Atanu Ghosh Talks about Angshuman-er Chhobi
After making several telefilms, television series, documentaries and short films, director and script writer Atanu Ghosh has finally made his first feature film ‘Angshumaner Chhobi‘ with some of the luminaries of the Bengali cinema – Soumitra Chattopadhyay, Indrani Halder, Sabyasachi Chakraborty, Tota Ray Chowdhury, Rudranil Ghosh, Ananya Chatterjee, Indranil Sengupta. Atanu Ghosh talks about ‘Angshumaan-er Chhobi’ and the preparation behind it.
Soumitra Chattopadhyay, the legendary actor of all times of Bengali cinema, is playing the role of an actor in ‘Aangshuman-er Chhobi’ for the very first time in his entire career spanning a few decades. Indrani Halder who is playing the role of an actress in the film said in an interview that the only thing she has in common with her role in ‘Angshumaner Chhobi’ is that both of them are actresses and have won the National award. Unlike her role in the film, she has made a lot more contribution to the film world, and is not tormented by a personal life that has affected her film career. She is a much stronger person in reality.
Enjoy the Exclusive Interview with Atanu Ghosh at Calcutta Tube. We wish a Grand Success for his upcoming Bengali Cinema Angshumaner Chhobi.
Listen to the Exclusive Interview with Atanu Ghosh Online
Calcutta Tube: Atanu da, you have been making documentaries and short films since 1996, and telefilms since 2003. You started making your first feature film ‘Angshumaaner Chhobi’ in 2008, which is going to be released in August, 2009. What took you so many years to make a feature film?
Atanu Ghosh: The canvas of a feature film is much larger than that of a telefilm. The work I have been doing all these years may be somewhat like a feature film, but not exactly the same. The telefilms better suited the canvas of my work so long, which had their own attraction and appeal that developed an audience. Else, the viewers would not have stayed in touch with us all these years. As makers of telefilms, we face the additional challenge of reaching out to the audience. When you are watching a telefillm on the TV at home, it does not take you more than a second to change the channel if you do not like it. But when you go to the movie theatres to watch a film, you have more incentives to watch it once you have entered the movie hall.
The subjects and stories we work with in the telefilms are not like those of the mainstream Bengali cinema. We tackle many sensitive issues in telefilms, which do not have a formula like the mainstream feature films. And it took us all a long time to convince the audience through our work, at least five to six years I would say.
The concept of ‘Angshumaner Chhobi’ is at least a couple of years old now. And it took me a long time to convince my producers that it was worth making a movie. Irrespective of the absence of the mainstream formula in it, ‘Angshumaner Chhobi’ has certain interesting components which the audience will enjoy.
Calcutta Tube: How difficult is it to get a producer when you are trying to tread on a distinct path?
Atanu Ghosh: It is always very difficult to get a producer when you are trying to do something different.
Calcutta Tube: Is it true for both the big screen and the television?
Atanu Ghosh: The roles of the producers are different for the television. The latest trend is that a TV channel builds a concept by interacting with the director and the producers of a programme. And depending on the audience reactions the tracks may be changed. In the commercial feature films, the producers are more comprehensive; the films themselves were more inspired by Bangladeshi films some time back, but now they are more inspired by South Indian films.
The films outside the commercial arena can be of two types; the ones that are not totally commercial, but have certain commercial elements, and the ones are solely art films which offer more scopes of experimentation. And for making any of these two types of films, financing is a problem..
For ‘Angshumaner Chhobi’, I consider myself to be very lucky to have convinced my producer T. Sarkar and Productions at the very first attempt. It does not work that easy for all film makers, and I myself have had problems getting producers before.
Calcutta Tube: Please tell us something about ‘Angshumaner Chhobi’.
Atanu Ghosh: ‘Angshumaner Chhobi’ is a journey of four persons through the making of a film. The term ‘film within film’ is often misrepresented. It is not just about having a character that is an actor or a director in the main film. It means that the film should involve the making of a film in it. The film ‘Angshumaner Chhobi’ is a film by Angshuman – it tells us the story of making of the film.
Angshuman left Kolkata eight years back, without even completing his graduation. He went to a film school in Milan and, after making a few documentaries there, is now quite famous in his field. His teacher in India had asked Angshuman why he would have to go to Italy to learn film-making. Angshuman replied that he had not got a scholarship elsewhere. His teacher made a comment wondering whether, after the bulk of doctors and engineers going abroad to learn more about science and medicine, it was now the turn of film makers. At the same time he had asked Angshumaan to make at least one Bengali film in his film career.
