Tolly filmmaker Srijit Mukherji on Vinci Da's success and his upcoming sports biopic
Acclaimed filmmaker Srijit Mukherji is back in his elements, it appears. The accomplished storyteller, whose first film of the year, Shah Jahan Regency did average business has hit the bullseye again with his second release, on April 12, Vinci Da. Made on a shoe-string budget of less than `1 crore, this film had a bumper first week with all theatres going full house. Having a nonstar cast featuring Rudranil Ghosh, Ritwik Chakraborty and Sohini Sarkar, the thriller’s gripping plot is what took it ahead of another much-anticipated film, national award-winning director Churni Ganguly’s Tarikh, which also released on the same day.
Besides, Vinci Da also had Goliaths like Kalank and Captain Marvel to take on. A week away from completing a month, the movie is one of the bumper hits this year so far, along with Bhobishyoter Bhoot and Mukherjee Dar Bou. But Srijit is already past the euphoria, and busy preparing for the shooting of his upcoming movies, Kakababu and Gumnaami. Also, preparations are on for his first-ever sports movie, based on the life of heptathlete Swapna Burman. The director takes time out for a quick chat on the success of Vinci Da, his future projects and, of course, his love life, which is always up for speculation. Excerpts from the interview:
Vinci Da has surpassed all expectations, even yours, according to reports. Tell us how it feels, really?
After a long time, a thriller released, and from someone who has a reputation for thrillers (smiles). Yes, Vinci Da has surpassed all expectations and it got the highest ever rating on an online ticketing website. Of course, during the times of Autograph and Baishe Shraban, the portal wasn’t there. But since Zulfiqar, it’s my highest rated movie to date. Even my harshest critics have been all praise, and I think this across-the-board appreciation reflected in the box office numbers.
So, do you believe that you make thrillers best?
Not exactly. I feel I can pull off two-three things with conviction. One is thrillers, the others are historical dramas (Jatishwar, Ek Je Chilo Raja, Rajkahini) and musicals. These are genres closest to my heart, but the verdict of people is that I do thrillers best, so I kind of accept the epithet. Interestingly, I try to write scripts with the mathematical preparation of a thriller, and emotional quotient of romance, which is very helpful.
As a kid, were you hooked to thrillers?
Yes, I was a keen reader of thrillers, and Agatha Christie is my favourite writer, and Hercule Poirot, my favourite detective. I love Christie for three reasons — her thrillers have layers of human psychology, she excels in characterisation with precision and depth, and she is the master of plot twists.
Vinci Da seemed to have that Agatha Christie touch...
If you speak about influence, I was more influenced by the infamous Ubermensch murders in Chicago, in 1924, carried out by two boys, Leopold and Loeb, who were 20 and 21 years old, respectively. They killed a 14-year-old boy just to prove that they were Ubermenchen and could get away with a perfect murder. It perturbed me that motivation can be so gut-wrenchingly dangerous and psychologically disturbing. In my movie, too, Adi Bose played by Ritwik Chakraborty, is absolutely remorseless about the collateral damage in his scheme of murders. The movie also touched upon several controversial incidents, such as of running over pavement dwellers, and ponzi scams too. How intentional was all of that? Art is a reflection of life, I will say this much. It’s the way I see society and life all around me. I draft my films out of the reality I live in.
You’re also going to make a film based on the life of heptathlete Swapna Burman, in your first ever sports biopic. How are the preparations going?
There are very few authentic sports biopics in India, and on the basis of sheer preparation and dedication, I will rate Bhaag Milkha Bhaag very highly. At times, Farhan Akhtar came very close to Milkha Singh’s timing. He actually had to become an athlete of that level. That’s possible in Mumbai due to financial support. What I told Sohini (Sohini Sarkar, who will play Swapna) is that I can arrange for her to train at SAI or get Swapna’s coach Subhash to guide her, which he is gladly already doing. I will only shoot the movie when Sohini is totally prepared.
You just came back from Nairobi after a recce for the film, Kakababu. While Yeti Obhijaan, by your own admission, was your least favourite movie. Are you playing it cautious now, with Kakababu?
Yes, it has been marked as my worst made movie, and I admit that despite its box office success. I think the reason is that I loyally reproduced the novel as written by Sunil Gangopadhyay, which made some of the scenes look unrealistic. This time, I will adapt Kakababu to 2019, and weave in contemporary issues to make it more of a cinematic adaptation, than a faithful literary reproduction. Your other new movie about the Gumnaami Baba (a sadhu claiming to be Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose) is already causing a bit of a stir... Gumnaami is not only a film to me. I consider it to be my national duty to faithfully and bravely bring to the forefront a lot of things that have been, at times, deliberately ignored and forgotten...
As an individual, what’s your stand on the Netaji’s suspicious disappearance?
I read in school that Netaji disappeared on August 18, 1945, and allegedly died in a plane crash. While researching it, I discovered things that totally changed my whole understanding of how it happened, which you will get to see in the movie. I will keep it an open-ended and unbiased portrayal, and reserve my personal stand for now. The main aim is to start a debate that has been muffled.
Tell us about the new relationship you have with your Bangladeshi friend, Mithila?
Mithila is a very good friend of mine, and we worked together on a music project. I am a big fan of her brother Arnab’s music, and we bonded over music.
Right now, we are very good friends. (Laughs.)