A Son’s Tribute To His Father
Bijoy Choudhury’s film My Son and His Grandfather, spells out the loneliness of the aged
Bijoy Choudhury likes to be identified more as a photographer than as a filmmaker. He rarely makes films but when he does, he chooses unfamiliar, unique subjects and is surprised when recognition comes his way through festival screenings and a deluge of awards. The still camera is his main instrument and he prefers to shoot in black-and-white.
His new film, My Son and His Grandfather is a documentary tribute to his late father who passed away soon after the film was shot and edited. This beautiful film that spells out the loneliness of the old and the aged. The old grandfather, Dinesh Chandra Chowdhury suddenly finds himself missing the warm company of his grandson, Akash Chowdhury.
The emotion is captured through some of the most outstanding black-and-white images one has witnessed in recent times. The film has already graced several film festivals and has bagged awards including the Satyajit Ray Silver Award for the 2nd best documentary, Best Short Documentary award at the recently held-14th International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala (IDSFFK) August 2022, Best Documentary award at the recently held- 9th Siliguri Short and Documentary Film Festival (29-31 Aug 2022) organised by Siliguri Cine Society in association with the Federation of Film Societies of India, and was selected selected at the recently held '5th South Asian Short Film Festival, 2022, at Nandan IIII, Kolkata.
The camera work, both the still and the moving images, has been done by Chowdhury himself, a very low-profile and self-effacing filmmaker if ever there was one. Excerpts from an interview with the filmmaker:
How old was your father when you shot the film, and when he passed away?
I started filming my father, along with my son when he was almost 68 years old. I had started with still photos, which fortunately got me many revealing shots of them. My father died at the age of 87 last year.
How did you prep him for the role, or did you not prep him at all?
I did not prepare my father. The way he works with this kind of filming [was] because my father knew very well my intention of capturing him on camera, surrounding him at different points of time. That’s why he was very easygoing and had revealed his natural feelings during my shooting.
What was the inspiration for you to choose this subject?
In this digital age, I have observed that irrespective of any class, everyone is engrossed in their respective world having little time to care, especially for the aged and the kids. From this perspective I got the idea to make a film surrounding a grandfather and his grandson.
The grandson occupies marginal space in the film. Why?
You have raised a very valid point. The fact is that a good part of the time, my son was in boarding school in Kurseong. That’s why his presence in this film has become marginal. Not only that, to support the concept of the film to project the loneliness of grandfather without his grandson, was badly needed as well.
The music is beautiful. What brief did you give to your music director?
I think, in this modern musical generation, Tajdar Junaid is a talented performer and composer. In this film, a tune from his album has been used. During edit of this film, my editor Mithun Paramanik had used this tune as a scratch, and to our pleasant surprise, we realised that it fit just so in the film. I met Tajdar Junaid through his father, showed him the film and he did not think twice before giving me permission to use his tune in my film.
Your parents’ home is almost ancient Iike your parents, with the plaster peeling off the walls, old photographs, books and notebooks. Were they living alone?
The building shown in the film is almost 60-years-old. My father was a very traditional man and had an obsession about any old object that included buildings, books, furniture, accounting bills and above all any pictures. For an unknown reason, my father was very unwilling to repair the building in spite of its urgency.
My parents were not alone in this house. I was with them and I still live with my mother after the demise of my father. The house is at Nabagram, Konnagar about 25 kilometers away from Kolkata. The place is still under Panchayat administration and one can still feel the rural atmosphere here. In this film, I have used both still and moving images. Videos were filmed for the past four-five years and still images were clicked over the last 17-18 years.
Why is there very little dialogue in the film, and no vocal interaction between your father and mother?
I have observed that after reaching a certain age, a man and a woman who have lived together for a long time, either lose interest in conversation, or have nothing left to say to each other, at least in the generation they belonged to. They speak very little to others as well, including children.
In my family, since my son was away from my father for a long time for his education in a boarding school, loneliness had gradually wrapped him up in a veil of silence. He turned into an introvert even with me and my mother. We would engage in natural conversation very few times. I felt that because of the demand my concept asked of me, I consciously avoided exchanges between my parents within the film. Their togetherness emerged in their silences, not in their speeches.
Your parents, despite their advanced age, are surprisingly independent in their day-to-day work. How?
My father was very active in his day-to-day work. The same goes for my mother. I would help my father to a certain extent with the daily marketing and visiting the doctor. I do the same for my mother. Right now, two women helpers have been appointed to take care of my mother because of her advancing age.
It seems you have used different cameras. If yes, which was/ were the camera/s you used and why?
You have rightly said that in this film different kinds of cameras have been used. I would say here that the movie images as well as the stills that were used here were clicked over the past 17-18 years. The still and movie cameras were different.
Since the images had been taken for a long time at different points of time, the cameras were different as well. But I had clicked all the still and movie images myself.
What is your directorial statement on the film?
The absence of the grandson created a big vacuum in the grandfather’s heart. The memories of the grandson running around and playing were visible in every nook and corner of the house! This made the absence even more tormenting for the grandfather.
The torment and helplessness of the grandfather did not escape the eyes of the father – that me, and also the visual narration of which has been attempted through this film.