The flavour of Kolkata

The flavour of Kolkata
The bridge, the river and kids' play. Brilliantly captured by Sujay Kumar Das.

Friday, August 04, 2017

A chat with Pratim D Gupta

If Dev D is his Masterchef on camera, he is playing the Masterchef behind it, giving all he can to cook the perfect Maacher Jhol to please his audience later this month. Paanch Adhyay (2016)- the first outing of this long time film journalist, well known for his reviews on t2, didn't cut much ice with the audience, but his second serve Shaheb Bibi Golaam- an edgy thriller set in Kolkata- filled the theatres for weeks last year and won several Filmfare awards too. It was also a musical hit. In the thick of the post-production for Maacher Jhol nowPratim took out some time to have a chat for Kolkata Curry.

Anirban: You were known as a film journalist and film critic till 'Paanch Adhyay' happened. What got you interested in filmmaking and screenwriting which means moving to the other side of the fence?

Pratim: I always wanted to write and direct films. I used to be involved with theatre from my school days. Later I was an active member of the theatre group Komal Gandhar. I did bit roles and a lot of production work. I was also a very good student and got a very good rank in WBJEE but I chose not to become a doctor or engineer because I was always artistically inclined and didn't want to join the herd. (Maacher Jhol also deals with this.) I studied films and English and got a job in a newspaper but I always wanted to make movies. Thanks to my day job, I spent a lot of time on film sets and also watched tons and tons of movies. And then I wrote a script called Vanish which got selected in the NFDC Screenwriter's Lab. That was the start of the journey.

A: Coming to 'Maacher Jhol', it's food film as the name suggests. And that's a brand new genre. Now, Bengalis are known for their devotion for food but I don't think it has ever been really explored in our cinema. What prompted you to make a food film? Also, for those who know you, you are a big foodie. How much of your philosophy of food is there in the film?

P: It's an out-and-out food film where food is a character. I have always wanted to make one. And when we are dealing with food and us Bengalis, I was always sure it would create a new motion picture experience. Because food for us is so much more than just food... memories, culture, state of mind... Of course, there is a very interesting yarn also spun around food. But it is the food factor which makes the film unique. And I've gone really deep into food. Not just Bengali films, I think Maacher Jhol is one of a kind when it comes to food films.

Pratim D Gupta on the sets of Maacher Jhol

A: A big surprise for the audience possibly is casting Ritwick as a Masterchef based in Paris. We know of his powerful acting acumen and you've briefly spoken in the media about how he has been stereotyped in Tollygunge. But what exactly made you think him in the shoes of Dev D?

P: After Shaheb Bibi Golaam I wanted to do a full film with him because I found him phenomenal in a film with such powerhouse actors. He created a performance texture which no one could come close to. And at the same time I was thinking of doing a food film. So the two came together. I never thought a second time about whether Ritwick will be able to pull off a sophisticated character. He can do anything. And to make him look the part, I was confident I could do it. Not just Tollygunge, even Bollywood cannot think beyond certain stereotypes for certain actors. Nawaz plays the same character in every other film. That makes my job all the more challenging and I love that. No one saw Anjan Dutt like a Jimmy Luke, no one saw Swastika in a twinplay like Jaya and Shuktara and no one saw Ritwick as a Masterchef Dev D.

Ritwick Chakraborty in a still from the film

A: We, the audience, miss a screen persona like Mamata Shankar these days. Characters with the kind of sensibility she exuded on screen aren't written anymore. What made you think of her in that role?

P: She is of a different league altogether. I am really honoured that she is the Maa of Maacher Jhol. The scenes with her and Ritwick are so special, that they really hold the film together. I am actually glad that she is extremely picky about her roles and doesn't do whatever is offered to her. We feel so sad to see Soumitra Chatterjee and Madhabi Mukherjee be part of such shoddy films.

A: What's your take on using music in your cinema?

P: Shot taking and using of music are how you can really make out the craft of a director. And I take a lot of active interest in these two departments. Right background music can really uplift a scene to an unforgettable moment. That both my DoP and background music director in Shaheb Bibi Golaam were applauded from all quarters make me very happy. I've got two new partners in Maacher Jhol. Subhankar Bhar has done some incredible work with the frames and Avijit Kundu making his debut as the background music director is my surprise weapon.

A: Lastly, what has the success of 'Shaheb Bibi Golaam' taught you?

P: That my ideas and treatment are audience friendly. That Bengali cinema doesn't need to be restricted to bouts of pseudo intellectualism and unnecessary chatter. That visuals can draw young audiences. That nothing, repeat nothing, is more important than good performances in a film.


Here's wishing the audience savours the steaming hot Maacher Jhol on 18th August.


#TollyDiaries #MaacherJhol #BanglaCinema #Cinema


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