Young filmmaker Abhiroop Basu’s short film Laali is set for screening at KIFF on January 9

The film starring Pankaj Tripathi premiered at the Dharamsala International Film Festival last month

author_img Sharmistha Ghosal Published :  08th January 2021 12:00 AM   |   Published :   |  08th January 2021 12:00 AM

Abhiroop Basu

After an impressive short film Meal, which won hearts and accolades at over 50 prestigious global film festivals, Abhiroop Basu’s fifth short, Laali, which just had a worldwide premiere at the Dharamsala International Film Festival last month, is all set for screening at Kolkata International Film Festival tomorrow.

A heart-rending metaphorical short, Laali will next travel to festivals at New York and Toronto after which it is expected to release on one of the leading OTT platforms this year around March end. We had a short chat with the director about the same. Excerpts:

Pankaj Tripathi in Laali

What was the idea behind this film?

I was waiting outside Dassani studio one evening when I spotted this very small roadside laundry shop. I saw this man wearing a neckband pressing clothes but it didn’t really grab my attention until a huge wedding procession was passing right in front of me — people twisting and turning, loud music and a grand celebration.

As the crowd passed by, my attention veered towards that man inside the laundry who didn’t even spare a glance at the revelling crowd and kept on pressing the clothes. It fascinated me to no end and for the next two months, I went back to that place and used to notice him from far — a lonely man caught in a routine. Somehow, I saw a reflection of myself in him and I grew curious. I asked myself who could be the woman in his life and that question gave birth to Laali.

Pankaj Tripathi in Laali

Does it speak of unrequited love...

Depends on how one sees the end and whether the dress was given away or not. But for me, this is a quintessential Bollywood love story between a girl from a privileged background and a man with limited means with love breaking all the class barriers and uniting them, even if it’s for one night.

Was Pankaj your first choice?

Yes, most certainly. Very few actors can hide so well behind characters. The genius of Pankaj is in his organic approach towards a scene, he plans nothing beforehand. He reacts to the mise-en-scene after the director says ‘action’ and that allows his performances to be so unpredictable and yet so believable.

The character says very little on-screen...

Yes, that’s because he lives alone and has probably lived alone all his life. His routine doesn’t allow him to speak a lot but then the routine breaks, doesn’t it? Thomas Vinterberg told me last year that there is a side we show to the world and a side we hide and he makes films to capture this strange yet beautiful dichotomy. I think Laali is about this strange yet beautiful dichotomy.

Pankaj Tripathi in Laali

You also made an impactful short, Meal, with Adil Hussain. Any more projects with him on the anvil?

Hopefully, we are doing a film together, a very special feature, which I have been writing for more than a year now. Quite unlike anything people have experienced before.

What’s the status of Sisyphus?

The pandemic has stalled the filming for a while now but hopefully, we’ll be able to restart shooting by the end of this year. I feel Sisyphus is going to be my Tumbbad.

Pankaj Tripathi in Laali

Are there any other films you are working on or thinking about?

I am currently working on a film, Gudgudi, based on an incident from the Gujarat riots of 2002. It is an international co-production.

Any web projects?

I am developing a couple of shows with a Bollywood director of repute and we’ll be taking it up together sometime in the mid-year.