Filmmakers Soukarya Ghosal and Indrasis Acharya outline a roadmap ahead for Bengali cinema
Holding on to your dreams and never giving up is easier said than done. But only those who can hold on to their dreams can make them come true. This holds true for filmmakers Indrasis Acharya and Soukarya Ghosal.
With no remote connection in the industry or any big production house backing them, these two dreamers have achieved whatever they have so far, by the sheer dint of merit and perseverance. Despite not getting a good number of shows for their debut films, they got noticed and appreciated. Soukarya’s last release, Rainbow Jelly, earned him recognition as one of the brightest filmmakers of the new generation.
Indrasis’ last film Pupa was also critically acclaimed, winning laurels at various national and international film festivals including best Bengali film at All India Critic Choice Award. And his upcoming film, Parcel, which was screened at the Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF) last week, got him the Best Director award at the fest.
Though quite opposite in their approach and treatment of films, both Indrasis and Soukarya have shown courage to bring a fresh breath of air in an otherwise very predictable genre of content churned out in Tollywood.
We had a very animated chat with the two at the Japanese diner Ajisai over sumptuous dishes including Amazu Chicken, Renkon Chips, Seabass Yakitori and Omu Rice and talked about the industry, its problems and why they won’t call their journey as filmmakers a struggle. Excerpts:
Indrasis, despite having a high-flying corporate job, you have pursued your passion, filmmaking. How welcome has Tollywood made you feel in these past two years and what have you learnt?
Indrasis Acharya: There have been ups and downs and it’s a cliche to say I have struggled. It’s an unstructured organisation where all are working independently, hence for any given opportunity there are many people, thereby lack of ethics is obvious. Also, there’s no induction like the corporate world. In the Malayali film industry, there’s a strong unity which is lacking here. Look at how they dragged Kerala International film festival committee to court for injustice in the selection of films.
It would have been great if things were like this here too. Here, power is concentrated in one place. I haven’t worked with any big house so far, so my films, whether good or bad, didn’t get good halls or great timings and producers too are shy of taking risks. But it’s overwhelming that despite all this, people are talking about my films. In these two years, I have learnt risk mitigation and the distribution model is much clearer to me now.
What about you Soukarya?
Soukarya Ghosal: I have made five movies till now among which Pendulum and Rainbow Jelly have released, and Rokto Rohoshyo and Bhootpori are slated for release, and I feel, the more you can do movies at regular interval the better it is because we compete with not only regional movies but also national and international movies. Bhavesh Joshi too released when Rainbow Jelly did and so my film got pushed out and this is a crisis that regional cinema suffers from.
What makes films click? How well-informed are Bengali audiences?
IA: There’s a preconceived notion among the audience that only a certain number of filmmakers are good based on marketing on social media, but that can be deceptive too. The trailer view of my first film, Biloo Rakkhosh crossed one crore and even if one per cent of that number actually saw the movie in halls, I would have made enough profits to make my next film.
Also, look at how dismally Pradipta Bhattacharya’s Rajlokkhi O Srikanto performed despite such huge support amassed on social media.
SG: I don’t think social media is always deceptive, rather it should be interpreted correctly. Views on YouTube are very deceptive. If you watch something many times, it will increase views and can be regulated, but that does not always give the true picture. Social media engagement, on the other hand, is very important.
Both of your third upcoming releases, Parcel and Rokto Rohoshyo, have established actors like Rituparna and Koel Mallick respectively. Is this to ensure box office success?
IA: There were no stars in my first two movies and the third was planned with Rituparna for a long time. I never make films to primarily make the audience happy.
SG: For Rokto Rohoshyo, I had Koel Mallick in mind and even before approaching Surinder Films I had approached Koel with the script.
Having said that, we must not forget that it’s a collaborative art form unless one is both a director and a producer. So it’s teamwork and while the producer is letting the filmmaker make the movie the way he or she wants to, he has every right to ensure footfall for revenue generation and for that, if he wants any particular actor or actress who goes well with the script, then why not?
IA: Yeah and I think this mutual respect is growing.
What’s your take on the movies made in Tollywood now?
IA: I think movies nowadays are either very visually or emotionally striking or both but very rarely are they intellectually striking. I think it’s also imperative upon us to prepare the audience for such movies. We use music or jarring scenes to express emotions, leaving no space for the audience to reflect or interpret. That should change.
SG: I would like to differ a little. There are three categories — movie, film and cinema and cinema is ultimate wisdom and should be the winner since it has all the elements. Pather Panchali, for example, has all the three elements that Indrasis is speaking. One should make such a cinema where no one element is let to flex its muscles.
IA: Yeah it should be smooth and effortless like a fine whiskey. But there’s where a director hesitates and forcibly inserts an unnecessary scene or music to make it appealing.
SG: One should ask oneself that am I making a movie that I will like later. That way one can stay away from such mistakes.
What are the challenges faced by a filmmaker today?
IA: Budget — that often restrains thought and scale.
SG: That has always been the case.
What do you think should change here?
IA: The fact that one must take a certain number of technicians to work. Also, it’s a mystery to me why all the films don’t get satellite space.
SG: I think we need to understand our roots to deliver relevant content. After the dark years, post Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Bollywood has rediscovered itself slowly and understood that local is global. Today the star Khans are competing with actors who are heroes in films like Andhadhun or Bareilly Ki Barfi.
IA: Yeah, but I also feel that the current Bollywood movies now look and feel so similar to each other and has no distinct imprint of a director and has a typical format and style — the Bollywood style.
What are your upcoming films?
IA: I will start shooting for a movie based on Sandip Chattopadhyay’s novel Bhoi.
SG: I will be doing a film about a divorced dad.
Location courtesy: Ajisai / Pictures: Satwik Paul