Interview: Director Agnidev Chatterjee on Bengali Movie CHARULATA 2011, Bugsy Malone's Affair with Rituparna Sengupta and More


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Agnidev ChatterjeeCleveland, Ohio, March 1, 2012 (Washington Bangla Radio) It is always good news for filmmakers if their upcoming projects manage to generate enough curiosity, hype and buzz among movie buffs. Speaking of eagerly anticipated films, they don’t come much bigger than ‘Charulata 2011’, the Agnidev Chatterjee-directed flick that is slated to release on March 2. In an exclusive interview with Arijit Chakrabarty of WBRi, Agnidev talks about his big breakthrough film, ‘Charulata 2011’, his career in the Bengali entertainment industry and a whole lot more.

The interview started off on a cordial note, with the interviewer extending a warm welcome to Agnidev Chatterjee to the studios of Washington Bangla Radio. The humble nature of the director was immediately apparent as he quipped that it was indeed a pleasure to be able to address the audience through this channel. The long-standing desire of Agnidev Chatterjee to get into film direction (and indeed, become a famous director!) was also revealed during the opening exchanges of the interview.

Speaking of his entry into the film industry, Agnidev said that this was his 25th year in the Bengali entertainment sector (kudos to the man for his longevity in this field!). His career had started off with the hit television serial, ‘Chaudhury Pharmaceuticals’ (1987), which, apart from boasting of high television ratings, had generated a fair amount of controversies too. Apart from this, Agnidev had also worked for several other serials and television programs. The voice of the director beamed with pride as he said that he already had more than 5000 hours of television programming behind him.


Watch the Trailer of Charulata 2011 (Bengali, 2012) Feature Film

As the interview moved on, Agnidev let us know that he had directed his first full-length feature film, ‘Probhu Noshto Hoi Jai’(Lord, Let the Devil steal My Soul!), in the year 2007. The movie had been screened at the Kolkata Film Festival as well as the Kerala Film Festival and had managed to garner considerable critical acclaim too. Unfortunately for general viewers though, the movie did not have a proper theatrical release. Agnidev was candid enough in admitting that his general lack of interest in trying to contact movie distributors regularly may have, at least in part, contributed to the film not being able to have a wide release in cinema halls.

The passion for work and the determined nature of Agnidev Chatterjee soon came to the fore, as he revealed that, making ‘Charulata’ had been his wish since 2008 – a wish that he had been able to fulfill in 2011 (that truly speaks volumes about his commitment!).

Hot Bengali Actress Rituparna Sengupta Scene with Dibyendu from Charulata 2011The conversation then turned to Agnidev’s much-awaited big release, ‘Charulata 2011’. While explaining that the film was (of course!) a contemporary adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore’s classic, ‘Noshtonir’, the director stated that the plot, in essence, was an extremely modern and sophisticated one (so much so that, even if ‘Noshtonir’ were to be made after a hundred years, it would still find widespread acceptance among viewers!). Agnidev said that he had, on the whole, stayed loyal to the original plot-structure of ‘Noshtonir’, but had incorporated certain elements in his film to suit the modern sensibilities of today’s audience. Agnidev mentioned the extensive usage of internet and online social networking facilities that had been showcased in ‘Charulata 2011’ as a prime example of how he had tried to provide the movie with a contemporary look and feel. According to the filmmaker, the general values and human beliefs of the characters of ‘Noshtonir’, however, remained the same in the film.

Quite inevitably, the discussion now moved on to the fact that ‘Agnidev’s ‘Charulata 2011’ is already being compared to the Satyajit Ray-directed, Madhabi Mukherjee-starrer, cult classic, ‘Charulata’ (1964). The director reiterated that his film was not at all a remake of the hugely popular earlier film. The only common feature between the two movies was that, they were adapted from the same literary source (‘Noshtonir’). As Agnidev (quite correctly!) pointed out, many films shared the same central theme (including Aparna Sen’s ‘Parama’ and even the Hollywood hit, ‘Unfaithful’) and it would be unfair to brand ‘Charulata 2011’ as a mere remake of ‘Charulata’. Speaking about remakes, Agnidev Chatterjee also said that few people were actually aware of the fact that the immensely successful Hindi flick, ‘Muqqaddar Ka Sikander’ was a ‘clever remake’ of ‘Devdas’. The director displayed an in-depth knowledge of what type of movies qualified as remakes and categorically stated that ‘Charulata 2011’ was definitely not one of them.

