actively producing or promoting content written, directed or both, by these names above, because I firmly believe they hold the key to making the content heavy Bengal film industry even richer.

KC: So far I'm aware, except the Kakababu series and Shibar Phire Asha, which you chose not to pursue after a point of time, you are not known to have expressed interest in adapting Bengali fiction for films. Why did you zero in on Chowringhee as your first co-production while it has had an acclaimed adaptation in Bengali cinema?

Srijit: Before Kabir Suman's Tomake Chai came and changed everything about life from taking pride in one's mother tongue to grumbling, criticizing, condemning but unconditionally loving one's own city, Chowringhee was that novel which did all of that and more to me, at a tender age. In fact one of the earliest memories of a book cover for me is the iconic stamp laden one which hasn't changed over the years. Or the earliest memory of a book ending was the glow sign of Shahjahan. I have never made a film which hasn't come from inside, from an urge, from a deep love, from some piece of nostalgia. So there, the template or formula or pattern or device is absolutely non-existent for me. Chowringhee technically might be a literary adaptation, but for me, is an unforgettable story, an indelible experience which fashioned my mind in early years. Much like Julius Caesar which found its way to Kidderpore in Zulfiqar or like Aban Thakur's Rajkahini found its voice in Rajkahini/ Begum Jaan.

#MatchCutProductions #SrijitMukherji #BanglaCinema

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Saturday, June 09, 2018

Waste Band and the pied piper of Tangra

What is this bunch of youngsters on stage up to with these bizarre things? Thermocol block, empty paint tins and plastic paint drums, cut iron pipes placed in order, half-filled empty PET bottles and stuff! What kind of musical sound will come out of them? One can’t help but wonder when one sees them setting up.

The sound check follows and the thought is hit out of the park. It’s rock sound, man! Welcome to Waste Band.

I came across this band that doesn’t play musical instruments in an annual programme of a new NGO where they performed last, as the main attraction. It plays instruments made out of waste products (as mentioned above) and create musical sound out of them. What I experienced in their session in a cultural show was an absolutely unique innovation in music and a new sound. The band leader plays a guitar (if you call it that) made of a wooden plank and an empty tin!

Their version of digital percussion commonly known as 'Octapad'

Band leader Sanjay Mandal plays his innovative guitar

As for vocals, that’s interesting too. The youngest boy who also plays the iron pipes with a spanner sang some rhymes in rap. They also mix a conventional instrument or two when needed. Like this girl, Payel, played flute accompanied by a few of her bandmates on their respective instruments in one of the compositions. I only wished they got a full session to play as they had to cut it short due to lack of time left to close the function.

The story behind it, as shared by band leader Sanjay Mandal whose brainchild it is, is an amazing and inspiring social initiative. I am proud to know this has happened in Kolkata.

Tangra, by Sanjay’s own admission, is an area is Kolkata which is educationally, culturally and financially backward. Boys drop out of school early and do small jobs to support the family. Sanjay, who seems to be in his forties, is one among them. Despite the compulsion and hardship destiny posed, he wanted to do something different in life with the local youngsters of school-going age engaged in earning. So, he started an after-work recreation session of music with instruments built out of things thrown away (They couldn't afford proper instruments and training). Soon the boys got hooked to it and a band was formed. They got noticed by renowned band Bhoomi in one of their early shows in 2006 and performed in their television show Barandaay Roddur.  

The vocalist is playing his instrument made of iron pipes with a spanner

Their journey has taken them to the popular national television show ‘India’s Got Talent’ and NDTV where they performed live. Today, they do shows in various parts of India and abroad.

A bagful coins is an instrument for them

We wisecrack, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. Sanjay and his gang live up to it, day in and day out.  

The earning from the shows is saved for greater good. Sanjay’s aim is to build a school for the local children. A small piece of land has already been purchased. Sanjay is also getting some of the band members, which now has a few young girls too, trained in formal music.

The Waste Band

Hope Sanjay Mandal, the pied piper of Tangra, goes from strength to strength with his band of boys and girls embracing music with passion.

If anybody is interested to call the band for a show, Sanjay can be reached at 9330832732.

#WasteBand #KolkataMusic #IndiasGotTalent

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