24 May 2019 06:25 AM

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SHOMA A. CHATTERJI | 31 OCTOBER, 2018

Inspiration in the Weirdness of Human Character

In conversation with director Nirmalya Majumder


Love stories form the very basis of the language of cinema. Rain Host is no different. The difference lies in the subtlety with which the young director, Nirmalya Majumder who has scripted, produced, directed and edited the film weaves in a story of lost love placed in extremely unusual circumstances picked ingeniously from real life circumstances. Majumder is a prolific and trained filmmaker based in Mumbai who keeps a rather low profile. Before Rain Host, he has made about 14-15 short films, most of which are fiction.

However, the first recognition came with Confessions made in 2009. It bagged him the best script award at the Kalpanirjhar Festival. His next film The Final Flight of the Soul also won an award as the 2nd Runners Up at the 48 Hour Film Contest in 2010. Over the next 8 years other commitments took over. Rain Host happened next this year. So far, it has been selected at 3 festivals, and won 3 awards as well. These are - 7th Kolkata Shorts International Film Festival : Honourable Jury Mention, 19th Calcutta Cult International Film Festival : Best Director and 19th Calcutta Cult International Film Festival : Outstanding Achievement Award.

What does the phrase Rain Host mean?

Rain Host exists… very much so… this happened exactly a year ago on 29th August. In fact, my first slide of the film explains that. the concept of rain host is real.. Mumbai experienced more rain in a single day than ever before, and people were stranded. Mumbaikars took to social media and opened their houses to strangers - people they had never met or heard of. This has actually happened and I decided to weave my story around an incident where a young man steps into the luxurious apartment of a young woman who acts as his rain host. The unspoken understanding is that the guest leaves when the rains have stopped and the water-logging has receded enough to allow negotiation to go home.

What sparked the idea in you to write this story?

The core concept already existed - that of Rain host… being a reality. Anuradha Aul (credited in the film) was the first to pick this up and come up with the story. She had told the concept to my sister Vineeta Jain. Since then my sister and I had several sessions to develop this into a full story. When it comes to placing it on film… I have a habit of visualising any story that I hear or read. It kind of happens involuntarily. I imagine how it would look on film. It started with that.. once my sister and I locked on the flow of the story… I took it up and converted it into a screenplay.

How true is the story?

The premise of Rain Host is 100% true. Mumbai was affected… people did open up their houses to strangers …. new friends were made on that day… but I am not sure if any ex-lovers me. I like to believe it is pure fiction.

How did the lost love story find place in the film?

It happened almost organically and we worked together as a team on the script, reworking it and polishing it again and again. I deliberately decided to keep it within the short film format because in my mind, this story if stretched any longer would lose its charm and impact. I feel this story demanded to be told in a shorter time frame.

The story is not only fascinating but the way of its minimalistic narration, with as little dialogue as possible unravels the entire story to make a deep impact. The two actors in the film also appear not very familiar. Can you tell us a bit about them?

The two actors I chose to bring the story alive on screen are Devaki and Jayesh. Devaki, is a leading RJ and theatre actor in Gujarat. In fact, she won the Sangeet Natak Academy’s best theatre actress award this year. I was looking for a lady who stood tall… not just literally, but her persona. Devaki fits the bill perfectly. When we approached her, she read the script and graciously accepted. She was a delight to work with. She was extremely accommodating. working under a shoe string budget, there were obviously a lot of things we couldn’t afford. Not one complaint. My teacher, who had also taught Jayesh, recommended him. So i met him, gave him the script and asked him to read it… he read it, right in front of me, while I sat there observing him. as part of my homework. I had already done a character breakdown of both the characters. so once he was done reading, I asked him to tell me about the character. I had not shown him my character breakdown. so he started speaking… he ticked 13 of the 16 points I had and added 2 more, that I had not thought of.

Whose work of five directors you like in the broader spectrum of filmmakers you look up to - Indian, international, features, documentaries, short films, long features, etc?

As typical as it might sound, I am a Ray fan. More of his approach to the craft and I try and follow that. his homework and detailing. Apart from that Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Raj Kumar Hirani from India; Internationally, Scorsese, Nolan and Majidi to a great extent… I am quite typical in this respect.

What statement are you trying to make?

I am not sure whether I am trying to make any statement. What pulls me is the weirdness of human characters, its unpredictable and dynamic nature. The humane touch based on the premise that people are prepared to open their house to complete strangers is itself a statement, don’t you think? You can take the concept of the rain host as the primary story and the love story as the sub-plot but it will work equally if you reverse this order. Actually, we have tried to narrate two stories in one – the one that the atmosphere and the ambience creates and the other that the characters spell out without saying much. On the one hand, we are saying safety is a major concern… and in the same breath, people are not thinking twice before welcoming a stranger in trouble. If this is not a statement, then what is?

(Cover Photo: A still from the film Rain Host)

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