1. Tell us about your childhood.
I was born and brought up in Kolkata. Only for a year or two, I spent my childhood in Jhalda, a small town in Purulia district of West Bengal, as my father had a transferable job. I was 3-4 years then, but I still carry the vivid images of the place, the village market, the railway station, the Subarnarekha river and the Muri high school where I was admitted. After returning back to Kolkata, I spent a significant time in Sonarpur which happened to be a very peaceful place at that time, away from metropolitan influence. It was probably due to my early associations with nature, that I developed a keen interest in everything about nature. Not just the trees and rivers, I loved fishes, birds, butterflies, spiders and Caterpillars. My hobby was to catch dragon flies. I would catch them, keep them in bottles and observe them keenly. I had observed the compound eyes of dragon flies in minute detail even before I had heard of the word Biology. I tried my best to feed the captured insects, keep them happy, but most of them used to die. Little did I know about habitat and the attachments that every life has with its habitat.
Later on, as I grew up, my focus turned towards Cricket, painting and acting in plays. I was blessed to have a very good art teacher in my school ‘The Modern Academy’. He used to teach me things in the opposite way, and used to drive my senses to the most unconventional dimensions of perception. I had never drawn a single mango in my drawing book, but I won several prizes in drawing competitions. My art teacher Shri Siddhartha Mukherjee, was probably the first person to pamper and nurture the unconventional orientation of my thoughts.
2. What exactly prompted you to explore cinema?
I was never interested in cinema. In fact, I used to think that art is a waste of time. I loved acting on stage because it gave me a satisfaction of being a performer. I was later drawn towards poetry after being inspired by Rupam Islam’s lyrics. I wrote a lot of poems. I have two books published- ‘Ekush’ and ‘Shatarupa’, but they never reached the larger section of the society. I used to write in few Bengali magazines. It was only after I passed my engineering and joined an IT company that I had to move outside Kolkata. My bonding with the stage and the magazines were broken. I was desperately looking for something. That was the time when I decided to pick up a handy-cam and start shooting.
3. What is your “Kind of Cinema”?
My kind of cinema is that which flows out of the mind automatically, and its natural course is not intercepted by a rigid structure, any set of conventions or by any commercial intents. My kind of cinema is, cinema for the sake of cinema.
4. Who are your target audience?
Everyone is my target audience, or no one is my target audience. Look, it is the duty of a businessman to cater to a fixed target, I am more keen in building my audience. Imagine that you have stared a new recipe ‘X’ in the city which no one has ever tasted. Do you have a fixed set of target customer? No. Because you just don’t know who will like it and who won’t because no one has ever tasted it before. Now, if you already have a fixed target customer, it means that they already know the taste of your recipe. Doesn’t it mean that what you are serving is nothing new? A new creation can not have a target set of consumers because it’s new. And if there is already a market ready to grab it, it simply means that what you’ve made is not a new creation.
5. Tell me the Directors in home and abroad who has inspired you?
Frankly, no one. I started making films before I’ve ever watched any great film. I used to watch ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’ and DDLJ type of movies as they were fed to me through Television sets. Art-films appeared boring to me. I had watched ‘Hirak Rajar Deshe’ and ‘GGBB’ by Ray very superficially and liked them as a child. And that was it. Only after I made ‘Boba Mukhosh’ and interacted with Shri Manmohan Mahapatra (a winner of ten national awards) who happened to like my film, did I hear about filmmakers world-wide and started researching about the masters. I always thought that present day cinema means Prosenjit’s cinema, Bollywood and Hollywood. And old films in black and white appeared just too boring. So my exposure to world cinema happened only after 2013 and by then, I have been making films already. So, I can’t say I have been inspired by any filmmaker.
However, if you ask me today, I’ll say that I admire a lot of filmmakers. In Indian cinema, I love Ray and Adoor Gopalakrishnan. I’m yet to watch most of Ghatak and Mrinal Sen’s films. I liked Rituparno Ghosh and I like Buddhadeb Dasgupta too. In world cinema, I’m fascinated by Godard and Bunuel. Also, Kim Ki-Duk and Tsai Ming Liang are magical. In fact, all the masters of cinema are fascinating. I just wasn’t exposed to their works before.
