Director Srijit Mukherji locks down three scripts for a film and two series during the lockdown
Besides frenzied pandal hopping, a Bengali’s Durga Puja is never complete without queuing up to watch National award-winning filmmaker Srijit Mukherji’s blockbusters that have been religiously releasing during the Pujas for the past few years, now. This October too, the loyal audience was gearing up for the adventures of Kakababu to be realised on screen by Mukherji. But the coronavirus pandemic has upset all plans with the release of the film, along with other biggies in a state of limbo.
“I don’t think that the movie halls would open during pujas. The earliest that we are looking at is possibly December because if the trial goes well, this Oxford University-Astra Zeneca vaccine will get some distribution in India. Even if the halls open, going there to watch movies will be a psychological block. Also, I don’t know whether logistically it will be possible for the halls to open by October. My bet would be towards the end of the year,” speculates Mukherji.
During the four-month-long lockdown period, he has completed writing the scripts for a film and two web series, one of which is on a landmark episode of Indian cricket, a game that he avidly follows. “The film is a romantic one that I have written after a long time. One series is a thriller in eight parts, based on a very popular contemporary Bengali novel. The other is a six-part series based on Indian cricketing history,” he says.
According to the grapevine, the other series is based on Bangladeshi author Mohammad Nazim Uddin’s novel, Rabindranath Ekhane Kokhono Asen Ni and will have actors from both Bangladesh and Kolkata. The sources also add that the lead role has gone to Bangladeshi actor Pori Moni who will play Muskan. Actors from both sides of Bengal including Chanchal Chowdhury, Mosharraf Karim and Anirban Bhattacharya will feature in the web series as well, which will be shot in all probability for OTT platform Hoichoi.
Mukherji thinks a significant part of the future will be determined by OTT platforms. “The industry is in a very interesting cusp. From this point, it can go either way depending on how fast the vaccine comes, how fast we normalise, or whether this nearly one-and-a-half-year of break would tilt the balance towards the OTTs. Then we would see a completely new mix of content between theatrical and web releases. People have developed a taste for OTT, with the habit kind of forced on to them due to the lockdown. They have dug deep into the vast reservoir of OTT content and the viewership has gone up. It’s a new world that is being discovered. Whether that new world dominates or becomes an equally important player is for time to tell,” Mukherji states.
During the lockdown, he watched every single series ever made, honing his skills further for the OTT platforms. “I’m familiar with the platform, the dynamics and the structural storytelling. Since I started working for the web earlier, I might have the first-mover advantage of some kind in terms of experience in the Bengali industry,” he says.
The Feluda stories for OTT are almost done. “We are going through the post-production processes of background scoring and ambience foley and computer graphics,” he says. But Srijit has no plans to shoot in 2020. “This year I would stay at home because I take the situation very seriously. I know the state of infrastructure. I am also aware of the country’s population and the pressure that will be exerted once the infection hits the peak,” he says.