No indoor shots or flashbacks in his debut, Uronchondi, says filmmaker Abhishek Saha
The term 'Uronchondi', in Bengali, implies a person who is given to a fanciful, carefree attitude and is completely averse to any sense of order or planning. The sentiment strikes a chord particularly among Bengali writers and poets.
Debutant director Abhishek Saha, whose film by that title is ready for release on August 3, claims to have been a bit of an ‘Uronchondi’ himself, even as the film is being billed as the first road movie of its kind in Bengali cinema.
A shy and soft spoken man of few words, Saha easily wins people over with his honest and matter-of-fact answers that underscore his casual approach towards life. While the rest of the cast – including his wife, national award winning actor Sudiptaa Chakraborty – was busy preparing for a photo shoot with the media, Saha, 45, dressed in a crumpled peach shirt and jeans, talked about work, love, marriage and kid, somewhere from the depths of a huge, brown, leather couch.
Is your debut in the film world unplanned, too?
To a great extent a big yes. I always had this story in my mind, but I don’t know whether it would have been rendered into a film, hadn’t I been goaded by my friends and of course, my producer, Prosenjit Chatterjee. Chatterjee motivated and pushed me a lot to make Uronchondi. I have never planned anything in my life.
What’s the story about?
The film is based on the travails of three, rural women, who are escaping from the trials and tribulations they have faced.
It’s a story of empowerment, but also the story of the ordinary at the same time. It’s a tale of how the weak find their strength. Though it has women as protagonists, it isn’t essentially a feminist story. When the audience will see the film, each one of them will be able to relate with the stories and the characters somehow or the other.
It’s a tale of emancipation. All of us at some point or the other want to break free from the vagaries and monotonies of life that we are caught in. There is an Uronchondi in all of us.
Why choose such a subject, that too in a rural setting, for a debut film? You could have bet on something safer?
If I had to play it by the rule and take the beaten path, I would have made a movie much earlier. I have nurtured this story idea for a long time. Very few people talk about the underdogs. I have always been drawn towards the weaklings, those who cannot stand up for themselves or are unsung.
In my office, too, I had been more popular with my juniors than my boss, they loved working with me. So, I always felt like telling stories of those, who are often trampled in life and suffer silently.
But the film doesn’t become a story of trials. Rather it focuses on breaking free, triumphing over the struggles. I have chosen a rural setting because I have always loved and related to the rural people and wanted to tell their story. I also feel there is no urban-rural divide when it comes to human emotions, experiences and struggles. They are all the same, may be the approach is different.
So what’s the plot?
I cannot tell you the story. All I can say is that it is a journey on road, in a truck, where all the characters, including the driver, are escaping from their own hell. Even the truck has an important role in the plot.
It’s a very tight and precise script, since I was particular from the onset about what I wanted. I had made a 73-minute long audio script, and the movie is just about 100-minutes long after the visuals were added to it. The special thing about Uronchondi is that it’s probably the first Bengali movie, where there’s not a single indoor shot. Also, there are no flashback shots, the storyline, just like the road journey, moves only forward.
The movie’s music has a rustic feel to it and yet the tunes are so contemporary and urban.
In a fast-paced film such as Uronchondi, music plays an important element. From the very beginning I had a clear vision of how I wanted the music to be. Therefore, I never left composer Debojyoti Mishra alone (smiles). I sat throughout the entire composition with him, till I could hear and feel the kind of music that I always imagined and wanted.
Did you interfere with the music director’s work in the process?
No, it’s not that, but there was a need to influence Mishra since he has his own pattern of creating music, which he is following for the past 37 years, and I needed to break that pattern for the sake of this movie. Most of those, who have listened to the couple of songs that have released so far, are of the opinion that this is a very different work of his.
You have directed a seasoned actor like Sudiptaa Chakraborty in your very first movie and she happens to be your wife, too. How was it like? Were you nervous?
Sudiptaa never wanted to be a part of this project in the very first place, since she hates the tag of being a part of husband’s projects. But it was Prosenjit Chatterjee, who persuaded her to act in Uronchondi, since he believed that only she could have done justice to the role of Bindi, a much battered wife. And he was right. Sudiptaa gave her hundred per cent. I must admit my work became a lot easier since she was involved with the script and the acting workshop from the very first day. And I wasn’t nervous at all, in fact, I didn’t know which films Sudiptaa had acted in before we met.
You must be joking.
Seriously, I knew her primarily as Bidipta’s (Actor and Sudiptaa’s sister, who is director Birsa Dasgupta’s wife) sister and she never even looked twice at me in our first meeting since she mistook me to be Birsa’s assistant director (grins). It was after a two-hour conversation during our third meeting that we decided to get hitched, and tied the knot within 15 days. It has been a wonderful journey knowing each other since then. We are friends first and friends last. I think that’s the recipe for a good marriage.
Isn’t it disappointing that an actor of her calibre is often typecast?
There is a tendency in the film industry to typecast actors, and if you make an impact as a certain character, chances are that you will be stamped and offered similar roles over and over again. It happened with Sudiptaa, too, when she played the part of a housemaid and got the National award for Rituparno Ghosh’s film, Bariwali. Subsequently she was offered similar roles, with even Ghosh asking her to again play a role of a maid in another movie of his, Sunglass. But Sudiptaa decided not to do it, since she didn’t want to get typecast.
How was it handling a veteran actor and thespian Chitra Sen?
It was tough because they belong to a certain school of acting and it’s a challenge to bring them out of a certain format. For some shots, I literally irritated her to make her shout out of anger against me. It was while dubbing that she realised why I did what I did, and she was very satisfied. She was extremely adjusting, climbing up and down a truck and waking up at unearthly hours for shoots at this age.
How was it working with two debutant actors in your first movie?
Both Rajnandini Paul and Amartya Ray delivered matured performances that are not expected of newcomers. They are wonderful kids, who never shied away from hard work.
Are you nervous? Critics will compare you with other young directors once the film releases.
I really don’t think of all that. If I would have, then I would have made a film much earlier. In fact, I am yet not sure what I will do after this. May be I will make another film, or do a job for a living (Grins).