December 27, 2010 , (Calcutta Tube): This writer caught up with Aparna Sen at the 34th Cairo International Film Festival. Her new film, Iti Mrinalini was premiered at the Festival in competition followed by its Gulf premiere at the Dubai International Film Festival. It was also the opening film at the River-to-River 2010 Florence Indian Film Festival in Italy. The Japanese Wife on the other hand, won the Best Film Audience Award – the only award in the festival at the Hidden Gem Film Festival at Calgary in Canada. It was also the closing film at the River-to-River Film Festival at Florence, Italy which opened with Iti Mrinalini and also screened Mr. & Mrs. Iyer.
How do you look back on The Japanese Wife?
As director, one is just never satisfied. But looking back, I feel my entire team should be given the credit for making it possible to shoot and complete the film in the most impossible conditions, physically speaking. I am referring to the physical conditions and geographical inaccessibility which posed the real challenge. We shot in extreme climatic conditions in the Sudarbans. You see, it is a group of islands and if a few of us were stationed in one of these small islands, there would be others amongst us placed in other small islands. Means of communication were nil because cells were cut out of signals, there were no STD booths except in the city and many of the islands did not even have electricity. I fell ill at one time and shooting had to stop. I can say again and again that making of The Japanese Wife has been the most difficult film in my career till date.
[ReviewAZON asin=”B003M5P9GK” display=”inlinepost”]But you also shot in Kolkata,, didn’t you?
That’s right. My producers, Saregama, put up a Rs.15 lakh set about 150-feet away from the Eastern Bypass in Kolkata. They set up the entire structure including the house in the middle of a water land and even grew vegetation over time to give it the ambience and look of reality. We just shot the last lap in Bharat Lakshmi Studios in the city. This was mainly for the scenes featuring Moushumi Chatterjee. But for the most part, the film was shot on actual locations in the Sundarbans.
Are you happy with the international recognition it has been getting?
Of course, I am. Rahul Bose who attended the Calgary festival, came back and told me that Salman Rushdie liked the film very much indeed and also went on to say that the film was like a new Ray film! Then, when I arrived in Cairo on the first day, Peter Scarlet, director of the Abu Dhabi film festival, told me that he has seen the film at the Mahindra Indo-American Arts Council (MIAAC) Film Festival in New York and felt it was a very sophisticated film and that he had liked it very ,much. Sadly however, it was not submitted for screening within the Indian Panorama and therefore did not feature at the Goa IFFI this year.
What made you choose English as the language for the film?
It is not completely in English as there is quite a generous smattering of Bengali dialect dokhno spoken by the locals in the Sundarbans. English was chosen as the principal language to reach a wider audience, that’s all. You will get to hear some Japanese as well. My original plan was to make a fictionalized film of the five trekkers from Jadavpur University who died a couple of years ago in a trekking tragedy. Then during discussions with Kunal Basu, who narrated the storyline of his unpublished work, The Japanese Wife in English, and I decided to make this film instead.
Shoma A. Chatterji
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