Interview: Bengali Film-maker Sanghamitra Chaudhuri & her films BIDEHIR KHONJE RABINDRANATH, ROOH, STRINGS OF PASSION & more

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[Tollywood Kolkata Bengali Movie Writer-Director Sanghamitra Chaudhuri]Washington DC, April 17, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio) Sanghamitra Chaudhuri, the young and talented Bengali film-maker from Kolkata, chats with Arijit Chakraborty about her films in this audio interview. At the time of the interview, her new film Jibon Rong Berong had just opened in theaters in Calcutta. Her forthcoming films include Bidehir Khonje Rabindranath - a film on an unexplored aspect of Rabindranath Tagore, Strings of Passion, a movie on alternative lifestyles, ROOH - a film about a HIV-positive girl and so on (more about these films below).

Bidehir Khonje Rabindranath is set for release on Ponchishe (25th) Boishakh this year that also marks Rabindranath Tagore's 150th birth anniversary. Rabindranath Tagore had gone through great personal losses over his life - he endured the deaths of Notun Bouthan Kadambari Debi, his wife Mrinalini Devi, his daughter Madhabilata and son Soumendranath. Tagore is known to have attempted planchets, trying to reach his departed loved ones on the other side. Bidehir Khonje Rabindranath is a docu-feature on Tagore's longing for the departed souls. Listen to Sanghamitra talk about her film where a group of today's Bengali youngsters who are disconnected with the richness of their own culture visit Shantiniketan to have an extended party, but get involved with Rabindranath's legacy. The film has a release date of May 13, 2011 and stars Abhishek Chatterjee, Arpita Mukherjee, Anghsuman, Souradeep, Indrani, Sangeeta, Arindam Biswas and more.

BIDEHIR KHONJE RABINDRANATH - Bangla Cinema PosterAnother upcoming film by Sanghamitra is ROOH - a film about a HIV-positive girl travelling to the spectacular Himalayan mountains and how she surrenders herself to the mighty Kanchenjunga.

The writer-director also talks about her upcoming film in Hindi titled Strings Of Passion - a feature film that is a collage of three short films with a common thread. This one is about three men who, in college, were members of a band called "Strings of Passion". Later in his life, one of the friends tries to trace the other two, and finds one of them has died. The circumstances of the death subsequently defines the story of the film.

Sanghamitra holds a Masters degree in Journalism from the University of Calcutta. She was actually planning on a career in journalism, and started working with media organizations like Doordarshan (the quasi-government owned Indian Television channel), All India Radio, Anandabazar Patrika, Aajkal etc. She would create audio and video programming on subjects identified by her clients, often times also using cameras and equipment provided by the clients as well. Subsequently, Sanghamitra was appointed as the PRO (public relations officer) to help out with public relations for a large entertainment company.

Sanghamitra has always had a powerful creative streak in her - she is an artist from a very young age, and after having the opportunity to work as a PRO and being involved with all aspects of film-making, it was natural for her to want to make her own films telling her stories her own way.

She gave up her job as a PRO and started working with documentary and advertising films. A stint with a NGO provided her the opportunity to make a significant number of documentaries. Eventually, with inspiration from a mentor (who was experimenting with Satellite Theater), Sanghamitra made her first feature film - Chakra (2007) [Buy Bengali film on DVD in USA]. You will hear Sanghamitra talk about Chakra in retrospect and will surely find the director's own analysis of her first film pretty interesting.

Sanghamitra speaks proudly, and justifiably so, about her next film - Raat Porir Rupkatha (2007) [online DVD release in USA] - a film she made with meticulous care and with a minuscule budget. Raat Porir Rupkatha is her first released film, as Chakra was released later though completed earlier. Sanghamitra did not have to look back after that, films kept happening one after another and that's how it is continuing at present.

Sanghamitra dwells on the lack of funds in Bengali cinema - a difficult problem to solve, given the relatively small audience of Bengali films. Regardless, she is continuing to try to make interesting films on a variety of subjects and try different things.

The film-maker speaks very fondly of her feature film Jeena: The Endless Love (2009) [DVD release] - it is a finely crafted psychological drama based on an extraodrinary story, and did remarkably well given the troubles and challenges of production compounded by an ill-timed release. Sanghamitra plans to make Jeena in Hindi as well in the future.

Premer Phande Kakatua (2009) is Sanghamitra's way of experimenting with comedy - the director says comedy is not really her genre, but she still wanted to try one. The film tends polarize the audience - people either relish it or despise it, says Sanghamitra.

Rahashya - The Bhoutik (2009) [DVD release] is directed by Sanghamitra, but the story and script are not by her - and different from her other films in that regard. She is also not particularly enthusiastic about this film of hers, as you will hear her saying.

Sanghamitra shares with us her thoughts about her current film Jibon Rong Berong (2011) from her unique perspective of the director. The film is based on a true story, and was made a couple of years earlier. It's release now is very welcome, but one must remember the style and trends of the time it was made in to fully appreciate it.

Here is wishing Sanghamitra all the very best from Washington Bangla Radio !

Sanghamitra Chaudhuri's prior films include Raat Porir Rupkatha (2007) [buy Bengali Film DVD in USA] starring Bollywood veteran Jackie Shroff with Indrani Haldar;  Jeena: The Endless Love (2009) [DVD] starring Soham, Abhishek Chatterjee, Indrani Haldar, and Arpita Mukherjee with music by Shamik Sinha; Chakra (2007) [DVD] starring Jishu Sengupta, Koel Banerjee, Rajatava Dutta, Rupa Bhattacharya and Manoj Mitra with music by Saikat Deb; Rahasya The Bhoutik (2009) [DVD] starring Soham, Abhishek Chatterjee, Chandni Dey, Swarna Kamal Dutta, Debashree Roy and Sumit Ganguly with music by Debasish Chowdhury; and Premer Phande Kakatua (2009) starring Jishu Sengupta, Aishwarya Basu , Biswanath Basu, Jayjit Banerjee, Kanchan Mullick, Kaushik Chakraborthy, Rupanjana, Tanima Sen, Paran Bandhopadhyay, Siddhartha , Lama and Priyambada Sarkar. In addition, Sanghamitra has also directed acclaimed documentaries and a slew of advertisements.