A captive of literature

While reading ‘Chuti Nakoch’, a story by writer Ashapurna Devi, he suddenly felt grabbed by the jugular. It was tough to ignore the visual architecture within the tale and two very interesting characters that occupied it. Immediately, National award winning filmmaker Suman Mukhopadhyay procured the rights and started developing a screenplay — ‘Nazarband’ (‘Captive’), which will make its World Premiere at the prestigious Busan International Film Festival scheduled between October 21-30 this year.

“It is a psychological road movie. They are an unlikely pair of jailbirds who embark on a harrowing and unpredictable odyssey drifting across the intimidating terrain of Kolkata. The story is essentially a love story between two disparate underdog characters, Vasanti and Chandu,” Mukhopadhyay tells IANS.

While the movie takes a visceral look at the characters’ resilience and how they navigate different kinds of oppression, it is also an exploration into the depths of companionship and the meaning of rejection and acceptance. “If the viewers identify with the characters and move with their psychological struggles, their fragility, and instability, the film will work,” he adds.

The director behind some critically director of critically acclaimed films including ‘Herbert’, ‘Posham Pa’, and ‘Kangal Malsat’ (‘War Cry of the Beggars’) feels that while it is only with a theatre release that a film gets its true validation, he is not too sure for the same when it comes to ‘Nazarband’ considering the pandemic. “Yes, it does seem difficult, but we are trying hard. And frankly, in the recent past we have noticed OTTs heavily bending towards star cast and mainstream films. That means more difficulty for these kinds of films to get a slot there. But we will wait for more to happen in the festival circuit.”

Also a theatre director who has been exploring the stage since childhood as his father was an eminent director and National award winning actor, Mukhopadhyay, who got into serious practice in the mid 80’s only to stop acting at one point. “I felt acting was not my forte. One must identify the best way of communication with society, a medium that reveals your organic reflexes, artistically transforming your subliminal thoughts. After I finished high school, I started directing theatre and joined a film-production company and practically did all kinds of works. Of course, theatre is in my blood. But films are my first love.”

The filmmaker who had a major showdown with the Censor Board over ‘Kangal Malsat’ and has met several committees formed to reassess the censorship system, laments, “I was always in favour of ratings instead of a censorship board. Censorship is all about controlling and stifling the independent voices. OTT platforms are a relief. But, of course, now they want to regulate and dominate that too.”

Talk to him about the fact that all his films have been derived from literature, and he asserts that he has no reservation in doing that as whenever a film is made from a story, it is an original work of cinema. “Now one cannot say that �Pather Panchali’, ‘Godfather’, �Throne of Blood’ or ‘Stalker’ are not original films. They are adapted from other literary works and adapted freely. This is a multidisciplinary exercise that I enjoy.”

Calling for a strong government cultural policy to ascertain the development of independent cinema, Mukhopadhyay feels that while big studios have resources to support their films with stars and finance, independent films suffer a lot during the times of distribution and theatrical release. “We don’t even have a Film Fund in our country. All the countries have them for their own films. NFDC once produced many films that we are proud of. But now, it is almost defunct and has no role to play in the bigger picture. And I don’t expect anything from the government in the present socio-political circumstances. It only mingles with big producers and stars.”

Currently looking for funding for the film ‘Eyes and Feet’ (previously titled as Paradise in Flames), based in Kashmir, he adds, ” It is a very difficult film to make. We know the situation in Kashmir. The film is about a young footballer and his sister from there suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Also, I have a long-cherished dream to make a film on Manik Bandyopadhyay’s novel ‘Putul Naacher Itikatha’ (‘Annals of Dolls’ Dance’). That is in the works too.”