Suman Ghosh, one of the directors of Databazaar Media, is waiting for the Indian premiere of this third feature film Nobel Chor acquired by Databazaar Media for streaming, distribution etc across North America and Canada. He has also made a documentary that is linked to the Nobel Prize. It is on another Nobel laureate Amartya Sen who won the Nobel in 1998 in Economic Sciences for his Social Choice theory and Welfare economics called Amartya Sen – A Life Reexamined. Though the documentary was completed in 2002, it had a ten-year-long wait till Kolkatans got to watch it recently. Is there a link between the two?
What hat links the two films considering they revolve around the Nobel Prize in some way or another?
Nobel Chor is a fictional account of a real incident that actually happened. The film is structured so that initially it starts as a documentary and then takes off in a fictional zone. Amartya Sen – A Life Reexamined is a documentary researched for at least one year and it took me two long years to make. Nobel Chor made lesser demands on me in terms of research, time and patience than the documentary. Making the documentary proved to be a very good training ground in terms of editing. You have so much footage from which you should cull out the relevant footage and bring out a story from that.
What clips have you used in Nobel Chor?
I have used documentary footage to establish the incident…with news clippings of Mamata Banerjee, Vajpayee (the then Prime Minister) and Buddhadev Bhattacharya. I have also shot eminent intellectuals such as Goutam Ghose, Nabaneeta Deb Sen and Sunil Ganguly. I chose to do this to establish the events in a realistic set-up. In fact, they say the things which they had actually said to the press when the incident happened in 2004. So, in that sense I play with genre in the film. It is a feature film true, but as it a fictionalized story based on historical fact, Nobel Chor gave me the opportunity to play around with genres.
The Nobel seems to have had a deep impact on you, be it the theft of Tagore’s original medal, or, the prize Amartya Sen received. Can you explain?
The Nobel embraces the intellectual history of the world mapping Ezra Pound, Marcel Proust, Graham Greene, Amartya Sen, Jan Tinbergen, UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold who won it posthumously, etc. The medal is the concrete symbol of international excellence in varied fields. For me, it is metaphorical as well. What is more important is what we have imbibed from the great people who have won the Nobel Prize. Nobel Churi is my homage to Rabindranath Tagore on his 150th birth anniversary.
What triggered the interest in Amartya Sen so much for you to make a 56-minute-long documentary on him?
I was motivated mainly as a humanist. I thought the life of such a towering figure should be captured for permanence. The fact that I am an economist and was also an aspiring film maker then, gave me the confidence to take up the subject. Interacting with Amartya Sen at such close quarters helped me become a better person. His penchant for knowledge and curiosity towards a lot of things is infectious and I have tried to imbibe whatever little I could from him.
What was the chief trigger that set you on a path distant from your Ph.D. in Economics?
While I was studying at Presidency, the film bug caught me. I liked to tell stories from my childhood and soon realized that a film direction is the best profession where you can ‘officially’ tell stories and satisfy your urge. I began to involve myself seriously into the craft of story-telling through films. Satyajit Ray was a big influence. But Rituparno Ghosh’s Unishe April was also very significant for me. I thought here was a guy who tells stories in a way which I aesthetically agree. When I came to the US I took up courses in film-making at Cornell alongside my Ph.D studies in Economics. And the rest followed.