EKTI TARAR KHONJE Bengali Film Special Coverage for US Premiere at NABC 2010.
What do films like Chokher Bali, Paromitar Ek Din, Antaheen, Utsab and The Last Lear have in common? They have two things in common. One is that they are all directed by the best filmmakers in the country. The other is that they are cinematographed by Avik Mukherjee, FTII alumnus who has won several National Awards for his brilliant work. He constantly reinvents himself with every film, trying to invest the texture with the mood and the fell that goes with the film he is working on at any given point of time. This critic watched him during the shoot of the song sequence jao paakhi bolo with Radhika Apte as the central focus. It was a scene of heavy rains. Avik went on asking his crew to pour water from a mug from atop a partition so that the water fell in streams and droplets on the semi-opaque designer glass. He did not roll his camera till he got the effect just right. As cinematographer, his range is as wide as Antarmahal, a period film, and Bunty aur Babli, a Hindi mainstream film. It is therefore, but natural for him to push the borders of his creative imagination and seek fresh pastures in direction. He got solid support from friend and filmmaker Aniruddha Roy Choudhury who agreed to produce the film under his production banner Screenplay Films that comprises Indrani Mukherjee, Jeet Banerjee and Aniruddha. The storyline initially, was a sketch done jointly by Avik and his friend Madhuja Mukherjee who teaches Film Studies at Jadavpur University. Lo and Behold! Ekti Tarar Khonje – In Search of a Star was born.
Databazaar Media Ventures will premiere ‘Ekti Tarar Khonje’ in NABC2010
On Sunday, in Metro Hall (3rd Floor)
Avik asked Madhuja to develop the storyline. It took shape and became a thriller filled with the intricacies of human relationships, of romance, of collages of incidents and characters and of songs and music. Madhuja wrote the screenplay and dialogue of the film and also worked on the costumes for colour coordination together with Avik. Prabuddha Dasgupta has scored the music for the film. There is beautiful Tagore song that goes shokhi bhabona kahaare bole and a couple of other songs that aptly fit into the moods of the sequences they are jelled into. The story is about a young man named Abhishek (Shayan Munshi) who is ambitious and wants to become an actor to get recognition. He lives in the small town of Chandernagar near Kolkata. But he shifts base to Kolkata because the town he belongs to is too small for his big dreams. A friend Deb (Rudranil Ghosh) brings him to a spacious old-fashioned ancestral home in North Kolkata. He becomes a tenant. The colourful members who live in this mansion, some the original members of the owners, some of them are tenants and then there are the menials take him by surprise. Among them is Rani (Arpita Chatterjee), another small-town girl who has dreams of her own, her paternal aunt Rama Pishi (Tanushree Shankar) who is the owner of the mansion, Ananda Babu (Dhritiman Chatterjee) a relic of the past whose room looks more like an archive and a museum than a room, and his friend Revati Bhushan (Biplab Chatterjee). Arindam Sil, Arijit Dutta, Anindya Banerjee and Bollywood’s Dibyendu Bhattacharya who played Chunilal in Anurag Kashyap’s Dev D make for a strong supporting cast. Avik has also edited the film.
When Abhishek finally gets a role in a film, his world changes dramatically. “Life is like magic, you are alive this minute and dead the very next,” is the bottom-line of the scary part of this film. Is it really a film he is acting in? Or is it a spidery web of crime, the mafia and the underworld he gets suck into? Will it distance his love Rani from him? Or will he be able to come out and turn his back on the darkest episode of his life? Dreams, reality, illusion, love, ambition are emotions that confront, collate, militate, befriend and jostle with each other in the rickety journey Shayan undertakes from anonymity to fame and glamour and recognition. His dream of becoming a hero is intertwined with his nightmarish experiences in the city. But, Abhishek’s ability to see things in a different light keeps him going.
Dibyendu plays the shady Ganga in the film. “Dibyendu sports a different look in the film and we shot a song sequence featuring Shayan and Dibyendu in a factory near Jadavpur University,” says Aniruddha Roy Choudhury. Rudranil Ghosh plays Deb. “I have a small but significant role in the film. Avik-da is quite cool as director and he gives a lot of flexibility to actors,” says Rudranil who did a very small role in Aniruddha Roy Choudhury’s Antaheen and this performance brought him the role in Ekti Tarar Khonje. Avik does not believe in workshops but had one detailed sitting with his actors to get the feel of the film and of the characters they are to portray. Shayan went to the suburban town of Chandernagar to imbibe the ambience of the place. He sports a clean shaven look with hair cut closely to his head. Tanushree Shankar plays Rama Pishi, a strict school teacher. Arpita Chatterjee is Rani. Dhritiman Chatterjee plays Ananda Babu. Biplab Chatterjee plays Ananda Babu’s friend Revati Bhushan while Dev the star, is playing himself in the film, a super star who is playing the hero in a film in which Abhishek has got his break.
