Time travel remains one of the biggest mysteries of science. Indian filmmakers who have ventured into sci-fi films such as the Krish series of films and Shahrukh Khan who ventured to make Ra-One which have surrealistic features and futuristic visions. But not really time travel as we understand it – when a person can journey through time – past and in the future. In this environment, Atanu Ghosh, a filmmaker who has the talent of exploring subjects few even think of, has made a film on time travel called Abby Sen. Though the film is in Bengali, it has an universal reach because of the issue it deals with. It will be theatrically released across the state on October 30 2015.

In 1961, Buster Keaton, one of the most outstanding comedians and stunt masters who successfully make the transition from silent to sound and from Black-and-White to colour, was seen in three-minute silent clip in Black-and-White entitled Buster Keaton’s Time Travel. Keaton, then nearing 70, discovers a strange helmet in a scientist’s laboratory and during his absence, wears it without knowing that it will take him on a journey through time into the past. The film does not mention anything about time travel but it is evident that once Keaton dons the helmet, he finds himself in a world that belongs to the 1920s when he began his career in feature films. He is surrounded by cars, gramophone records, a big clock, all of which belonged to the 1920s. Then someone takes off his helmet and the film clip ends.

In 1960, a film called The Time Machine directed by George Pal, was made in Metrocolor based on the novel by H.G. Wells based on the same name in 1895. The film narrates the experiences of an inventor in Victorian England who constructs a machine that enables him to travel into the distant future and what he discovers there makes the story of the film. Another much more contemporized version of the same story was made in 2002 which added commercial elements like a romantic angle and so on.

Abby Sen however, will make a difference to the concept of time travel from many films made in the past because Abby, the protagonist, travels back in time from 2013 to 1980 within the city of Kolkata when the name of the city was also different – Calcutta. Director Atanu Ghosh says, “The scientific origin on time travel based on the concept of time dilation was provided by Albert Einstein in his Theory of Relativity and Special Theory of Relativity. But the theory and the subsequent implications in accepting it were complicated and hence yet to be conclusive. However this concept of traveling in time has been an interesting tenet in much of the fiction and the films of the science-fiction genre.” Ghosh adds that time travel may not remain a distant dream for long because Dr. Ronald Mallet is presently working on time travel in the USA.

“Recreating the Calcutta of 1980 was one of the biggest challenges for me as director. My cinematographer Madhu Shi and my art director Indranil Ghosh who is a National Award-winner, shared the challenge. We did some recreation through CGI. It was extremely expensive but my subject did not leave an alternative,” says Ghosh.

In the story, Abby is obsessed with science fiction films and no sooner he lands up a hero in such a story, his apprehensions and expectations bother him all the more. He analyses his own experiences with those happening in classic films like Back to the future and Alien and that lends a curious angle to the story. Abir Chatterjee, who plays the title role in the film says he could relate very closely to the time travel aspect because though he was not born around the time he travels back to in the film, he understands it through the films he has seen, and through his parents who are actors themselves, through books and stories and through his involved interest in cricket.

“I had the good fortune to interact with three noted actresses who play different roles in the life of Abby Sen. One of them is actress Arunima Ghosh who plays Abby’s wife in 2013. The second woman is played by Raima Sen who provides a soft romantic angle in 1980 as a sari-wearing singer of Tagore songs. The third is Priyanka Sarkar whose role in the film I am not supposed to give out,” says Abir, laughing heartily.

Abby Sen is a time travel story which starts off from reality and then takes a voyage into fantasy. But time travel and fantasy serve only as a medium in the film. Actually, the curious pathways of life, the joy of laughter and the magic of love take turns to drive the story along a very unconventional path. Science serves just as a catalytic agent to take the story and its protagonist on a strange journey. I think Abby Sen is a new genre altogether for a Bangla film. In the story, Abby is obsessed with science fiction films. When he lands up as a hero in just such a story, his apprehensions and expectations bother him all the more. He analyses his own experiences with those happening in classic films like Back to the future and Alien and that lends a curious angle to the story.

“I have been reading up on time travel and it has intrigued me enough to create a story around it and make a full-length feature film. The world’s first science fiction, named Somnium (Latin for The Dream) was authored by Johannes Kepler in 1608 which was published only in 1634 by Kepler’s son Ludwig Kepler. Somnium is the first ever novel that offers a detailed, imaginative and hypothetical description of how the Earth will look when viewed from the Moon, becoming the first serious scientific treatise on lunar astronomy. Carl Segal and Isaac Asimov referred to it as the first work of science fiction,” Ghosh sums up.