On behalf of Sholoana Bangaliana, internationally acclaimed director Mr. Tathagata Banerjee put forth a few questions for Bengal’s most controversial Film Maker Q, who post the success of movies like Gandu and Tasher Desh has now started working on a new movie called LUDO; a horrex that stars Rii in a role never seen before on Indian screens.
Sholoan Bangaliana: Hello Sir, Please tell us something about your formative years and your introduction to the world of cinema?
Q: I was born in Kolkata and spent my childhood and formative years here and am pretty much Sholoana Bangali for that matter. I moved out of town only after graduation and stayed in Delhi and then Mumbai before moving to Srilanka due to my job in advertising and this move was one that very much altered the course of my life. It is in Srilanka that I got to experience an absolutely different culture and started exploring the depths of digital technology, something that I had already started working on earlier. I was never really interested in cinema but when in Srilanka, I gradually developed an interest for the art form and started following world cinema.
Sholoan Bangaliana: What really inspired you to be a film maker?
Q: In advertising I was exposed to a particular kind of short film making through advertising commercials and I took to it quite easily. At that point of time I was beginning to hone my skills in the various technicalities of film making through commercials but then again, I was never interested in cinema. The entire transformation came about when I started watching world movies that were available at a store in Colombo and from there the interest grew and I started thinking about this art form very seriously. Had I lived in India this interest would have never developed as I would have never been exposed to this great repertoire of films, and it is interesting to note that I got such a wonderful exposure in a neighboring country, not a place in the far away West.
Sholoana Bangaliana: Why do you feel that had you been in India, you would have never got this kind of an exposure?
Q: In 2001 when I had come back from Srilanka to try my hands at film making in Bengal, nobody in India new about digital film making. All these innovative techniques are just about 3-4 years old in India. It is only in the past 4 years that we have had some exposure towards alternative art practices and independent cinema but before that these art forms were something that we had no clue about.
Sholoana Bangaliana: What genre do you say your films fall into?
Q: Basically the world of art has been highly classified and this system of classification is something that I work against. I would thus say that I would try to bend genres all the time and even though I work within a certain framework I would still like to find ways to innovate and not stick to a genre. This is basically difficult for me to answer, yet I can say that my films do not at least fall in the main-stream or popular categories.
Sholoana Bangaliana: We find great resemblance between your films and that of the European School of Film Making. Do you feel so too?
Q: See it’s like your language definitely resembles the school you have been to and I have been to the European School so my language is indeed similar.
Sholoana Bangaliana: Your films are different from the regular commercial stuff that we see, is this a conscious effort?
Q: For this I have to go back to my first answer that I was never interested in popular cinema and am not even an audience of such cinema due to which the choice was obvious. Moreover, being a Bengali I wanted to talk in Bangla and when it came to making films, since I always felt that art should be in your own language, the decision to make films in Bangla came quite naturally and simply. Moreover my films do not come from a market force as I do not make films for a living just as most others do, due to which I do not have the compulsion to go by what the market needs. Everything is governed by economics and if I had to go by that, it would have been the weirdest thing to choose Bangla as the language as that inevitably complicates all aspects of funding, distribution and all other commercials.
Sholoana Bangaliana: You evolved as a film maker from ‘Gandu’. It was much discussed a film. Unlike so, your earlier films failed to create that amount of stir. Why so?
Q: The intent was never to make a stir, it was only done with the intent to create a dent or little spot for our own thing and keep observing what was going on. I was not even sure if I would be able to develop a language as I was no trained film-maker and haven’t been to an institute, so it was with great trepidation and caution that I started this project. My only focus was to make my craft better without any thought of the audience or any other aspect; more of a self centered behavior, something that I also felt was important as I was trying to develop a language for myself. Parallel to making the film I also tried to produce such film thus bringing in the Economics, Philosophy and Techniques of my films together. I just did not start working on my films as a director as right from day one I owned a company and tried to organize the entire set rather than go after self glory. It was a very intensive, rigorous and less exposure oriented craft. Gandu sort of broke that; in fact when I had made the film I had no clue that it would go all this way. Now we are actually trying to cope with the fact that a pro-creation has happened and we are trying to deal with it. The very fact that we are making a new film and that is news makes this phenomenon all the more evident
Sholoana Bangaliana: You primarily deal with sexuality in your films. Is that so because you consider yourself as a representative of the repressed Indian society or is it merely to sell your films?