These words of his teacher probably had a lasting impression on Angshuman. He was motivated to write a script based on the life of a renowned artist and his nurse. The artist is suffering from loss of memory after an eye surgery, and right now he is in a pretty bad condition. The other character is an uncouth, almost uneducated, attendant who looks after him. She does not understand an artist’s world of creativity and intellect.
For this film, Angshuman also had in his mind the actors he wanted to cast. One of the actors was a lady who had received the national award for her debut film. And for the portrayal of the 72 year old artist, he thought of the legendary actor Prodyut Mukherjee. But when Angshuman came back to India to make his film, he realized that both these actors were now isolated from the world of cinema.
Prodyut, once a legend in Bengali cinema, had been feeling for some time that there was nothing new that he had to offer as an artist. He was acting in the same monotonous roles for some time, the father of the hero and the heroines, when he started seeing a nightmare. A makeup man would come to him every night in his dreams, and ask him to follow him leaving everything behind; it was an allegory of death. And this nightmare was so disturbing to him that he quit working in the films. Hence, for the last few years, Prodyut was no longer in touch with the film industry.
The other actor that Angshuman thought as his cast was the lady, who was once a National award winner, but thereafter surprisingly left no other significant contribution in the film industry, other than dancing around the trees in some commercial films. In view of a very disturbing personal life, mood swings and tantrums, her film career did not shine. Now she worked in the popular theater (‘jatra’). She had no connection with the film world either.
When Angshuman started working with these two actors who were almost lost in time, he faced a series of upheavals, the most serious of which was a suicide. And as the story advanced, the suicide turned into a homicide. Things get so worse that it looked like Angshuman would probably not be able to finish his film. But he was very determined to finish his project.
The story of the film ‘Angshumaner Chhobi’ and the story outside it run simultaneously. And with the suicide turning into homicide, comes a crime element in the film. ‘Angshumaner Chhobi’ is not a thriller movie. It is a psychological drama with a thriller element.
There are some other issues that I have tried to tackle in the film. One of them is the vaccilation that plagues the creative minds, the conflicts between their minds and emotions. Some can overcome it, and some are tormented all their lives. There are many psychological aspects that form the thematic background of ‘Angshumaner Chhobi’.
‘Angshumaner Chhobi’ is a tribute to actors.
Calcutta Tube: What are your expectations from ‘Angshumaan-er Chhobi’? Who is the target audience of the film?
Atanu Ghosh: Like all my other work, ‘Angshumaner Chhobi’ is told in a simple narrative. There are however certain portions that may appeal the sensitive audience. ‘Angshumaner Chhobi’ has a very gripping story, because every moment new obstacles appear and it looks like the film by Angshumaan is never going to be finished.
Since this is my first film, I am eagerly waiting for the audience assessment and their reaction to the story. The film also has good songs, as well as humor that has the Bengali ‘adda’ culture in it.
As far as acting is concerned, I have tried to make it behavioral acting, that is almost like non-acting.
Calcutta Tube: How much scope of experimentation does a feature film offer? As a part of the audience I think there have been more experiments in telefilms and TV serials than in feature films.
Atanu Ghosh: ‘The scope of experimentation in feature films’ is a very relative term. The huge positive responses we get for the telefilms are mainly from the urban areas. Irrespective of some telefilm programmes done in rural areas, the main audience of the telefilms has always been the urban mass. The producers of the mainstream feature films claim that their audience comes from the rural sector, which puts limitations on experimenting with the feature films. We cannot expect the same acceptance and similar exposure to the newer forms, genre, treatments from the rural audience as from the urban folks. The higher budget of the feature films, which is 30 to 40 times the budget of the TV serials and the telefilms, is another reason behind lack of experimentation with feature films.
Calcutta Tube: Please tell us something about the characters of your films. Do you create a character for a particular actor, or first create the character and then put an actor into the role? How overlapping are these?
Atanu Ghosh: Most of the time I work on the casting before writing the script. Every actor has his own individuality, which, if incorporated in the script, helps in blending between the actor and the character, and the acting becomes easier, too.
When I come up with a concept, I think of the actor that I would like to cast for that role, and start working with the preliminary things and the financial agreements that need to be done. Once all these technical things are finalized, I start writing the script. In that way, I can certainly incorporate in the script the style of the actor I am going to work with in order to get the best outcome. It is certainly an achievement of a director when an actor and a character become synonymous. That is what a director looks forward to.
But it also happens at times, that even if an actor has done a good job portraying a character, they still do not become the same entity. There can always be an aption of alternative cast for the same role within an age group, especially with the youngsters. A successful actor is one who can synchronize with the character so that both become the same entity on the screen.
Interviewed by: CT Journalist Shrabanti Basu from USA