6. To you,what is the situation of Indie Film in India? Is all good there?? How can that be improved?
There’s nothing much happening. Many filmmakers, including some industry giants are calling themselves independent filmmakers because it has become a fashionable word to use. Apart from Q (the maker of ‘Gandu’ and ‘Tasher Desh’), I am yet to find another consistently working Indian filmmaker who should be really called ‘independent’. Some are making good films, but they are dependent on industry, conventions and traditional ways of film-making. That is not the independent spirit of making. The revolution is just not happening.
There can be many ways in which the situation can be improved. The most important and easy way is through the support of media. Mainstream media must publish articles and reviews of independent films even if they have no budget for PR. I sense a very strong nexus between the mainstream cinema and mainstream media, and whatever is ‘independent’ is sidelined. If we are going with such ill-intents and constipated ideas, the future of Indian cinema will suffer. The future of Indian cinema is not the blockbusters, but the independent streams of thought that springs up through the medium of cinema. The technology-driven gimmicks will work for sometime, but without aestheticism in making, nothing would last long.
7. What about Oriya Film Industry?
It needs to grow in terms of quality. Odia cinema had great cinematic minds like Susant Misra, Manmohan Mahapatra and late Nirad Mahapatra, but the Odia industry failed to capitalize on their genius. These great minds should have been the real stars of Odia cinema, must most people in Odisha don’t even know about them or their cinema. It is very important to create the right kind of icons if a culture needs to thrive. In my opinion, Odia cinema has failed to recognize its own heroes. Needless to say, what is happening right now in Odia cinema is not worth a mention. However, I have hope that someday the new generation will wake up and bring a change. They have slept for far too long.
8. Will you make Bengali films ever?
Bengali is my mother tongue. I write in Bengali, I speak in Bengali, I think in Bengali, I emote in Bengali, I sleep in Bengali and I dream in Bengali. How can I not make Bengali films?
I have made quite a few Bengali shorts like ‘Boba Mukhosh’, ‘Niloye Jokhon’,’Hoyto Kobitar Jonyo’, ‘Benaras-the unexplored attachments’, ‘Rajasthan-the fantasy of a deserted soul’, and ‘Darjeeling – a celebration of solitude’. It is unfortunate that most Bengalis don’t know about these films. I am making my first Bengali feature film. It is in post production and should be ready soon.
9. which part is most important for you in a cinema,Content or Form?
Both are extremely important. But looking at the current situation, I’ll say – Form. It’s because filmmakers round the world have experimented with Content, but very little experimentation has happened with the Form. And even if the Form has been subtly played with, there has not been disruptively extreme experiments.
10. You belong to an entirely different profession,Does it help or hinder your film making stance?
With the kind of films I make, it’s very difficult to survive as a filmmaker. An artist, just like any other living being, needs to survive. If I have to survive on film-making, I’ll be forced to compromise. I chose an entirely different profession because it helps me earn my living so that I can freely make my films in my own way. If I didn’t have my job, I could never have made films like the ones I make. I feel my profession in the IT industry is a blessing in disguise. It saves me from being exploited by the film industry and also gives me the freedom to be independent in my way of making.
11. Do you have an ideology as a filmmaker?
Ideology is a confinement. If I create or believe in an ideology, it will act like a cocoon which will encapsulate my mind. It will not allow my thoughts to break free. Ideologies, much like religious faiths, are self-imposed imprisonments. I love to be free, not to be imprisoned. So I have no ideology. I simply wish to live before life leaves me.
12. Do you believe in Popular culture?
I’m not a believer but a seeker. A culture is important because it roots us. I’d love to be deeply rooted to my soil and evolve with the evolution of my culture. But if the popular culture is a blatant emulation of the west, then I’d prefer to be uprooted. My culture is what has been cultivated in my DNAs. I have little association with what is popularly known as popular culture.
