Kolkata: August 8 (Calcutta Tube): Mahuaa has stepped into feature film production in a big way. Mahuaa Films is being projected as a strategic business unit (SBU) under Mahuaa Media Pvt. Ltd. that aspires to produce meaningful Bengali cinema first to be released on its Bengali television channel Mahuaa launched a couple of weeks ago and then to be premiered as large screen films in theatres of West Bengal. At a well-attended press conference in Kolkata, the directors who have already made films under this banner and are now making films under it were present to express their views on this concept of working for the upcoming digital media, a turning-point technological innovation within the world of audiovisual entertainment including feature films. Besides Tapas Bhattasali, Chief Operating Officer of Mahua Bangla (the television channel) who addressed the press, were directors Anjan Dutt, Anjan Das, Subhrajit Mitra, Sudipta Acharya, Kamlesh Kunti Singh and Partho Ray. Anjan Dutt has just made a thriller for Mahuaa Films entitled 9 miles that stars himself, Churni Ganguly as his wife and another actor as the third angle in this suspense triangle. The first in this ongoing series, Ray, directed by noted filmmaker Riingo, has already been telecast on the Sunday 7.00 pm slot. Each film has around two hours of screening time.
“I have always been hesitant about stepping into digital media because it is a territory I am not familiar with. Besides, producers would ask me to make a digital film within an impossibly limited budget which made it clear that money was the main item on their agenda and the film per se was not that important. I would always back out. But with Mahuaa, they have opened the floodgates of our creative juices and budget is no constraint,” elaborated Anjan Das, waiting for the release of his Banshiwalla soon.
“We are looking for cinema-friendly stories and we make no distinction between famous directors and absolutely new and fresh ones so long as they can offer us a story with an unusual story angle. So we have Basu Chatterji who has promised to make a film for us based on a Bimal Kar story alongside award-winning scriptwriter Kamlesh Kunti Singh who is making his first feature film with us, called Saade Chaar (Four-and-a-Half). Subhrajit who has already made two films that track two completely different storylines, is making the Kakababu detective series for us based on Sunil Gangopadhyay’s series for young children,” added Bhattasali. Mitra lamented that he was a bit constrained by the fact that most of the Kakababu series of stories were located outdoors in the wide expanses of the Bengal countryside and he had to stick to the ones that were rooted to Kolkata for travelling constraints.
Kamlesh Kunti Singh who flew down from Mumbai for this event, explained how much he had wanted to direct his first film and how grateful he was to Mahuaa Films for giving him that long-dreamt-of break. “My film is about a television script writer who wants desperately to make his first feature film but cannot because he needs to rely on television and finds himself trapped at the same time,” he explained. Institute alumnus Sudipta Acharya has made Helpline that is based on a phone-in counselling helpline in which a woman finds herself unable to counsel the first person who calls in to listen to his problems. Partho Ray is making his debut with Rik, named after the protagonist, “A little boy’s life takes an about turn as the result of his mother’s rebuking him strongly for getting just one mark less in a given exam at school, while they are commuting on a train,” explained a visibly happy Partho for having been able to get his big break under the Mahuaa Films banner. Said Anjan Dutt, “This gives us the opportunity of using some of the best actors within television who are trapped within television and are not recognised by the film industry in Bengal. It is sad that even when we have little choice in terms of choosing the acting cast in large screen feature films, no one thinks of exploring and utilizing the talents of small screen actors like Saswata Chatterjee. But films produced and exhibited by Mahuaa Films will hopefully end all this and create a new casting system perhaps.
“We decided to venture into film production because purchasing films leads to the rights of the film being available to us for a shorter duration and this does not add value to the whole exercise. Therefore, we decided to involve ourselves directly with film production to bring wholesome and quality entertainment to the people,” Bhattasaly summed up adding that Prakash Jha is all set to make six Bengali films under their banner.
The Bengali film industry is a market comprising approximately Rs.150 crore and Mahuaa foresees itself becoming a major player in this market, according to Prabodh Tiwari, Chairman and Managing Director of Mahuaa Media Pvt Ltd.
by Shoma A. Chatterji