Shayan Munshi did an important role in Anjan Dutt’s Bong Connection a couple of years ago. This was followed by a role in Morning Walk directed by Tapan Biswas. But it was a Hindi film that did not do well at all. He then went to New York to do a short course in acting at Black Nexus. “Though I got some Bengali offers after Bong Connection, they were not interesting enough for me to shift base from Mumbai to Kolkata. I am selective in the sense that the director and the script must hold meaning for me. Ekti Tarar Khonje fit the bill and Tony-da (Aniruddha Roy Choudhury) is someone I admire a lot. I need to be on the same wave length as the director which happened when I worked with Anjan-da. The same has happened in Ekti Tarar Khonje with Avik. We bonded well and I am fortunate to be in the directorial debut film of one of the most talented cinematographers in Indian cinema,” says Shayan who had met Aniruddha at the Banga Sammelan in America. “I am almost completely in the dark about Bengali cinema so my first work was to watch a lot of Bengali films in order to find out some basic framework to base my acting on.
Ekti Tarar Khonje had some teething troubles before going on the sets. Ankur Khanna, who played an important role in Naseeruddin Shah’s Yun Hota To Kya Hota was the first choice but was ticked off later before the deal was finalized. The next choice was Shayan Munshi and he stuck. The role of Rani, that marks the return of Arpita Chatterjee to films, was first offered to Raima Sen and Koel Mullick respectively. But this too, failed to happen and the third choice was Arpita who was looking for a good film to come back in. Avik made some changes to the character and the look to suit Arpita. Both Avik and Aniruddha have known Arpita from the time she was modelling and acting in Bengali films much before she married actor Prosenjit. “I gave up films after marriage not because it was not on the agenda any more but because the family had no infra-structure for me to remain in films. Over the years, I have carefully built the infra-structure and our son Trishanjit is also a little older now. I have ensured that he is well looked after in my absence. But I had made sure that my comeback project should be significant. Avik-da is an old friend so it was not difficult to work with him,” says Arpita. Her last film was a mainstream film directed by Anup Sengupta which got stuck for some technical snags and was never released.
What does husband Prosenjit have to say about his wife’s comeback? “He wanted me to return to films because we both felt that I was feeling a bit restive for some time and it was important that I be content and happy for my family to be content and happy. He is a close friend of Avik too so he welcomed this assignment with open arms. His advice to me was that I needed to slim down and take care of my appearance if I wanted to return to the studio lights and face the camera. I immediately hit the gym and shed a few kilos. I am also following a diet regime to remain in shape and I am sure Avik’s talent with the camera will do the rest,” says the beautiful Arpita who has hardly put on any make-up or had to wear dazzling costumes for this film.
“I am not in films to join the numbers race at all. I have decided to pick and choose my roles with care. My second project is Laboratory directed by Raja Sen. It is a celluloid representation of a Tagore story. I play Nila, the daughter in this mother-daughter conflict story where Raveena Tandon plays Sohini, my dominating mother. I wear a period look and period costumes for this film. The shooting is over and it was wonderful working with Raja-da and his team, and of course with Raveena-ji,” says Arpita.
Dev, a star in Tollywood today says that he jumped at the offer of doing a brief guest appearance in the film because “I respect Avik-da a lot. I know he is an excellent cinematographer and having worked under his directorial wand, I can now say that he is a very good director too. I was made to feel as special as if I was doing a major role in the film. Avik-da took care of meticulous details during the shoot. The location was the Kidderpore Dockyard where I had shot for Raja Chakraborty’s Challenge so it was a journey into nostalgia for me.” Dev is not new to brief guest appearances. He did an item number in Raj Chakraborty’s first film Chirodini Tumi Je Amaar and a bit role in Koushik Ganguly’s Jackpot. He accepted this small assignment at once “because I have great respect for Tony-da and he is the one who offered me this role,” Dev sums up.
The film hits the Bengal screens on June 25.
by: Shoma A. Chatterji