Interview: Sanjib Banerji on his Debut Feature Film Sesh Anko as the Writer and Creative Director, Social Media Branding, the art of Visualization and More

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Sanjib-Banerji-Interview

Sanjib-Banerji-Interview

Upcoming Bengali Film Sesh Anko by director Tathagata Banerjee is currently in its stage of post-production and team Sholoana Bangaliana on a recent visit to the studio caught up with the thriller’s Creative Director and writer Mr. Sanjib Banerji to get an insight into the inside story of Sesh Anko.

 

Sholoana Bangaliana: So, finally after years of patience and struggle, your script is materializing into a full length feature film….Tell us something about those years in waiting….

Sanjib Banerji: Well, to be very honest with you, I didn’t have to struggle much like many of my other Tollywood seniors/friends did. I always have had a flourishing corporate career in Media & Advertising and professionally have worked for media/advertising giants like HT Media Limited (The Hindustan Times), Crayons, Grey Worldwide (Mumbai), Mudra Communication etc, and my last employment was with JWT. So, you can make out that I was living quite a secured life and financially was doing jolly well for myself. But at the same time, even during those years of corporate life, I always wished to see myself as a ‘Screen Storyteller’. I wanted to give up everything for the sake of starting my career afresh in the Bengali film industry and my wish ultimately materialized when I left my job in 2012 and chose to be a struggler in Tollywood. But my destiny did not let me down and all my sacrifices paid off in 2014 and ‘Sesh Anko’ happened.  2012-2014 I devoted my time to watching films and reading Bengali literature all over again in order to sharpen my storytelling skills. So, in a nutshell, I won’t call myself a ‘conventional’ Tollywood struggler.

You hail from the family of a successful producer whose Uttam-Suchitra hits are still a landmark… What was the scene and influence like at home in your childhood?

Yeah, my maternal grandfather Late Sukumar Banerjee was the proprietor of HNC Production and produced platinum jubilee blockbusters like ‘Indrani’, ‘Prithibi Aamarey Chaay’, ‘Montroshokti’. Most of his productions featured Mahanayak Uttam Kumar & the Mahanayika Suchitra Sen, but most of us are unaware, that during that era Filmmaking in Bengali wasn’t exactly a money making sector. Most of the Bengali producers originated from traditional Bengali middle class families and they opted to produce films for the love of the art and not the moolah. My grandfather also did the same and after his sudden demise, my maternal family had to go through some years of acute financial crisis owed to the unethical behavior of his team mates. I did not see my grandfather alive but always felt very proud of his creative achievements. Coming back to your question, after this bitter experience my family was not very fond of the film industry and was quite reluctant to let me join the same and it took me about ten years to convince my parents, specially my mom to let me try my luck in the industry. My father loves movies, music and theatre and so does my mom but then they are worried about my career in the Bengali film industry. So, keeping my fingers crossed for Sesh Anko!

What kind of literature and films were you interested in as a kid and can u say that all u write today was more or less grilled in during your formative years?

My mom had gifted me ‘Bankimchandra Uponyash Samagra’ (not the children’s version but the real one) on my 11th birthday. That book, I must say, really made me fall in love with Bengali Literature, though I admit, I had had a hard time reading and comprehending it initially. As a kid, I got introduced to the works of authors like Rishi Bankimchandra, Saratchandra, Rajsekhar Bosu (Parashuram), Abanindranath Tagore, Leela Majumdar, Saradindu Bandopadhyay and such others way ahead of time and I started reading lighter literature like Satyajit Ray (Feluda, Professor Shonku), Bimal Kar (Kikira series), Sunil Gangopadhyay (Kakabau series) etc. quite late in life. It was during those years that I had developed this strange habit of visualizing the characters that I read about in my mind’s eye. So, you can say that reading a book for me was as good as watching a motion picture. The creative director within me was perhaps born during this phase of my life. Even today (if provided with an opportunity) I would like to make movies on literatures like ‘Raj Singho’ or ‘Nalok’. We are Bengalis and we must take utmost pride in our rich traditional literatures. I am immensely grateful to my parents that they introduced me to these literatures during the formative years of my life.

Interview-Sanjib-Banerji

What projects had you worked on before getting this much awaited break?

