Interview: Subhrajit Mitra on his new Bangla movie CHORABALI (2016) - Exclusive

By Sovan Chakraborty/WBRINN

Audio: an interview with Subhrajit Mitra about Chorabali (Bengali, 2016) and more
WBRi on-demand audio broadcast service

Subhrajit MitraKolkata, Jan 22 (Washington Bangla Radio) - The remarkable young Kolkata-based film-maker Subhrajit Mitra returns to WBRi to talk about his new Bengali feature film “Chorabali” that opened today. As you know, after outstanding documentaries, Subhrajit debuted with his intellectually stimulating feature film Mon Amour: Shesher Kobita Revisited (2008) and followed up with AGUNPAKHI The Phoenix (2010). His next project was "DUI BON", a Indian-Bangladeshi joint venture, was adapted from the Tagore story to feature Tagore himself, Mahatma Gandhi and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. Subhrajit's WANGALA on Garo tribes in the North-eastern Himalayan foothills was well appreciated in the international film festival circuit. He had also been commissioned for six documentaries by Doordarshan, and has made a full 52-episode television series in collaboration with the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).

Interview: SUBHRAJIT MITRA - Director of Bengali movies AGUNPAKHI (The Phoenix), Mon Amour: Shesher Kobita Revisited, Wangala

In this interview, Subhrajit talks about Chorabali (2016) inside out, yet with judicious caution avoiding spoilers. The story is inspired by classic western thrillers of which he is an avid follower. He shares a few perspectives of his new psychological thriller from his unique director's point of view, and also talks about characterization, modern trends of depicting sleuths in cinemas, and measurement of success in the industry and film awards.

Subhrajit MitraThe young director wanted to make films from childhood and talks of the experiences he gathered from his earlier years in the industry through assisting directors and making documentaries. His future projects will continue to be diverse, he says. He speaks of the nuances of film music in a classical thriller. He proposes an innovative grading system over censorship of cinema in India (and we at WBRi completely agree, given Prakash Jha's recent experience with the Censor Board). He admits to being a perfectionist, and talks about managing the budget and circumstantial conditions to make this film. He expresses a desire to work with ‘superstars’ of the industry. Here is a transcript of the fascinating conversation with one of the smartest of contemporary Bengali film-makers.

Subhrajit: As a director I present different kind of Projects to a producer. Mr Pradip Chudiwal, the producer of my film has a liking for thrillers. Almost all the projects till date by his production house has been thrillers. Thrillers are also good as revenue earners.

WBRi: How did you think of this story (of Chorabali)?

Subhrajit: I am a voracious reader of Western classical thrillers. I used to read anything and everything. When you read so many stories and novels, different plots and concepts tend to pop up in your mind. This plot too struck me like that. My team and I sat down together and jotted ideas down, and the plot of the film eventually coalesced.

WBRi: How do you select your actors? Is it the script by which you chose the cast or do you have the cast in your mind first and then modify the script accordingly?

Subhrajit Mitra's DUI BON (2012) Bengali Movie to go on the Floors

Subhrajit: It is always the script that comes first. I think the script forms the skeleton of a film.

WBRi:  How did you come into making films?

A still from new Bengali movie Chorabali (2016)
Chorabali - a film still

Subhrajit: I always wanted to make films. I nourished this dream from my teens. Films have been my world since 8th grade at school.

WBRi:  Did you have to struggle in your early years?

Subhrajit: There is nothing dramatic about it. I started with assisting a few directors, including Rituporno Ghosh. In the mean time I also made many documentaries. Most of them were for Doordarshan and National Geographic. I had also made documentaries for the BSF and Indian Home Ministry. Then I made two full length films (Mon amour and Agunpakhi). So those years may be considered my "growing up" years rather than struggling years.

WBRi: Your favorite director?

Actress Tanushree Chakraborty in Bengali movie Chorabali (2016)
Tanushree Chakraborty in Chorabali (2016)

Subhrajit: Steven Spielberg. He is an inspiration for me.

WBRi: Chorabali has only one song. Do you consider it a bold move?

Chorabali (2016) Bangla Movie: Music and Trailer Release

Subhrajit: No not at all. Do you find songs in a Hitchcock movie? Songs are not always a must for a film to be commercially successful. Even Feluda and Byomkesh movies never had songs but are very successful. So no, not having multiple songs is not at all a bold move.

WBRi: Coming to success, what does it mean to you? What kind of success satisfies you most - critical or commercial?

Actor Shataf Figar in Bangla movie Chorabali (2016)
Shataf Figar in Chorabali (2016)

Subhrajit: For me as a creative person, critical acclaim is important. But having commercial success is necessary too. If my films do not generate revenue and I can’t return the investment of the producers I would not get a producer for my next project.

WBRi: Do you think awards are necessary?

Barun Chanda
Barun Chanda in Chorabali

Subhrajit: Awards are definitely necessary. They are recognition for hard work involved.

WBRi: Your view on censorship?

Prakash Jha's Jai Gangaajal: finally cleared practically as-is by Film Certification Appellate Tribunal of Censor Board Of Film Certification

Subhrajit: Why should there be Censorship? There should be a grading system but not censorship. This is a free country. Having censorship is like living under a dictatorship. (Note: In India, a government controlled film censor board decides what ratings to assign films and what needs to be cut or dubbed out for appropriate audiences).

WBRi: Your future projects.

Chorabali 2016 Bengali Film Unit - Cast and Crew
Some members of Chorabali (2016) Bengali Film Unit

Subhrajit: There are a few projects I am planning for. A couple of them are Hindi film projects and there is also an English project.

WBRi: Your experiences while shooting for Chorabali?

Chorabali 2016 Bengali Movie: Official Film Poster

Subhrajit.: The shooting schedule was very tough and hectic as we had to complete the shoot under a strict deadline. For someone like me, who tries to be a perfectionist, this kind of packed rigid schedule is very demanding. There was no scope for having lighter moments on the sets. But still, everything got along nicely and the shooting was completed well within the time-frame.

WBRi: In spite of having such a large cast you completed the shooting within a very short time. How did you managed to do so?

Chorabali 2016 Bengali Movie: Official Film Poster

Subhrajit: I had to make the film in a very tight budget. That meant that I could not take too many days for the shoot as the number of days is directly proportional to expense. But it doesn’t mean that we compromised on the quality. I am not that chalta hai type director who will compromise. I am very particular about every little thing I want.

Chorabali is running in theaters to excellent response. We congratulate the young director and look forward to his future Hindi, English and Bengali films.