Agnidev Chatterjee also recounted several memorable incidents that happened during the shooting stint of ‘Charulata 2011’. In particular, Agnidev related a hilarious incident that involved his own boxer pet dog, ‘Bugsy Malone’ (quite innovatively named, one must say!). The animal had, during the shooting of the film, grown extremely fond (‘fallen in love’, as the director put it!) of Rituparna Sengupta. In fact, the dog had grown to like the ace actress so much that he even tried to bite anyone who even tried to touch the latter. During an intimate scene that was shot (featuring Rituparna and Arjun Chakrabarty) during the film, the dog created a quite memorable incident. He had gone ahead and bit the other leading actor of the movie, Dibyendu Mukherjee (who was watching the scene on a monitor at the sets!) right on his nose! Fortunately, the actor did not require stitches but the incident remained etched in the memories of everyone related to the film. Agnidev fondly said that, to this day, his pet dog simply loved to hear Rituparna’s voice (some crush that, what say?!).

The director sounded extremely confident when asked about his expectations from ‘Charulata 2011’. Agnidev assured that viewers who love good Bengali cinema would definitely find ‘Charulata 2011’ much to their liking, provided that they walked into the theatres with an open mind and did not carry any pre-conceived notions about the film. While Chatterjee admitted that comparisons with the earlier movie would, of course, be inevitable, he urged viewers to see his film as a totally independent movie.

During the interview, Agnidev Chatterjee also provided a sneak peek into the storyline of ‘Charulata 2011’. In the movie, Rituparna Sengupta plays the central character, ‘Chaiti’. Her facebook profile id is ‘Charulata 2011’ (hence the name of the film!) and it is through this social networking site that she comes across a young man, who uses the username ‘Amal’. ‘Bikramjit’, the husband of ‘Chaiti’, has little time for the latter, since he remains too wrapped up with his editorial work at a top newspaper agency. This leads to a general feeling of loneliness in ‘Chaiti’, who decides to have a fling with his online friend, ‘Amal’ (although the two have never met earlier). ‘Amal’ flows down from London to Kolkata and has a whirlwind one-night stand with ‘Chaiti’. The next morning, however, the latter tells ‘Amal’ that they would never meet again and returns home. ‘Chaiti’ takes a long bath (in a bid to wash away her sins and guilt) and receives the shock of his life the moment she steps out into the drawing room. Her brother-in-law had arrived and he is none other than the person who had posed as ‘Amal’ and with whom ‘Chaiti’ shares a secret relationship! The film reaches its interval at this point (we are already hooked!). The director states that, ‘Chaiti’, ‘Amal’ and ‘Bikramjit’ were the three main protagonists of his film.

Speaking about the other members of the cast of ‘Charulata 2011’, Agnidev Chatterjee reveals a star-studded line-up for his film. Popular character artist Dolon Roy plays the role of ‘Mondar Bouthan’ in the movie, which also has Kaushik Sen, Chhanda Chatterjee, Riya Pal and Sudarshan Chakrabarty, along with a bevy of other accomplished performers.

Agnidev Chatterjee also highlighted the importance of music in ‘Charulata 2011’ (just like any other well-crafted Bengali movie). The movie featured the first Bengali recorded song of Ustad Rashid Khan (now, that’s something!). The song had been recorded way back in 2007, but was only now being used in this 2012 flick. The movie also had two beautifully rendered songs by Rupankar and one by Subhamita Banerjee. In addition, there was also a soulful Rabindrasangeet (‘Noyono Tomare’) in the film. According to the director, the album of ‘Charulata 2011’ was an ‘interesting package’. The background music of the film also helped the narrative move forward, stated Agnidev.

Moving on to discussions about life after ‘Charulata 2011’, Agnidev Chatterjee revealed that he had a big project, ‘Bangla Film Industry’ next in pipeline. The movie was about a Bengali superstar who writes a biography about the Tollywood industry. However, the star dies soon thereafter, and the film captures the reactions of the industry insiders on reading the biography, after his death. The film would feature several renowned names from the Bengali film fraternity, according to the director.

The conversation reverted back to Agnidev’s unreleased film, ‘Probhu Noshto Hoi Jai’. The director sounded happy as he stated that, many distributors were now coming forward to help in the theatrical release of the movie, which would, hopefully, hit the screens in May this year. In addition to releasing the movie in Bengal, Agnidev Chatterjee also expressed a keen desire that movie-lovers from the US should also be able to view both ‘Probhu Noshto Hoi Jai’ as well as ‘Charulata 2011’. Agnidev indeed came across as a director who truly cared for viewers as he expressed his wish that his films should be available for viewing for one and all.

The interview concluded with Agnidev Chatterjee being thanked for being able to take time out from his busy schedule to chat with WBRi. The director also sounded gracious as he bid farewell to the listeners and expressed his belief that his film, ‘Charulata 2011’, would be uniformly liked by cinegoers.

We wish Agnidev Chatterjee (and, of course, ‘Charulata 2011’!) all the very best. Tollywood needs more sincere and committed directors and Agnidev definitely looks set to join the big league with aplomb!

Guest: Bengali Film-Maker Agnidev Chatterjee, Kolkata, India
Host: Arijit Chakraborty, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Recording, Editing: Supratim Sanyal, Washington DC, USA
Article: Penning Creations, Kolkata, India

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