While working for The Hindustan Times, (2004) I wrote few screenplays for ETV Bangla’s docu-fiction Crime Diary & Director Phalguni Sanyal but frankly, those works didn’t intrigue the creative entity within me much and as the result in spite of getting job offers from few production houses like Tron, I did not choose to give up my corporate career and join the Television industry then. I never wished to make my career in Television serial writing. I always have aspired to become a Big Screen Storyteller.

Tell us the story of the initiation of Sesh Anko….

During 2012-13, I was approached by a renowned production house to write an original story & script for them. They intended to make a thriller with one of the superstars of Bengal then. I initially drafted a story for them, named ‘Mukhosh’. My friend cum younger brother Sumit Banerjee also assisted me in giving it a shape but unfortunately the producer chose to scrap the project as he did not get that ‘Superstar’ to work in it and that is the story which is now being made as Sesh Anko. Now let me clarify the reason for renaming Mukhosh as Sesh Anko. In 1965, a movie named Sesh Anko starring Mahanayak Uttam Kumar, Sharmila Tagore, Bikash Roy, Sabitri Chatterjee and Tarun Kumar was released and I loved that movie as it was also a thriller with a court room drama. Here Anko doesn’t stand for mathematics or calculation, the word ‘Anko’ here denotes ‘Chapter’. In drama the different chapters are termed as Anko’s. Our film also features a nail biting court room drama and there is a twist in the tale in the climax and that’s why I have renamed ‘Mukhosh’ as ‘Sesh Anko’.  By naming our movie ‘Sesh Anko, Tatha da and I also intended to pay our humble tribute to the golden era of Bengali Movies and obviously the matinee idol of all times & across the generations Mahanayak Uttam Kumar. I would also like to acknowledge the contributions of Mr.Kaustav Majumdar, who played a major role in consolidating my concept. Mr. Majumdar has contributed to Sesh Anko as the Creative Advisor.

We have seen that while thrillers are always a risky game, rom-coms more often than not pull off…So why did u plan to take up a thriller as your first? Any particular director who may have influenced your thought process… Yes I am hinting at Srijit Mukherji !!

Hmmm … Srijit Mukherji … Well … this man happens to be my inspiration for various reasons. First, his taking a leap into Tollywood from an excellently running Corporate career as an Economist in Bengaluru, immensely inspired me to follow his footsteps. The advertising/brand management strategist within me also appreciates Srijit’s intellect behind marketing & packaging of his products (Movies). His leadership quality is also commendable (though I have never worked under/alongside him) but still I can make out that Srijit Mukherji is a very smart captain, observing the way he takes the ownership of his projects and ably leads his team in public forums.

For me Rituparno Ghosh, Kaushik Ganguly and Srijit Mukherji are the three best things that have happened to the Bengali Film Industry post the Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Tapan Sinha era. Unfortunately, we don’t have the maestro Ritu da amongst us now but Srijit and Kaushik da are consistently making us proud at the national level. My friends in Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad are calling me up to say good things about Chotuskhone and am sure Kaushik da’s ‘Khad’ would also create new history of success nationwide.

Coming back to Thrillers & Srijit … even Srijit did not make his debut with either ‘Baishe Shrabon’ or ‘Chotushkone’ … he skillfully chose a film like ‘Autograph’ to mark his debut in the Tollywood film industry, where he could exploit & utilize the Star Avatar of Prosenjit Chatterjee as Arun Chatterjee. When Baishe Shrabon happened, Srijit Mukherji – The Director was already a brand. So, making my debut with a Thriller doesn’t really go in sync with Srijit Mukherji.

The script of your film Sesh Anko is fantastic and if executed well it may turn out to be a jackpot….Are you sure a debutant director will be able to do justice to your work?

The script is fantastic??? Who said so? I am waiting for the audience’s verdict & also the comments, likely to come from my industry seniors. Till then … about my own script … I would like to hold back my impressions. And regarding my director Tathagata Banerjee, only a debutant director can understands the true psychology of a debutant writer … Both of us are equally passionate about this project because this may ‘make’ or even ‘break’ our career. The man who has directed 50 Telefilms and has worked with almost all senior actors and technicians in the Industry shouldn’t be termed as a ‘Debutant’. He is directing his first feature film; that’s it! This should rightly be termed an up-gradation; but definitely not a debut!

 Sesh-Anko-writer

Tell us more about your chemistry with director Tathagata Banerjee…

The exact chemistry, that exists between Sudeshna Roy & Abhijit Guha or Nandita Roy & Shiboprosad! Tatha da thoroughly knows the flow of my storytelling; he understands my vision of each character that I have created for Sesh Anko. We do have our moments of difference but then sorting them out and getting back is what the ‘Chemistry’ is all about!

