September 30, 2010, KOLKATA (Calcutta Tube): Gaurav Pandey’s Bengali Movie Shukno Lanka is a big commercial hit. It is perhaps the only Indian film to feature a junior artiste as the central protagonist in a film other than Tamanna made under the Mahesh Bhatt banner some years ago. Pandey’s first film Stumped (2003) starring Raveena Tandon, was not a commercial hit but it was a very meaningful take on the contemporary Indian’s obsession for cricket. The film explores the cricket fever that spreads across all Indians including those who cannot afford to attend the World Cup but try to draw vicarious joy through cricket played with equal frenzy within the housing cooperative they reside in. It did was panned positively by critics. Shukno Lanka is his second directorial venture. He opens out in a brief tête-à-tête.
What inspired you to make a junior artiste the central character?
Satyajit Ray’s Parash Pathar was the trigger to make Shukno Lanka. To be more specific, it was the character played by Tulsi Chakraborty. I feel Chinu Nandy of Shukno Lanka is a more contemporary version of the same character. Chinu lives across Howrah but he journeys to the studios by tram. The character Tulsi played in Parash Pathar also travels by tram. I have mentioned the name of Ray’s film because I did not want to hide the inspiration for my film.
[ReviewAZON asin=”B0044FDPA4″ display=”inlinepost”]Why make the hero a person who remains on the fringes of the glamour and the chutzpah of the film industry?
I think the phrase ‘junior artiste’ is a state of mind. These actors who played bit roles were earlier called ‘extras.’ Someone felt it demeaning to their status and the word was replaced with the term ‘junior artiste.’ But the change in the label has not in any way changed their status quo within the industry. If you come down to it, there is basically no difference between a peon and a junior artiste, or, say, a rickshawallah and a junior artiste. There is this basic human greed in every person to show his/her face on screen. The junior artiste is closer to this than the peon or the rickshawallah. A junior artiste knows that he will perhaps never be able to make it big. But the greed, the hunger remains and he remains trapped in his marginalized world.
What made you nail down Mithun Chakraborty, one of the top stars of Indian cinema, to play Chinu Nandy?
Every Indian actor except the Khans in Mumbai or the sons of film celebrities has gone through this stage of once having been a junior artiste. Mithun has gone through this struggle too. So, his being a top star did not make any difference. One major reason that clinched my choice is his body language that is something no director can teach a star or an actor. It has to come from within. Mithun has it within him. He did not have the time to attend my workshops. But when he came, he actually fed me with the back story on Chinu Nandy. I could hardly have asked for more.
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