On a date with filmmaker-actor Churni Ganguly before the release of her film, Tarikh
As Tarikh hits theatres today, the talented filmmaker-actor Churni Ganguly chats about work, the scars of #MeToo and more
She's a strict work master and won’t call it a day before getting that perfect shot. The first movie that she made fetched her a couple of National Awards including one for best film. She loves dusting and cleaning her home when not working and lives on Cerelac — you read that right — while shooting. That’s filmmaker and actor Churni Ganguly for you, who will bowl you over with her candid yet so feminine demeanour.
The soft-spoken artiste, who was lauded for her direction and performance in Nirbashito in 2014, is ready with her second film, Tarikh (Date), which is releasing today. The film, which revolves around the importance and consequences of social media in our lives, has a great cast, including Saswata Chatterjee, Ritwik Chakraborty, Raima Sen and others.
Churni — a reluctant user of Facebook who hates using her smartphone — sat for a relaxed chat on a sultry afternoon at her residence and opened up about her journey as an actor and filmmaker, and why it doesn’t bother her anymore about being clubbed with her equally talented husband and filmmaker Kaushik Ganguly. Excerpts from the interview:
What made you think of a movie like Tarikh?
Though I don’t use social media much, whenever I do or whatever I get to hear from my friends, led to the development of the film’s plot. It’s about how connected social media is with our lives, and how it breaks us or makes us dream in so many different ways and nurture ideologies. It’s interesting and tells the tale of our times.
Everybody is saying that Raima Sen has given her best performance so far in Tarikh...
Raima has seriously done a splendid job and I might agree if anyone says that she has given her best so far. She has indeed acted very well. I feel a director should know how to tap her potential. She is not the kind whom you can hand over the script and make her act — she needs a very involved director. We both worked together very hard and that’s very much visible on the screen.
Your actors say you are a perfectionist. How exacting are you as a filmmaker?
I know what and how much I want out of a scene. I accept variation, but the essence has to be there and I don’t stop shooting unless I get that essence from the shot.
Tarikh has two equally talented actors, Saswata and Ritwik. Who will steal the show, you think?
I am in love with all my actors. I may have a few favourite scenes, moments and shots, but all of them shine in their own roles. In fact, this film also has a good supporting cast, including a bunch of young college-going kids, all amateurs, who have sung and acted in the movie.
You started off in theatre and even had a group of your own. But we haven’t seen you on stage for more than a decade...
I know. Our career path has moved in such a direction that it left little time for stage acting, which demands a lot of coordination, time for rehearsals and dedication. But I still would love to do theatre and would love to get back on stage. As a director, I am more confident about making films, but I think I can still give my best performance on stage.
Many tried to make a film on author Taslima Nasreen, but got no producers. But you could make Nirbashito and successfully so. How big was the struggle?
Just like I advised Kaushik to wait for a little before making Shunyo E Buke (a 2005 film exploring male sexual fantasy, where Churni played a flat-chested woman), which was way ahead of its time, he too discouraged me about Nirbashito from the very beginning. It was his concept and it was just lying there. When I finally wrote a script out of it, he found it so good that he said he would do it (laughs). SVF agreed to produce it the moment they heard the script. The real struggle was to tone down the political statements, and yet be truthful to the subject by striking the right balance. I never wanted to create a sensation but wanted the audience to watch the film and ponder over the question whether banishment is at all a solution.
In these 15 years, we have seen you in a handful of movies. Are you very choosy?
No, I am not flooded with offers actually. But I don’t regret it since it’s not my fault that I don’t get offers. I only wish that the industry reconsiders that Kaushik and I are actually two separate individuals. We are usually clubbed together, which is at times very disturbing. Even in this time and age, I am asked how much Kaushik helps me with my films. Those who have seen our films know how different our approaches are. We are different individuals with different opinions.
How much of a feminist are you and what’s your take on the recent #MeToo movement?
Men should also be a part of feminism for it to succeed as a movement. The fact that women are encouraged to come out in the open by #MeToo is very encouraging. As a young girl, I too faced, it but never had the courage to tell, since I feared people wouldn’t believe me. And these scars remain. I think such movements will make people more careful.