Arin Paul talks to CalcuttaTube
Arin Paul is one of the most challenging upcoming film directors in Tollywood and the founder of the “Bangla TeleFilm Club” which is the first telefilm club in the world. This young director has made many different types of films starting from ad films to documentary films. In Arin’s first film “Dosh Ta Dosh“, Soumitra Chattopadhyay, played the role of a don and danced in an item song for the first time in his career. Arin is a director of distinctive tastes and immense innovation who makes movies from his heart. We wish him good luck in all his films and thank him for his time.
Interviewed by: Ankan Basu, Write up Preparation: Shrabanti Basu
CalcuttaTube: Please tell me something about your background.
Arin Paul: I was attracted towards the media since childhood. I also had a strong fascination for films and watched 2 – 3 films a day, whenever I could snatch away some time from my busy study schedule. After completing my class ten examination, I did a one-year course in journalism and started working as a freelance journalist when I was still in the 11th grade. After graduation I did a production and direction crash course from Asian Academy of Film and Federation in Noida. I wanted to learn the technicalities without spending another three years in an institute. I started working as an assistant in Delhi, and then made some documentary films and ad films independently. Then I moved to Kolkata. I had not known anyone in the industry before, and attending the film institute helped me know some people at least, however. But all those were my Delhi based contacts. After some time, I happened to meet a cinematographer, who introduced me to a director and that is how I started working in Calcutta.
I have worked with a lot of people since then like Anjan Dutta, Partho Sen, Anindita Sarbadhakari, Parambrata Chattopadhyay, Anindyo Ghosh, Anindya Bannerjee, and many more. Then I assisted in digital film “No Problem” which is still due for release. After working as an assistant for three years, I felt like working on my own, in my own ways. It was not before five years, when I got an offer from UNDP to do project training with people diagnosed with HIV+. I gladly agreed to that and my work was very much appreciated. Then I got an offer from the Kolkata police to make some awareness ad-films for them. After that I made three short films which were of 20 minutes duration. Then I got the offer for my first film, which was a digital one, “Sabdhan, Poncha Aaschhe“. But unfortunately, the shooting for the film had to be stopped due to financial problems. However, within a few days I got an offer to make another film which was “Dosh Ta Dosh“, Ten Ten, which was released on 28th November, 2008. Now I am planning for my next film, and doing a non-fiction program for Zee-Bangla. I also have a small organization called “Bangla TeleFilm Club“, which is the first telefilm club in the world. It was totally my brainchild and I founded the organization to give more exposure to the telefilm makers and creative people of Kolkata. Being one of them, I always felt that the telefilm directors made wonderful films, which are even better than the big screen movies, but never got enough opportunities to showcase their talents on the big screens. The television channels would show these telefilms only once and then they were gone. Also, when you are watching a telefilm at home, you are disturbed by the commercial ad breaks, your cell phone ringing, or someone knocking at the door. I thought that it would be great if we can show the same telefilms on a big screen, with no ad breaks or external disturbances. That is how the Bangla Telefilm club started, which is right now a registered organization, and in May 2009 it will complete two years. We have also had our first telefilm festival. Also, every month on a Sunday we show a telefilm which is totally free of charge. However, there is a membership fee for anyone interested in becoming a member of our club. But it is a free entry for all. We have sponsors who organize the shows. This is the journey so far.
CalcuttaTube: Arin, you said that you liked watching films even as a child. So what kind of films did you really enjoy then?
Arin Paul: In my childhood days, I enjoyed watching any movies. I did not have any preference, or rather I could not tell the difference between an entertaining film and some other type of a film at that age. In those days, Doordarshan was the only source to watch a film, or you had to go to a movie theatre. But in the late 90s, when I was in high school and college, the cable industry came to a boom, and they telecasted multiple movies a day, and one can just sit and watch.
CalcuttaTube: You have made several kinds of films like ad films, documentaries, short films, commercial films. How different is one from another?
Arin Paul: They are very different from one another. In an ad-film, you have to fit all your information in the shortest possible duration. But if I am making a movie, I can tell my story in two and half hours. Whereas, in an ad-film, you have to fit your story in 30 seconds to one minute, at most. You hardly get one minute duration to tell your story in an ad-film. You have to convey the whole message with 20 to 30 seconds. It is very difficult. A documentary film, on the other hand, requires a lot of research. You can shoot a documentary film the way you want to, and have the freedom to put in some interviews. In a film you cannot put in an interview, even if you want to. Instead, it has more fiction in it. A documentary is very different in flavor than a film. I have loved making short films. But my dream was always to make films and since I am now into it, I am really enjoying them.
CalcuttaTube: You have previously worked as an assistant director. How different it is to assist a director from being a director yourself? Did you have the freedom to express your own thought or shares your ideas when you assisted another director?
Arin Paul: In my initial days of working as an assistant, my ideas were not very much accepted by the person I was assisting. As time went on and I gathered more experience, the directors gave it a thought to what I had to share with them, or sometimes even ask for my opinion or suggestions about a shot or a scene. We would discuss things together and try to figure out what was the best thing to be done. Even, sometimes I was given the liberty to shoot a scene for my director. As an assistant director, I assisted to learn and that was the best possible way to learn. It was very rewarding.
CalcuttaTube: “Dosh Ta Dosh” is your first Bengali film. Did you choose the story and the actors actresses yourself, or were you just offered to direct the film?
