Interview: Director Atanu Ghosh on his Upcoming Bengali Film ‘Ek Phaali Rodh’, the Bystander Effect and His Expectations from the Film




Sanjib Banerji, Sholoana Bangaliana: Your next film Ek Phaali Rodh is ready for release… You must be excited!!

Atanu Ghosh:”It’s a film very close to my heart. I was quite hooked on by the issue of ‘Bystander Effect’ and wanted it to serve as the springboard for the concept of the film. Besides, it gave me an opportunity to work with some of my most favorite actors. The form of the film, combining fiction with non-fiction, use of hidden camera and CCTV footage is quite new for me. The music by Joy Sarkar also turned out to be quite captivating. So, it’s an exciting package indeed.


All of your earlier films, dealt with social and psychological and social issues, we guess there won’t be any exception regarding EPR as well. Please throw some light on the plot?

The film takes off from the issue of Bystander Effect – the socio-psychological phenomenon where people do not offer help to strangers in distress. A social scientist (Dhritiman Chaterji) is working on it and as part of the research, he engages Swagato (Ritwik Chakraborty) and Anwesha (Aparajita Ghosh Das) to create mock crisis on the streets of Kolkata. The aim is to analyze human behavior and derive conclusions from them. Suddenly, one day, they come face to face with some acute crisis which takes them off-guard and they cannot decipher whether its ‘mock’ or ‘real’. After that, there is lot of high-voltage drama, suspense and quite a bit of emotion coming in.


‘Bystander effect’ is the underlying theme of the movie. Why did you choose such a topic and do you intend to spread any kind of awareness in the society about such human emotions and conditions.

The topic is quite alarming. It all started with the public murder of 28-year-old Kitty Genovese in New York in 1964. 38 people watched the young woman getting stabbed and killed on the street and yet no one chose to raise alarm or call the police. It shook the nation and the world at large and rocked our faith against each other. Exactly fifty years have passed since then and there has been numerous incidents happening in different parts of the globe. Though the issue is very sensitive and raises fundamental questions about human behavior, the aim of the film is not restricted to creating awareness. I strongly believe the film stands on its own intending to satisfy viewers as a work of art exploring human emotion, drama and suspense.


What kind of research did you have to do in order to create an entire feature film around it?

The most cinematic aspect of Bystander Effect research lies in the use of ‘mock’ crisis. All over the world, social scientists hire small-time actors to enact scenes of crisis on the streets. And that is what turned me on to create a feature film around the subject. Quite a few books as well as Youtube videos gave me a theoretical know-how and then I met a few social scientists and organizations who were working on this issue. I always enjoy delving deep into the basic reality before designing its fictional representation.


In Rupkatha Noy we saw you presenting Soumitro Chattopadhyay so beautifully, and in EPR you have cast Dhritiman Chattopadhyay who is also a very experienced actor and an industry veteran, your experience of working with Dhirtiman sir? 

I have been waiting for long to work with Dhritiman Chaterji. For quite some time, we used to catch up whenever he came over to Kolkata from Chennai (where he stays now) and I really enjoyed those enlightening sessions. That is how, we started sharing a bond and Ek Phaali Rodh was the best thing to have happened after that. Apart from being a very experienced and accomplished actor, he is a brilliant mind with varied interests and a charming personality. Interacting with him is always a pleasure.


You have repeated Tota Roychowdhury, Aparajita Ghosh Das (Chakraborty), Arunima Ghosh (Abby Sen) and Jisshu Sengupta in two of your movies, do you think these four actors are underrated in  Tollywood or some consider them as unlucky for Box Office success as well ? If yes, do you intend to break this notion and jinx?  

This custom of branding an actor as unlucky for Box Office is utter nonsense. Some actors never get their due and that has happened throughout history. We should acknowledge their talent and passion for acting. No use lamenting as to why they never got the adulation they deserve. Jisshu, Tota, Arunima and Aparajita have proved their brilliance time and again in cinema or television and they are some of my most favorite actors. I would go on working with them irrespective of how they are branded by the industry.


Ritwick Chakraborty is now the budding Star Actor of Tollywood, your directorial views on Ritwick, the actor?

Ritwick is sensational! He can give a unique edge to a character by using his reactionary power, sharp intellect and improvising skill. It’s not common that we come across such actors who can work wonders with a combination of intuitive skills.


Joy Sarkar during the music launch of Ek Phali Rodh said that after working with you, working with other directors becomes a little difficult as no one gives as much freedom as you do… We would like to know why do you always choose Joy Sarkar for the music in your films?

I like film music to be spontaneous and varied. Joy has this rare capacity of blending simple melody with intensity of expression. Besides, he loves to experiment and is never bothered about dictates of the market. In that way, we share a common vision. I have worked with Joy in three films (Rupkatha Noy, Ek Phaali Rodh, Abby Sen) and in each of them, he has developed a different musical expression.


Such a complex psychological behavior as the Bystander Effect forms the theme of your film, do you think the audience is ready for such complex topics, more from the comprehension point of view?

There is nothing complex in Bystander Effect. You see a stranger writhing in pain on a street. The question is, whether you will help him or not. As simple as that! Besides, none of my films are difficult to comprehend. Basically, I conform to a simple narrative style.


Currently what subjects are you reading and researching on and what can the audience expect next?

I am working on some subjects but it is too early to tell about them. It will be something entirely different. Can assure you that!


The Bengali film industry at the moment is said to be going through a slack period, do you think EPR, just like Srijit Mukherji’s Chotushkone, will act as oxygen for this wilted industry?

Certainly, I do have quite a bit of expectation regarding EPR. The subject is new, the treatment is not common, the cast includes some of the best names, and there is a lot of drama, emotion and suspense! I think the audience would like it.


Team Sholoana Bangaliana wishes the director Atanu Ghosh the Very Best and hopes that not only Ek Phali Rodh, his other upcoming Bengali films will also be super successful and give the much needed traction to the slacking Bengali Film Industry.


SanjibSanjib Banerji takes a keen interest in both Old and Contemporary/modern Bengali literature and cinema and has written several short stories for Bengali Little magazines. He also runs a little magazine in Bangla, named – Haat Nispish, which has completed its 6th consecutive year in the last Kolkata International Book Fair. Being the eldest grandson of Late Sukumar Bandopadhaya, who was the owner of HNC Productions and an eminent film producer cum distributor of his time (made platinum blockbusters with Uttam Kumar, like “Prithibi Aamarey Chaaye”, “Indrani” and several others), Sanjib always nurtured an inherent aspiration of making it big and worthy in the reel arena. Upcoming Bengali Film Sesh Anko that has been scripted and creatively directed by Sanjib is currently under production and the suspense thriller is being directed by Tathagata Banerjee.




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