ANNIV SPL: Lubdhak Chatterjee opens about his first feature Whispers of Fire & Water

The film was premiered globally at the Locarno Film Festival and was showcased at the recently concluded Kolkata International Film Festival.
A still from the film
A still from the film

The year 2023 has been a landmark one in filmmaker and editor Lubdhak Chatterjee’s career. His debut feature Whispers of Fire & Water premiered globally at the Locarno Film Festival and was showcased at the recently concluded Kolkata International Film Festival.

Overcoming the pandemic years and directing a film which finally made it to such prestigious film festivals has been a satisfying journey for him, says Chatterjee. “These prestigious festivals also help popularise the film,” Chatterjee explains, whose first edited mainstream Bengali film, Indrasis Acharya’s Niharika, was also released this year. We spoke with the talented director to learn more about
his plans.

Can you tell us about Whispers of Fire & Water?

This is an 83-minute, trilingual fiction film (Hindi, Bengali and English), based in two regions of Jharkhand, the coal mining zone of Jharia and the other in Maromar, a deep forest zone, near the Jharkhand-Chhattisgarh border. The film follows the journey of an audio installation artiste, played by
Sagnik Mukherjee, who visits the coal mine zone of Jharia for the first time. He gets to meet the local people and comes alive to the socio-political realities of the place. There, he meets a worker hailing from a village in a densely forested triba area. The protagonist visits the village with his identity as an art practitioner. For me, this was a completely internal journey and is a reflection of my personal experiences of working in these areas. Also, sound becomes a key aspect of the whole experience of the film.

Lubdhak Chatterjee
Lubdhak Chatterjee

What are the plans for 2024?

I have also started working on a nonfiction film, Dancing in the Fire. This is also being filmed in Jharia.
This project has an interesting background story. When I was filming in Jharkhand, I met a group of young
girls who were members of a self-taught dance team. They work in the coal fields and mines during the day and practise dance during the evening hours. This sole desire to form a dance troupe and perform professionally was striking. It’s only last year that I figured out that their team qualified for the finale of Vande Bharatam-Nritya Utsav, an all-India dance competition. That made me start a film about this group of girls. It‘s a long-term project and I am developing it currently.

I am also working on my second feature right now, pitching for funds and applying for co-production. I
plan to film it in 2025.

What editing projects do you have in the pipeline?

I have a few edit projects lined up including the next three feature films by Indrasis Acharya. One among them is Gajoner Dhulobali, which I have co-written as well. This film starring Rituparna Sengupta just finished shooting.

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