"A Film Is All About Passion And Dedication"
Indranil Banerjee, a self-taught filmmaker speaks to The Citizen
Father-son films are practically coming out of our ears these days, no thanks to Mr. Bachchan and Company. The best example perhaps is Shakti. So, young filmmakers are out to prove that they can do things differently.
Among these men is Indranil Banerjee. This self-taught filmmaker has made a short film called Ujjhyo which is a telling film on a father-son conflict that is resolved beautifully in the closure. The film is brief but it unfolds a lot of truths that many viewers, especially fathers and sons, will be able to identify with. Experts from an interview with this bright new talent on the horizon:
Question: Why the title 'Ujjhyo' which means "implied" or "Unsaid"?
Answer: First, after the script and finalisation when I was about to tell my producer the name of this film she suddenly told me ''what about Ujjhyo which means 'unsaid' in Bengali, and 'Implied /Understood' in English?'' I immediately said yes because I loved it so much , I felt it was perfect for this film.
Q: What motivated you to become a filmmaker?
A: When I grew up, I understood that film was something that was very attractive to me. I began with photography, and slowly began studying film and camera. I combed through the filmography of some of the world's best filmmakers like James Cameron, Stephen Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, which inspired me.
Filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino taught me how to design action styles. I have learnt storytelling through camera tactics from Satyajit Ray's films. I have also learnt how characters can come to life and music can elevate each story and that is the attraction that led me to filmmaking as I grew up.
Q: What made you decide on the casting?
A: Before writing a script I always finalise my casting in my imaginary world where I visualise my takes and sequences as per my script. So, while narrating the story idea to my producers I always tell them first who I am thinking of.
For example, in my latest series ''Paanchphoron'' for a Bengali channel, I told my producer I needed Paran Bandopadhyay without exception. The cast I lock in my head else the imaginary storyboard fades away. I do not mind if shooting begins late till the right casting is fixed.
I never compromise with characters which I think of and this happened in Ujjhyo too. I wanted to cast Barun Chanda as the father as his voice is just amazing, and Samrat Mukherji as the son. Both are brilliant actors who had very little dialogue and needed to express themselves just through facial expressions and body language.
I don't work with producers who do not give me freedom. Casting is a major problem I face with my producers. I want to offer opportunities to new actors and do not like to change my casting at all.
My best producer till date who gave me complete freedom is Maitreyee Di who produced both Ujjhyo, and A Sinful Story said to be India's first silent mini-series. She was also the creative director in these two projects in addition to being the producer. She respected my casting choice and did not interfere.
Q: Your directorial statement on this film?
A: This is a story about a father and his son. The son, who runs a restaurant, is requested by his sister to "father-sit" for three days as her son was ill.
The son goes to the market to buy the things his father loves best, cooks and serves the best dish but the father throws away the plate filled with food though the dishes are his favourite. The son looks shocked at the floor scattered with bits of the broken crockery and the food.
What happens next forms the crux of the story. Ujjhyo, till date, has won 18 National and International Awards, 15 Worldwide Official Selections from Prestigious Film Festivals. I am thrilled not just for the awards but also for the critical acclaim the film has attracted. I am very happy working with my cast and crew and thanks to my producer.
Q: Almost the entire film has been shot indoors. How many days did it take from conception to final print?
A: l, my followers, audience, producers, critics, and well wishers know very well how fast I work as a filmmaker. I don't tolerate any delays on my sets for any reason.
In 2017, my telefilm Bahannoborti was aired on a renowned Bengali channel. I was an amateur filmmaker at that time and I am sorry to say that no one helped me in this industry, but I turned it into a massive learning experience.
I did the cinematography, editing , sound and yes the direction myself. It took me just three days to make a 90-minute telefilm and four days to complete the editing. I did this smoothly because I had a clear idea about cinematography, editing and sound.
My target was to finish the shoot in one day for Ujhhyo and I did it. My producer Maitryee Di helped me in every possible way so that my shoot went smoothly. I took some additional days for the edit and the post-production.
Q: How do you direct? Do you hold script reading sessions, rehearsals, workshops? Do you allow improvisations?
A: Script reading sessions are mandatory. Before that, there was a pre production meet with my producer and cinematographer followed by locking the locations.
I went to a café to discuss the script with Barun Chanda. He loved my narration. I explained exactly what I wanted from him as the "character" – elderly, affluent, rude, arrogant, confused but lonely.
As for Samrat Mukherjee who plays the son and runs a successful acting school across Kolkata and beyond himself, I went to his house and we had a gala session over a cup of coffee. I do not like rehearsals a lot, but in some crucial takes, I improvise dialogues on the spot and lock the pattern of the way the actors should throw the dialogue on the sets.
Q: Which filmmakers, Indian and International, do you look up to, as ideals in your journey as a filmmaker?
A: Satyajit Ray , Akira Kurosawa , Tapan Sinha , Steven Spielberg , Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, Hiroshi Teshigahara, Stanley Kubrick, Federico Fellini , Bong Joon-ho, Andrei Tarkovsky, Francis Ford Coppola, Alfred Hitchcock and the list goes on.
Q: How do you define a "film"?
A: A film is all about passion and dedication. Then comes hard work. And then after failing repeatedly, comes success. I always believe that ''Karma's Bus arrives at the correct time ''.