Arin Paul: I was already meeting the producers for a long time. The moment I quit working as an assistant and thought of directing films independently, I was again a fresher. So, it was very difficult convincing the producers. The story of “Dosh Ta Dosh” was about a post paid mobile bill. Let me tell you how I came to think about the story. When I was paying the bill on my wife’s mobile phone account, I printed her number wrong. The law is that if I print a wrong number and the payment is made in someone else’s account, that customer has to directly refund me or write a letter to the phone company. The company itself will not be responsible for any refunds, as it is not their mistake and they do not know if such a payment has been made intentionally. This has happened thrice and I have been lucky enough to misprint the numbers that did not exist. So, I always got refunds from the telephone company itself. That was how I got the inspiration for the story. An underworld gangster sends his right-hand to pay his phone bills of 50,000 rupees, who gets totally distracted by a pretty girl and pays the money into a wrong account. As a result, outgoing calls are barred and the guy feels skeptical about how this can happen. He chases a phone company guy and learns from the customer care that the account where the money has been deposited belongs to the guy who is the boyfriend of the don’s daughter. The don never knew of him before, and he gets double crossed on his daughter’s boyfriend. This boy is a struggling actor and he does not have a lump sum amount to repay the don, who is chasing him for his money. It is a comedy of errors with everyone chasing one another.
CalcuttaTube: Do you think there is a PriyaDarshan impact on “Dosh Ta Dosh”?
Arin Paul: Quite a few people have told me that the movie has a PriyaDarshan impact on it. But the film had an absolute twist at the end.
CalcuttaTube: You have used the German model Claudia Ciesla in “Dosh Ta Dosh”. Why Claudia?
Arin Paul: In the film I had a character for an international journalist. The film “Dosh Ta Dosh” has two pairs of couples, the first being the don’s daughter and her boyfriend, and the second couple a friend of theirs. The girl of this second pair couple is a journalist, who is doing her research in mafias in Kolkata. There was actually an international journalist present at her office in Kolkata at that time for an assignment who was doing her research in gemology. This German lady offered to help her with a bit of data, as she did the same kind of research on mafias when she was in Italy. The role required an international face, and the character had to be done by a foreigner. My producer suggested taking Claudia for the role. He did not know her directly, but Claudia has worked in a film produced by a friend of his. So I looked at her pictures and found her pretty and attractive. We contacted her with the script and she accepted the role.
CalcuttaTube: Let me ask you a few contemporary things. As a director, how important do you think songs and music are in a film? It has been quite some time now that the songs used in Bengali movies have been of such poor quality?
Arin Paul: Background music is of course very important. However, in Indian films songs have been used for a reason or even without a reason. Songs have often been used in a film in the anticipation that they might bring some remuneration back to the film industry. In my film, I have used three songs, other than the title song and the ending song. One of them was a romantic number, another was a romance-comedy, and the third was an item dance. Why an item dance? “Dosh Ta Dosh” was the first film where Soumitra Chattopadhyay played the role of an underworld don, and this was also the first time that Soumitra Chattopadhyay danced in an item song. The song I chose for the item dance was “Jibon-e Ki Pabo Na“, which was an a slight modification of the actual “Jibon-e Ki Pabo Na” song.
CalcuttaTube: Well, when I see an actor like Soumitra Chattopadhyay doing as an item dance, reusing Manna Dey’s “Jibone Ki Pabo Na”, it somewhere hurts me to think that we are not doing proper justice to this great actor of immense potentials. I agree that a commercial movie may need to have an item song, but why an actor like Soumitra Chattopadhyay has to be used in an item dance?
Arin Paul: It is not an issue with a commercial film. Amitabh Bachchan at this age acted in a very romantic role against the eighteen year old Jiah Khan in the Bollywood film “Nishabd”. Soumitra Chattopadhyay is the only person in Tollywood who has the equivalent stature as of Amitabh Bachchan. So, why does Soumitra always have to be a father or uncle or grandfather, or just have work in serious roles or portray depressing characters? What is wrong if Soumitra acts in a role that is different from the usual roles he plays? If Bollywood can do experiments, then what is wrong in experimenting things in Tollywood? I wanted to prove that Soumitra Chattopadhyay at this age can do something different.
CalcuttaTube: Well, I am trying to criticize you. I just feel that we have many legendary actors in Tollywood and we can use them in much better films. As a director, have you ever faced any circumstances where you had to compromise with your quality of work?
Arin Paul: The recent trend of the Bengali film industry is to remake South Indian films. My film had a mockery about that since I don’t believe in remakes. I won’t make a film which is a copy of something. I am very firm in my beliefs, even if that causes me to lose a few producers. There are many people who are making loads of remakes. But at the same time, there are many newcomers who have original ideas, working on new things, and getting producers. It is obviously a bright side of the shoel thing.
CalcuttaTube: Please tell me about some other directors who do you think are making good films.
Arin Paul: I personally like Anjan Dutta’s films very much. I think Raj Chakrabarty is doing a very good job, too. He mainly does commercial films, and I think he is doing the same things like we do, but in a different way. I have assisted Parambrata Chattopadhyay in making telefilms. He has not yet made any films. But I personally think that Parambrata is a better director, than an actor. Atanu Ghosh is an excellent telefilm director. Invfact he is shooting his first film. There is another director-duo – Sudeshna Roy and Abhijit Guha. I have watched their last film “Tin Yari Katha“, which was a brilliant movie, but it is a shame that the movie never got released. It is a good thing all these people are coming up with new things. Two of my friends from the film institute, are working in a new film as co-directors and have signed Victor and some other new artists from Kolkata. It is a good thing that new people are at least getting a chance.a
CalcuttaTube: Do you think that online media can help the Bengali film industry?
Arin Paul: I think online community is a newer way to reach the audience.
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