Click Play to listen to D.O.P Soumik Halder talk about his experience of shooting Chander Pahar
(Sholoana Bangaliana Exclusive)
The screen adaptation of celebrated Bengali author Late. Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay’s adventure fiction ChanderPahar that goes by the same name and stars Tollywood Hero Dev is ready for release and Sholoana Bangaliana spoke with DOP Soumik Halder (Director of Photography) , the man behind the fantastic visual presentations that has given this new Bangla Movie a completely international look and feel.
Mr. Halder has been the man behind the camera for some of the most successful movies like Srijit Mukherji’s Mishawr Rawhoshyo, Aparna Sen’s Goynar Baksho and even Kamaleshwar Mukherjee’s previous film Meghe Dhaka Tara which made him the obvious choice even for this visual extravaganza called ChanderPahar. Soumik Halder, known for his precision took this assignment up as a challenge and set out to work in order to recreate the vision of his director Kamaleshwar Mukherjee and producers Srikant Mohta and Mahendra Soni , all three of whom had blind faith in him and the outcome as is evident from the trailers is a fantastic visual treat.
“As soon as I was offered the job, I could see myself in the Jungles of Africa”, is what Soumik Halder said when asked about his preparations for the shoot. Having said that, Mr. Halder also added that on being given this responsibility, as mostly people would have expected he did not try to read the book again but kept reading and re-reading the script as that formed the foundation of all his visualization and presentation ideas. Understanding the script and the movie’s requirements are the foremost responsibilities of a DOP and that is what Mr. Halder simply focused on as here he had to shoot the wilds of Africa and not a tranquil beach in Digha.
Accurate presentation needs meticulous preparation and thorough homework and that is something director Kamaleshwar Mukherjee and DOP Soumik Halder did together before starting the shoot. As revealed by Mr. Halder, together they watched a lot of movies and documentaries of which Ghost and the Darkness was one.
On this note, it is worth mentioning that the author of the book Late. Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay who had created such realistic imagery of African Jungles in the story had himself never been to any place outside his own area of residence and the DOP of Chander Pahar has exactly followed the writer’s route of imagination in bringing to life all that is Africa so that people who have never been to the land can get complete realistic feel of the place and its surroundings. “A film is made by the assimilation of a large number of frames and I have tried to ensure that in each frame the audience can see the natural grandeur of Africa”, said Soumik Halder.
Soumik’s greatest challenge, (of course along with petting the Black Mamba) was retaining the original structure of the story and the feel of the nineties. With Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay’s illustrations as a backdrop set in mind, Mr. Halder had to bring to life the beauty and at the same time the wilderness of the Kalahari Desert (where they started shooting) and of all other rough terrains of the African landscape. The recce that was done by director Kamaleshwar Mukherjee with detailed videos and stills of the locations helped the DOP a great deal in accomplishing this task as he himself could not accompany the director for the recce as the shoot for MishawrRohosyo was on at the time. The director’s help and complete analysis of the shooting location for seven days prior to the start of the shooting schedule helped Soumik a lot in planning all the scenes and frames.
“In the Alipore Zoo the Lion stays inside the cage and we watch from outside but during the shooting of Chander Pahar it was just the opposite, the Lion was roaming freely around and we were inside the cage but after few days of shooting we had literally made friends with the beast who was as much a part of the crew as we were”, said Soumik when asked about his experience of working with these fearsome wild animals. Having said that, the DOP even added that after taking shots of the Black Mamba from behind a glass wall for a few days they had even made another serpentine friend and had started shooting from a mere distance of about three to four feet from the deadly snake.
The conversation about the wild animals invariably led to the discussion about the safety measures adopted and the insurance that had been purchased for the cast and crew. As Soumik revealed, along with mobile ICU units and anti-venom kits that were always carried, the fact that the director himself is a certified medical practitioner acted as a great ‘feel safe’ factor for the entire team.
The insurance amount that had been set aside for the crew had also been a matter of long discussions in the Tollywood Film circle and talking about this Soumik said that though he personally may not have taken interest in the amount, he was quite grateful that such measures had been in place as shooting for Chander Pahar in those wilds did involve 200% percent risk. Thankfully, apart from a minor injury that Dev sustained during the last part of the first schedule, the entire team could do the work un-harmed.
The conversation then shifted to Soumik’s experience of working with Dev. “The audience will get to see another side of Dev, one who is a polished actor and knows the art well”, said Soumik about the hero of Chander Pahar. Soumik also added that Dev is very honest with his work and puts in his best efforts in whatever he does. In fact, Dev is the only one who was shot with the Black Mamba in the same frame, which definitely had not been the plan initially. Be it hanging on a tree for painstakingly long hours or working at odd hours, Dev never complained about anything and did his work with complete commitment.
Soumik also had the opportunity to work with international artists Gerad Rudolf, the veteran Portuguese actor, who has played the character of Diego Alvarez and Martin Chitto Otto, who has played the character of Jim Carter and while talking about his experience of working with these actors who are inherently very popular stage artists said that while working them he got the opportunity to discuss shots and frames as they are very technically sound and have an in-depth knowledge of cinema. The shooting environment, as is evident from Soumik’s descriptions was very conducive to productive creative exchange.
While talking about his experience, Soumik time and again pointed out that this grand movie would not have been possible without the consolidated efforts of his team and the guidance of their level headed director Kamaleshwar Mukherjee.
Towards the end of the conversation D.O.P for Chander Pahar Soumik Halder assured the audience that they are surely going to love the experience of watching this visual extravaganza and will be drawn to the theaters again and again to savor the feeling of being in sync with Shankar and the Black Mamba just like the team had enjoyed tirelessly working in those un-inhabitable conditions and scaling those rough terrains out of mere passion of re-creating the classic Chander Pahar for the Bangla Movie lovers.
Srijit Mukherji’s Jatishwar is Soumik’s next big release and he has projects like Debaloy and Aniket Chattopadhyay’s next movie lined up right one after the other.
The audience, as is evident from the buzz that the movie has created is expecting something extraordinary out of this epic saga and we sincerely hope that DOP Soumik Halder has been able to exceed all expectations with this extraordinary film.
Chander Pahar Shooting Location Pics