Q: Fact is, I like Porn and I take from all forms of alternative or subversive art forms a lot. When you talk about alternative art forms, there are two things to it, one is mental politics and the other is body politics and when it comes to mental politics it is very confusing as different people think in unique ways due to which you cannot achieve an average out of selective experiences. Whereas, everyone feels the same about sex; everyone is born out of sex so there is a common language and expression.
Sholoana Bangaliana: Why Tagore? I mean ‘Tasher Desh’…
Q: The moment I started nurturing the idea of becoming a film maker, I knew it had to be Tasher Desh because I knew the text so well and I could immediately see how I could treat and present it on a digital platform. The reason why we released it later was because I could never gather the money until recently to make the film.
Sholoana Bangaliana: What is your forthcoming film ‘Ludo’ all about?
Q: For the longest time we have been thinking about horror and as such LUDO. As I have said before, my basic strength is research and I like to spend years researching a topic and it takes a very long time to even mount a project and LUDO had been mounted about three and a half years back. The initial idea came when Nikon and I were working together for Love in India and around 2006 there was a humungous rise in the number of Korean and Japanese films and this horror genre had kicked off big time. We were very inspired by these films and watched a large number of these and then it was quite evident that we will try something of our own; something which is very local as horror is something that is extremely local in nature and very difficult to crack. We are actually more interested in the fantasy thriller kind of thing.
Sholoana Bangaliana: Why do we only see Rii as your heroine, is there nobody better?
Q: We basically look at ourselves as a film group and not a film crew. Films are a collaborated medium that are made by industry standards and our ideas cannot be presented under the system where people are hired, they come and work for a certain time, get paid and go away. When I was making films in Kolkata it was essential that I followed a West-European, Latin-American or African way of film making which is collective film-making where there are about 5 directors, a set group of technicians and camera persons etc who come together and start making a film. There is a sort of inclusive factor where you need to be in the group to know what is really happening and given the kind of films we make it is not possible for us to work in the pattern in which films are made. This is true for our own films but now we are making other films and casting for them too. All kinds of films will happen now as our company is also growing and expansion of operations will always mean expansion of resources.
Sholoana Bangaliana: Songs and background music becomes a character in your films. The way you use songs and back ground music in your films is strikingly different from the way they are usually used, also just as it is only Rii as the leading lady in your movies, it is always Neel heading the musical department; your comments…
Q: There is no one person doing everything and that is the power of the group. We live of each other and take from each other and it is a very collective effort, so much so that if I were to do something without my people half of the things I can do well will be lost. Similarly even in music we do things together. Neel takes care of all the technicalities and programming as he knows about music while I do not but yes I pitch in when it comes to the structural flow of things, again making it a very collaborative effort. I am also very happy with Neel’s collaboration as his contributions have always worked.
All our films are experiments of some sort or the other and not all experiments may be successful which is the beauty of experiments but when we work in a film situation it is a different game and the experiment always has to be successful but when that pressure is taken away, the artist is free to unleash his potential and create something extraordinary.
Sholoana Bangaliana: You have said that your production house is expanding and you are getting associated with different kind of films, so will you ever venture into commercial cinema?
Q: No never! When I say different kind of cinema I only meant different kinds of alternative cinema. I want to make our films commercial and make a few crores out of it; they are popular so why not. We will associate with more and more people and give them a platform to come up with their art forms.
Sholoana Bangaliana: For the film LUDO you have launched a Rock Band Hunt as per which you will audition several different bands and the one that wins will get to feature in LUDO, so is this an effort to reach out to the masses?
Q: No not really masses but yes definitely our niche audience group. This is more of crowd sourcing of material and as I have already said, we are always into a collaborative mode and want to bring in new people and not just keep crediting ourselves over and over again. In the movie we had an opportunity of a band performance and we thought that instead of us creating a song why not look for a band that can create great music and can feature in our movie which gave way to this Rock Band Hunt thing.
Sholoana Bangaliana: If somebody wants to work with Q what special skills should he come with?
Q: One major quality will be patience as it takes a long time to create something creative and meaningful and this is where most people lack. Here we work with a lot of young people and have seen that patience is what is badly missing. Our work is very intense, very tiring and definitely not a bed of roses so one has to come prepared for that. There also has to be a curiosity about a lot of things that happen out of the normal course of events. If one has the right mind set, he/she is welcome as we have different departments where different people can fit in and work as a team.
Special Thanks to Mr. Tathagata Banerjee
Mr. Tathagata Banerjee is an internationally acclaimed director whose most recent short film ‘Oneker Moddhe Ekjon‘ made in association with Mr. Indrasish Acharya has been selected in the Short Film Corner of Cannes Film Festival.