13. Do you want to pass a message to the next generation as a filmmaker?
I’m really worried about the next generation. They’ll suffer as long as they choose to ignore life and continue living in air-conditioned incubators. I feel shocked and saddened when I see people around me irritated by the Sun, disgusted by the rain and distanced from the soil. When you have distanced yourself from your very origin, your inner nature will suffocate. Your darling may be on WhatsApp, but life is elsewhere. Live it before you leave it! The beauty of cinema or any art form lies in the fact that it makes us realize that we are the creators. Through every creation, there is an intimate relationship between the creator and the created. We all are artists, only if we keep our minds open. We are not just creations, but creators ourselves. Our sense of creation must transcend beyond intercourse.
14. Don’t you want to reach bigger audience?
Yes, of course I do. But not at the cost of aesthetic compromise. I’m also keen to weigh the intensity in which I reach rather than the spectrum to which I reach. Through my art forms, I want to touch them, and I wish to move them. I’ll be more satisfied if my cinema can transform even a few individuals on this planet rather than having reached to millions without touching them in any way.
15. What about festivals?? How is the response there?
Festivals are wonderful platforms to celebrate cinema. People come there to watch and value cinema. The response in festivals have been very encouraging so far. My films had great responses from IFFK and many other festivals in India and abroad. It is indeed a moment of joy when a Canadian festival’s selection committee member had said that ‘Khyanikaa-The Lost Idea’ is the best film they have received till date.
However, there is a recent trend in festivals which makes me worry. The festivals are turning towards propaganda and activism more than cinema. Of late, we see a lot of festival focusing on sociopolitical and gender issues. There is nothing wrong about activism, but if cinema takes a back seat, then it’s a problem. Most of these festivals look for explicit contents to uplift their activist view-points . They look for simple story-lines with a certain kind of rhetoric, to capture their viewers. This is a problem. While festivals were meant to celebrate exceptional cinema, they have now started defining standards. So, there are many filmmakers who are making tailor-made films to cater to the festival needs. That is as good or as bad as making commercial films, because in both cases you are resorting to stereotypes and mediocrity. I have had a few response from festival directors where they thought my film/s were too poetic and difficult to understand for their viewers. If festivals are thinking in these lines, it is not a good news for cinema.
16. What about distribution?
Mainstream distribution in India is a far cry for us. We, independent filmmakers, need an alternate distribution strategy. I am glad that my first feature film ‘Capital I’ was distributed in India by 1018mb which seems to have a very democratic way of distribution. I’m also glad that the principal authorities of the company loved the film, and they backed us to show such an anti-conventional piece of art to the larger audience.
Outside India, it’s a different game.Though the competition is huge, there’s always a chance. ‘Capital I’ was the first Indian film to be acquired by the Italian house ‘The Open Reel’. At Cannes, we personally met with the CEO of ‘The Open Reel’ who seemed to have loved the bizarre experimentation in ‘Capital I’. The film was broadcast 38 times in a Polish channel named ‘Filmbox Arthouse’ which is dedicated only to niche arthouse films and catalogs great masterpieces from different corners of the world.
17. Do you think Festivals help Indie Film makers?
Most certainly they do. What better platform does indie filmmakers have than film festivals? But I’m assuming that all the festivals care to see all the indie films they receive in submission. While I hope they do so, online analytics suggest me that they don’t. If they are rejecting indie films without watching them, and reserving their slots for ‘hyped’ films and filmmakers, then it is most unfortunate.
18. Does award matter?
It matters to most entities in the market. An award makes people value the work. It draws media attention and it creates a sense of respect towards the film. However, if you ask me personally, I do not value awards too much. The reason is simple. Just look at the films which are winning awards. Some are truly deserving, but some films that are winning awards are not just bad, but horrible. If I have to believe that “those” films are better than mine, I must give up filmmaking right now. So, I do not think awards are always a true assessment. Awards depend of the fairness and competence of the jury judging them. Just change the jury, there will be a different set of winners. It is unfortunate that most people don’t recognize the work, they simply recognize the recognition.
