Agnidev Chatterjee has established his credibility on television as producer and director of software with high TRPs. But his first directorial venture Prabhu Nasto Hoye Jai found it difficult even to have a public release. It was a bold film shot entirely in Black-and-White. Charulata 2011 marks a new beginning in his directorial track record in feature films. Charulata 2011 has been acquired by Databazaar Media for telecasting rights, streaming and distribution across North America and Canada. The film has received a positive response from critics back home. Let us hear his motivations for making this relocated and modernized version of Charulata in 2011.
What motivated you to make this film?
I wanted to make this film right after I finished making Probhu Nashto Hoi Jai. I have been doing television serials for 11 years having directed over 12 daily soaps. Most of them have been super hits and have won awards. Probhu Nashto Hoye Jai was screened in the world film competition section at the Kerala film festival, besides several other distinguished film festivals. Though it was never released, the film recovered its cost by selling the satellite rights alone.
Why did you choose such an intriguing title that sound so much like Satyajit Ray’s Charulata?
The characters from Tagore’s Nastaneer or Ray’s Charulata are present in Charulata 2011 but in a very modern context. Rabindranath Tagore’s novel was way ahead of its time and even today I can relate to the complexities of their relationship and frustrations. It has nothing to do with Ray’s film. One will not find even one frame similar to Ray’s film. It has more similarity to Probhu Nashto Hoye Jai in terms of stylization.
Your cast is quite unconventional – Rituparna, who is the top actress in Bollywood, Arjun who is not seen much on screen these days and Dibyendu who is new. Is there a specific reason for this casting coup?
Ritu was the first choice. I approached her in 2007, but she was busy with other projects. I was heavily into television at that time. I approached her around August last year. I think I would have put the film on the back burner if Ritu did not agree to do the film. My choice was definite – no Rituparna, no Charulata 2011. I identify Ritu completely with the Charu of my perception of the woman for my film. The other actors, Arjun Chakraborty and Dibyendu just fell into place but looking back, they were the most apt choice I could have made for the characters they play in the film.
We find that information technology and social networking sites play a significant role in the film. Why?
Social networking through websites on the Internet plays a significant role in establishing relationship between two people of disparate natures, ages, lifestyles and even backgrounds. This change was necessary because my story happens now when social networking is flush in the world of interpersonal communication.
How do you define these social networking sites?
We cannot turn our face away from the strong and powerful presence of social networking groups in our daily lives. These have intruding into the very privacy of our rooms and bedrooms. It is slowly occupying more and more space in our lives and homes. For Choiti in my film who identifies with Charu of Tagore’s story, becomes sucked into social networking to keep in touch with the world outside that leads her to a strange but exciting relationship with Sanjoy who she nicknames Amal for her chat sessions with him.
Are you happy now that the film has been released?
No filmmaker is ever happy but if my audience has liked the film, I will of course be happy. I am happy with the screenplay by Sudipa, the commitment my actors have put into my film, the technical crew and everyone else. What more can a director want, tell me? But if the film becomes a commercial hit, it will push me to make my next film earlier than I otherwise would.