In this movie you are also working as a creative director… Are you really getting the freedom to be creative?

Yes, absolutely! Even the Producer Mr.Pradip Churiwal always lends a patient ear whenever I give some inputs. On the shooting floor Tatha da, our Director of Photography Supriya Dutta and I always discuss about the creative compositions of the scenes to be shot.

A creative director now, film director any time soon?

2017 … maybe! This is basically a learning period for me! Writing for Tatha da now; wish to write for few other Directors as well. I would assemble all my experiences and then take up the leadership mantle. Everything has got its scheduled time; why would a producer invest his money on me as a Director? I need to gather much more experience as a writer & creative director both ways. But one thing for sure, my debut feature film as the director, will surely have Tathagata Banerjee as its Creative Director.

MacNeill media has given you your career’s first break and Mr.Churiwal is known to be a tough task master…Your opinion on the business man that he is and his take on Sesh Anko as you comprehend it?

Pradip ji is a hardcore businessman but at the same time he happens to be a thorough gentleman. When I narrated him the story for the first time, I could see glitters in his eyes but he did not portray anything extra. He just said that he wants the final screenplay ready within 15 days and it took exactly four meetings to get the final green signal from the producer. Yes, he is a hard taskmaster but this is nothing new for me as I have handled several such tough bosses during the 10 years I have spent in top level advertising agencies. Jokes apart … More such producers are needed in Tollywood, who would put their money and faith on newcomers.

There is a marvelous combination of actors in your film…Tell us about your expectations from the cast & crew.

Though we don’t have a Superstar per say in Sesh Anko, I can proudly say that we have an envious ensemble cast in place and as the creative director, I share wonderful rapport with most of them.

Parno Mittra has justified her character Raina to its optimum level. You will see Samadarshi Dutta in an entirely new avatar, as the tough cop, something that he has never done before but has executed beautifully in Sesh Anko. June Maliah has also given memorable performances and so has newcomer Shataf Figar. Now coming to the surprise Trio! Watch out for Mir Afsar Ali, Debleena Dutta and Deepankar Dey. Mr. Dey, a very talented actor who has that charisma even in his 70’s, sadly enough, had not been given the due limelight after Satyajit Ray and Tapan Sinha but in Sesh Anko he is ready to bounce back as the powerhouse. The audience should also watch out for another surprise package, Deboprosad Halder who will also soon be seen in a Hindi film with some of Bollywood’s biggest stars like Nawazuddin Siddique.

 Any special take away from this first movie that you would like to share with us?

Sesh Anko was a classroom for me! Every day, every minute, each second of work made me learn something or the other about the practical aspects of Filmmaking in Tollywood. I never had a chance of interacting with technicians before Sesh Anko happened but on the sets of this film I got to interact with the Make Up Artist, Cinematographer, Costume Stylist, Art Director on daily basis; so you can imagine what kind of a unique experience it would had been for a debutant like me.

And lastly, though you may be excited about your project… Why do you think should people spend money to come and watch it in theaters?

I won’t say that I have conceived a unique story; neither do I intend to deceive people by stating we have made a science fiction or a period film or something like that. We have just tried to narrate an intellectually entertaining urban story cinematically. Since it’s a thriller the audience can expect some intense spine chilling sequences and suspense which would lead to a nail biting climax. Audiences coming to the theaters will enjoy full worth of every penny they will spend on buying tickets for Sesh Anko. Would wait for the audience and media’s verdict! I leave the rest to time & the Almighty.

Sanjib-Banerji-Interview

It would not be an exaggeration to say that you are a social media celebrity… So any special message for your little world on the web?

(Laughs out Loud) I am not a celebrity by any means! Yeah, I love to stay connected to my friends on Facebook. It is through Facebook only, that I came to know Industry seniors like Aniket Chattopadhyay, Atanu Ghosh, Suman Ghosh, Mamdo da and few others as well.  I would request all my friends on Social Media to follow SESH ANKO on Facebook, Twitter, Google + and other forums. Nowadays Social Media has become an important platform for Movie Promotions and if all my friends support and help me publicize and promote ‘Sesh Anko’ then our movie can reach out to more & more prospective audiences.

We congratulate you on your big break and pledge all support throughout the journey!!

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