19. Do you think the jury system is fair in National award?
A system is never unfair. The question is whether the individuals in that system are fair or not. Well, national award is the most prestigious award in our country. I won’t say anything against it. In fact, I’m too insignificant to comment. As it is, my films are getting ignored. I don’t want to place myself in a deeper pit. I hope that the decision makers value and respect their responsible positions of authority and make sure that the value of this prestigious award is not diluted by the promotion of mediocrity.
20. What is your opinion about censorship?
Censorship is absolute nonsense! Yes, I do agree that everything must not be shown to children. So, I understand the need for “U” and “A” certification. But that should be it. Even in “A” certified films, CBFC asks for cuts. That is ridiculous. What is the problem if adults are shown some explicit sexual scenes or nude bodies? They have access to sexual contents anyway. And I think the female human body is the most magnificent creation in this universe. We should see the beauty and magnificence in it. Why should we shy away from seeing it or showing it on screen, unless there’s a personal reservation? Over the last couple of years, CBFC has been behaving in the most immature manner. CBFC must grow up. Just look at the way we have expanded in terms of population. It seems that intercourse has been our main course. Now, to restrict the usage of the word ‘intercourse’ in such a country is most insane in my opinion. Even a school kid has read about intercourse and sexual reproduction. In short, I’m much against this system of censorship. Everything must be allowed, at least in ‘A’ rated films. To see, or not to see, is an individual choice.
21. Tell us elaborately your unique process of film making?
My film-making is more like an art made with scrap materials. I don’t cry over lack of money or resources. In fact, restrictions strengthen me. It makes me more determined and desperate. I use whatever I get. I have played around with my cinematic expressions in the most bizarre ways. I’ve placed a bedroom sequence in a paddy field, a delivery of a baby in an open grassland, a classical dance in the middle of a river, and many such things. My cinema is all that my mind can imagine. There are no restrictions. Reality, as most people perceive it, is a very conservative view of life. You are anyway experiencing social realities. I’m not interested in showing them all over again. It’s simply a waste of time.
Through my cinema, I explore. I also want to take my viewers with me in such explorations. Whenever we talk of exploration, we essentially talk of venturing into the unknown. In all my films, I’ve departed from the known senses of reality and logic. What I know, is not what I wish to chew upon. I wish to seek the unknown, and such is the intrinsic nature of every human mind. It is unfortunate that most people are blinded by their prejudices and screwed up through years of formal education. They wish to see all that they have seen, they wish to listen to all that they already know. Anything new shakes their ego and they are reluctant to accept it. Their mind goes through a cyclic way of encircling a tiny space of known facts. My sense of cinema is to kick open those cyclic traps and place my viewers in a space that they haven’t experienced before.
In the craftsmanship, I’m very conservative. I hate to burden myself with high-end equipment and technologically obsessive methods. I keep it very simple. Just a DSLR camera and a tripod. That’s it. I don’t feel the necessity to move around with a huge team. Just about four or five is good enough. I also don’t plan my shots before I shoot. I just have the dialogues written and the actors ready. Everything that I do happens on the location. A pre-planned shot doesn’t interest me much because it seals new possibilities. I rely on my active intelligence during the shoot. All the frames that you see in my films are never planned or thought of. I execute it then and there.
Same goes with editing. I don’t even plan the scenes in a rigid sequence. Only while I edit, I place the scenes in an order. It need not be a chronologically logical order, but it has an intrinsic rhythm of its own. I try to sense the rhythm, to feel it. I also play around with my pacing. Some people think that there are lags at places, they don’t realize that it’s absolutely intentional and not a mistake. We experience life in multiple pacing depending on our states of mind. Sometimes time fly away and sometimes every moment appears like an endless stretch of time. If our experience of life is such, why should be put a smooth uniform pacing to our cinema then? A pre-planned structure of anything is like an imposition to me. The fact that anything is possible interests me. So I keep all possibilities open till the very end. Such is the case with my life, such is the case with my cinema.