Shiboprasad Mukhopadhyay’s debut film Icchhe, jointly directed with Nandita Roy is pulling audiences across North America and Canada through DVD sales, streaming, and exhibition and so on thanks to Databazaar Media Ventures acquisition of the film. Yet, so sucked into the box office success of his film he is that he was not even aware of Databazaar Media Ventures’ having acquired the distribution and DVD rights of the film.
What was the motivation for this unusual story for your first film?
We were looking for a powerful subject that would be timeless and universal to strike a chord with all audiences everywhere. The other thing that was important was that if a story was strong enough to move us, the directors, and if presented well, it would definitely move the audience. We wanted a story rooted in the Bengali culture but with a universal identity. These were the motivations to go ahead with Icchhe.
Whose story is it you banked upon?
It is based on a story by noted author Suchitra Bhattacharya called Gaach I had read some years ago. It appealed to both Nandita-di and me. Suchitra-di was happy about our choice of her story for our first film. But we made cinematic changes such as introducing the character of the father played so brilliantly by Bratya Basu in the film. This character does not exist in the original story. It sort of balanced out the electrically charged relationship between the mother and the son and added a touch of tenderness to the son’s upbringing. Our climax is also different.
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Your career as an actor was going well. Then what spurred the direction dream?
Acting has its limitations though I still take on acting assignments. Direction is a different cup of tea altogether. It offers endless scope to create, to give expression to strong stories and bold themes. Nandita-di and I am grateful to Rituparna Sengupta for having faith in my first directorial project. She has backed and presented from concept to release. This film would just not have been possible without her.
You and Nandita Roy is one director too many. How do you divide the directorial work between the two of you?
We plan the work schedule from concept to story board to script before shooting begins. We are rigid about sticking to the budget and the time-lines. For us, the script is the bible. We make at least four to five drafts. We read out the final script to the technical crew and the cast followed by discussion. Nandita-di takes care of the script and post-production. The shooting is my responsibility. If we need to rent a house for a ten-day shoot, we actually rent it for 12 days so that the actors can move around freely and get the ‘feel’ of the place before facing the camera and also warm up to each other.
What made you choose Sohini Sengupta to portray the mother in Icchhe?
I wanted an overweight actress who would illustrate her obsession with her son that makes her neglect herself to an extreme and she lets herself get fat. She pays absolutely no attention to herself or to her husband, so obsessed is she with her son. I have known her since my days with Nandikar and knew she would be able to bring out the best in this mother.
Are you happy with the wonderful response to the film?
We’ve completed a record 100-days run in the city theatres. It has been warmly welcomed in North America and Canada thanks to Databazaar Media Ventures’ enterprise so who would not be happy in these circumstances of triumph of good cinema that does not bank on copies of Southern hits yet tells a strong story?
– Shoma A. Chatterji