Calcutta Tube, Kolkata: Shekhar Das is a familiar name in off-mainstream Bengali cinema. He has made three feature films – Mahulbanir Sereng, Krantikaal and Kaaler Rakhal. His fourth, Necklace, ready for release, marks his entry into mainstream cinema touching it up with satire, black humour, some comedy blending into a critical comment on the urban bourgeoisie. Das honed his aesthetic sensibilities with more than 1000 episodes of urban soaps and drawing room dramas for the small screen. He also acted in many of them. He anchored a series on NRIs across the world, trying to explore the psyche of the Bengali NRI distanced from his roots. In a fast-track interview, Das talk freely about Necklace.
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You are very focussed on literature. Right?
I think you are right. This began long ago when I made four telefilms on four stories by Anton Chekov – Cherry Orchard, Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters and Seagull. I am a voracious reader. In 1995, I chanced upon a novel by Tapan Bandopadhyay, a low profile writer who, as a government officer posted in these areas, knows the tribals of different sects closely, and has learnt some of their dialects. The novel is a fictionalized version of what he had experienced in real life. This formed the source for my first feature film. Krantikaal was based on a short story by Prafulla Roy. Kaaler Rakhal was based on a story called Dui Nombor Ashami authored by Neelanjan Chattopadhyay.. Necklace is a four-page story originally called Chorer Bou by a young writer Prachet Gupta.
Lets hear some more about Necklace.
Necklace stars Rituparna Sengupta and Ritwik Chakraborty as an urban, upwardly mobile couple who live in a city apartment in Kolkata. The couple’s life takes a tumble when a thief, played by Rudraneel Ghosh, steps into the apartment, meets with an accident and is forced to stay back. The thief’s pretty wife (Locket Chatterjee) makes matters worse for the very much in love couple. Dipankar De and Biswajit Chakraborty play interesting cameos. The film juxtaposes the polarities of existence between the haves and the have-nots within Kolkata. I have added a couple of cameo characters that are not there in the original story. Chandreyi Ghosh and Biplab Chatterjee play these characters.
What does your technical crew comprise of?
The film has music scored by Gaurav Chatterjee, is cinematographed by Sirsa Ray, with Anup Mukherjee having done the sound design, Hiron Mitra in charge of art direction and editing by Debkanto Chakraborty.
What drew you to this particular story?
I loved the Chekovian slant it has – involving ordinary people in the everyday business of living, peppered with humour but finally striking a point somewhere. I was looking for a city-centric story for a change, having been born into a Kolkata family that has lived here for five generations. I have never made a film rooted to my place of birth and the city I grew up in. I wanted to penetrate the psyche of the city with reality and fantasy, and perhaps, to turn a bit Brechtian and entertain the audience. I wanted to explore my own potential of negotiating with my own city.
Is there any message in the film?
I do not consciously put in any message in my films. The stories I choose have some subtle points structured into them. I always wanted to offer an outsider’s insight into the insider’s world. I did this through my three films earlier. Necklace stresses that if you do not sit together to negotiate the terms of co-existence in the city, the outsider can step in any time and jeopardize your existence.
Shoma A. Chatterji