Interview: NEEL B MITRA on Bengali Movies NANDINI (2011) and ABOSHESHE (2012)

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[Neel B Mitra]Washington, DC, Oct 29, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio) Neel B Mitra is a Jadavpur University alumnus, and gave up a very successful career in Theme Park designing & Marketing in Mumbai and returned to Kolkata to puruse an inner calling of writing. Neel started writing while in Mumbai, Abosheshe being of the first three stories. Although offers of writing for films in Mumbai itself had started to come in, Neel wanted to write in Bengali - another reason for returning to Kolkata.

Back in Kolkata in 2004, Neel started off as an assistant director for a number of films and documentaries that were critically acclaimed by audiences and across film festivals. Around this time, Sekhar Das - the noted film-maker and director of BFJA Award-winning "Mahulbanir Sereng" and National Award Winning Bengali film "Krantikaal" (2005) - proposed that the impressive communication skills of Neel be deployed for media relations and publicity, and Krantikaal was Neel's first venture as a Media Consultant. Today Neel has worked as a Media Consultant for over 150 films and is considered one of the top Media Consultants in Tollywood. Neel has been working as a Cameraman in several “Making Of” Films / Behind the Scenes like The Japanese Wife and Janala, and also shooting a documentary on Prosenjit Chatterjee with Aditi Roy.

Neel met Aditi Roy in 2004 , while she was pursuing her Masters in Film Studies at Jadavpur University, following which she joined a course in Direction at Roopkala Kendra. Neel wrote scripts for a few short films by Aditi and they joined up and started working together for short films, fund raising films for NGOs and Corporate Films. They decided to make a feature film together.

“Abosheshey” – AT THE END OF IT ALL was written as a short story in 1999. Neel has always been more interested in the challenge of being an original screen-play writer, and did not really want to get into direction - a role which Aditi comfortably filled in.. The team decided to take up Abosheshey as the first project . Abosheshey went through 17 drafts from 2008 – 2010. They were absolutely fixed on the line up of the cast and both agreed to give up two producers because they wanted more sell-able actors.

Meeting Anil. B Dev on the context of his debut production Ogo Bideshini for taking up its Media & Promotional responsibilities was the turning point. When asked whether Neel was interested in making films the topic of Abosheshey was broached but Neel is a believer in strong pre-production asked for 90 days of Pre production and that Aditi Roy would be the Director . The best part about the producer was he treated this as their dream project and gave them full freedom and support that this kind of a film requires, including casting, senior technician appointments and location selections and asked them to go on floors in November 2010.

Deb’s Entertainment House was keen to start a project immediately, Neel suggested a moderate-budget film "Nondinee" that was ready to go to floors by noted director Subrata Sen. "Nondinee was shot through July and August 2010 with Neel as the Executive Producer .

Swastika Mukherjee & Dibyendu Mukherjee in a still from Kolkata Bengali Movie NANDINI
A still from Nandini feat. Dibyendu & Swastika

Nondinee, like all Subrata Sen films so far, is an urban film with a city-centric story. A relationship-oriented film, Nondinee, is the story of a happily married but lonesome woman whose husband is mostly traveling, its about how she gets into a relationship with a fashion photographer. She spends a few exhilarating days with a fashion photographer, finally realizing that she really loves her husband and there are aspects of marriage that go beyond just love into realms of trust, respect and faith that bonds any relationship.

The title role of Nondinee,  - the married woman who also has a very successful career as a creative director in an advertising firm - is played by Swastika Mukherjee. Mir plays the husband traveling on work in the oil business most of the time. The fashion photographer is played by Dibyendu Mukherjee, singer and ex-frontman of Kolkata Bangla Band "CACTUS" who debuts as an actor with Nondinee,  Bratya Basu, Kamalika Banerjee, Prasun and others also appear in important roles in the film.

Tollywood Actress Rupa Ganguly in Kolkata Bengali Movie ABASHESHE
Rupa Ganguly as Suchismita in Abasheshe

Based on Neel's story and screen-play, Abosheshey, is a tale of a son's return to Kolkata after 22  and discovery of the woman that his mother was. Neel  also filled in the position of the Creative Producer on behalf of Deb’s Entertainment House for the film, as well as took up the responsibilities of Production Design for Abosheshey.

The son visits Kolkata after his mother's death to take care of his responsibilities as the sole heir. He hardly knows his mother because his parents separated when he was very young and he grew up with his father, and arrives with an intention of departing at the earliest, but then discovers things his mother left behind for her loved one, her diary, paintings and so on, and gets deeply involved in learning about the woman named Suchismita.

Neel describes how Calcutta is a character in the film: "Identification of the city is an emotional account of the city". There are no flashbacks , the film is about time and space shifts. The past & present intermingle in most scenes. Keeping alive a person, death is not an end in the film. The search is not melancholic , it’s a celebration.

When Neel called Roopa Ganguly  through 2008 – 2010, she was not keen but hearing they will shelve the film if Suchismita was not Roopa she heard the synopsis on phone and her first comment was “ema eta toh ami” (wow - this character is me!)

Aditi had identified actor Ankur Khanna as perfect for the role of Soumyo, the son. Ankur is a fresh face in Bengali film and is familiar with the language as his mother is Bengali. Acclaimed actor-director Suman Mukhopadhyay (Lal) plays a lawyer in the film. Dipankar De play’s Suchismita’s elder brother.  There is a character of a Bihari lift-man - the guy who operates an elevator as is the custom in Kolkata - played by Abhijit Guha (Rana) a director himself (Cross Connection, Prem By Chance etc.). Manasi Sinha  plays a close friend of Suchismita and Kamolika is the lawyers wife. Abosheshey also introduces  FTII graduate Ranjini Chakraborty to Bengali cinema.

The DOP of Abosheshey , Ranjan Palit,, is a 4 time National award winning Documentary film Maker,  a master of the hand-held camera and whose recent films include Saat Khoon Maaf , who agreed to do the film after reading the script. “It’s the most moving Script I’ve ever read” – was his text from New Aditi and Neel.

The film features two songs  by Tagore sung by  Roopa Ganguly herself after a gap of 15 years. Dibyendu and Bonny Chakraborty have performed songs as well. There are two surprise songs in the album . Aditi and Neel are contemplating including one liners that are Roopa’s voice overs in the film as they have heard people repeating them after watching the film. They feel the words are synonymous to their own feelings.

The film has been shot entirely at real locations – the lawyer’s house and office actually belong to a fourth generation lawyer, and Suchismita's apartment is actually Roopa Ganguly's house. “It was so tough to get her to say yes”, said Neel.

Abosheshey has just started going around the film-festival circuit and is an official selection in International Section at International film Festival Of Kerala as well as Talinn Black Nights Film Festival held at Estonia. It features amongst the 20 films chosen from about 90 countries in Eurasia Section and has also recieved A Film Bazar Market Recommendation by NFDC at 2011 IFFI .

The theatrical release is planned in early 2012. Abosheshey is shot on 35mm over a period of 30 days. The 118 minutes film in shot in real locations in Kolkata and south Sikkim and features a  few montage shots at San Francisco.

Interview host: Arijit Chakraborty, WBRi, Toronto, Canada
Article by Supratim Sanyal, WBRi, Washington DC, USA with inputs from Neel B Mitra

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