First Look: MAHANAGAR@KOLKATA-A NEW FILM BY SUMAN MUKHOPADHYAY
Mahanagar@Kolkata is the rather intriguing title of theatre person and filmmaker Sumon Mukhopadhyay’s new film. Like his first feature Herbert, this too is based on the literary works of Nabarun Bhattacharya, known for his insightful explorations of life in its multilayered manifestations. But instead of a novelette, Mahanagar@Kolkata is based on three short stories. Herbert, a Sahitya Akademi winner, won the National Award for the Best Bengali Feature Film in 2005, the Audience Award at the Dhaka International Film Festival, the Lankesh Award for Best Debut Director in Bangalore and the BFJA Award for the Most Promising Director. He then turned his focus on Tagore’s controversial novelette Chaturanga which also bagged several awards in the international circuit.
With Mahanagar@Kolkata, he steps into the rather unchartered territory of Kolkata as a city per se, and also perhaps, as a microcosm of any large city in India winding his way through its lanes and narrow bylanes, into construction sites, into the emergency ward of a hospital, into the mindsets and fantasies of the characters that people the city and the story. There are suicidal men and high-powered executives, a young footballer who dies of a serious injury in the prime of his life, a woman who takes in tailoring orders at home, a no-good wastrel who lives off hand-me-downs, a prosperous young man who suffers from acute hypertension, torn as he is, between his promiscuous divorcee lover and his beautiful wife he is estranged from, and the surreal world of fantasies this young man gets into.
The cinematographic idea of the film is placed within phobia and vigour, two polarized points in the contemporary Indian metropolis like Kolkata. This city and its people are reeling under the contradictions of rapid global developments and innate prejudices of the ‘old world.’ So we come across a hallucinatory situation where one of the major characters sees his estranged wife preparing to commit Sati by stepping into the burning pyre, and at the same time, also offers a glimpse into the underbelly of the city where two men sitting in a car witness a murder committed within the hospital precincts where the car is parked.
“I have built the three stories to come one after another telescoping through flash-forwards and flash-backs. They are linked by a young Bengali Rock group singing out a ballad about Kolkata. This song is important and that is why I chose Rupam Islam, who has his band and is also a brilliant singer, to score the music for this film. The characters and the actions of the three different stories are interrelated and create a web of non-linear dilemma,” details Sumon.
The film, now into post-production readying for a February release, was shot on different locations of Kolkata. It has been produced by A.V.A. Film Productions Pvt Limited. Indranil Mukherjee has done the cinematography, Arghya Kamal Mitra is editing the film, production design is by Hiran Mitra and art direction is by Amit Chatterjee. Pawan Kanodia has produced the film and has also played a cameo. The acting cast is a happy mix of veteran actors like Biplab Chattopadhyay and Arun Mukhopadhyay, filmmaker-singer-actor Anjan Dutt, Rituparna Sengupta, Sreelekha Mitra, Chandan Roy Sanyal, and Kabir Suman who plays a police officer. Mahanagar@Kolkata is a film of phobia, vigor, delirium and love in Kolkata. “The characters of Mahanagar@Kolkata, are indicated within cinematic boundaries marked out by Satyajit Ray, Akira Kurosawa and noted Mexican filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu who happens to be the very first Mexican to receive an Oscar-nomination for Best Director,” Sumon sums up.
By: Shoma A. Chatterji