Interview: Film-Maker Ruhul Amin on HASON RAJA Bangla Movie Starring Mithun Chakraborty and Raima Sen

By Romuz Uddin

Ruhul Amin and Raima Sen shooting for Hason Raja
Director Ruhul Amin and Actress Raima Sen at shooting location for Hason Raja

London, UK, May 8, 2013 (Washington Bangla Radio): Ruhul Amin makes films around the life of the Bangladeshi community in the East End of London. Ruhul’s films are very lyrical, creating a mesmerizing intensity and evoking a poetic feel. He depicts the experience of migrant life with great care and dignity. His films are critically well received around the world and have been likened to the early films of Vittorio De Sica and Satyajit Ray.

Bangla movie Hason Raja: Director Ruhul Amin and Actor Mithun Chakraborty.JPG
Director Ruhul Amin and Actor Mithun Chakraborty

Ruhul's latest venture is ‘Hason Raja’. This correspondent had a preview of a pre-editing rush print of Hason Raja. He talks to the film-maker about its development and how he managed to capture cinematic beauty on celluloid.

Romuz:  Mithun Chakraborty and Raima Sen perform in this song where Hason walks around the pond in an ancient looking forest covered with mist. Raima Sen is seen on a swing under a tree with birds singing around. The beauty of Raima and the tranquilizing atmosphere of nature evoke the poet in a deep philosophical quest, he sings ‘Rup Dekelam Re Noyoney’ sung by Shaan.

Raima is on gliding on the swing, spring water flows over the huge black rocks. Wind blows her hair, captured in slow motion, synchronized with the orchestration as if the piece of music was created for that particular moment. Raima moves across the forest projecting her charm and intoxicating beauty. Under a stunning waterfall she gracefully displays her sensuous beauty. Hason carries on singing, his inner fulfillment shines through his eyes and yet a sense of longing prevails. At a moment when the camera is on Raima under the waterfall, she raises her two arms in slow motion enjoying the flow of water in dazzling satisfaction. Dancers prance around and the poet walks away maintaining his pride and dignity.

I must say I grew up watching Bengali films, yet have never seen anything so refreshing and with such spectacular moments you managed to capture. Tell me how did you manage to achieve all this cinematic splendor?

Raima Sen

Ruhul: Firstly a film-maker has to have a very clear aesthetic vision right from the beginning of the scripting stage. Yes I wanted to capture every single shot in minute details, reflecting meaningful depiction and use every movement of the camera and slow motion precisely for a purpose. And if all the elements synchronize together some cinematic aesthetic can be achieved. Of course to create all that proper planning is required. For Hason Raja we have gathered the best technicians, artists and craftsmen both from Bangladesh and India. We are shooting on Super 35mm camera and using the best and varied range of prime lenses to maintain clarity of the images and to capture the stunning beauty of rural Bangladesh.

Romuz: The moment when Mithun appears on the screen with the first line of the song ‘Rup Dekelam Re Noyoney’, his calm wise expression portraying total inner fulfillment fills the screen with an overwhelming intensity, rare in films.  What method did you use to mold his character?

Mithun Chakraborty as Hason Raja
Mithun Chakraborty as Hason Raja

Ruhul: I'm glad you picked up the subtle moments of Hason Raja that have been reincarnated by Mithun in that song. I went through an extensive analysis on the poet's quest and the metaphorical aspect of the songs. I molded the poet's character reflecting his passion for divine beauty, his dilemma, his inner trauma and his longing for love. Of course all this is very abstract for an actor to grasp what that character all about. I broke down a few segments of his character based on his philosophical vision and taking out certain nuances and molded the character to reflect the poet's journey.

As you know Mithun-da is one of the most powerful actors of our time and he was able to grasp fully what Hason Raja was all about and he contributed a great deal in molding the character.

Romuz: What was it like workin with Raima Sen and Arman Parvez Murad ?

Mithun Chakraborty, Ruhul Amin
Mithun Chakraborty, Ruhul Amin

Ruhul: For the last few years I had a series of meetings with Raima in Mumbai and Kolkata and had a great discussion on her character. She is absolutely professional and a very talented actress. A very new dimension of her screen charisma in Hason Raja will make a land mark.

Arman is a very well known performer of Bangladesh world of theater, TV and cinema. His powerful presence in the film is another added dimension.

Romuz: Yes there are touches of breathtaking beauty in every frame. At the same time there is striking camera movement capturing a lyrical flow. Was all that planed originally?

Ruhul Amin and Mithun Chakraborty
Ruhul Amin and Mithun Chakraborty

Ruhul: Yes this is part of the stylization I envisaged right from the conceptualization of the film. This is partly to do with the quest of the poet. His mysticism and deep-rooted philosophy are ingrained in the eye-catching landscape of rural Bangladesh that evokes a poetic feel. Our utmost effort to capture a visual poetry requires rhythmic camera motion and particular kinds of lighting, smoke, fog, wind and dressing up every frame of the landscape to create an image reflecting painting like effects. What you have just seen is just one light rush print for editing. Finally the whole film will go through a digital intermediate process where the color and other visual effects will be enhanced. And since this is a cinema-scope film everything on the big screen will increase for a greater magnitude.

Romuz: The action sequence is another astonishing part of the film. Two separate actions sequences take place simultaneously. Arman Parvez Murad is Hason's close companion and like a general performs a stunning stick fight. He is ambushed by a group of fighters and he superbly swings his stick and flattens everyone out. Hason is surrounded by a group of swordsmen. They charge him ruthlessly. Jumping in from every direction, some of them fly over his head and Hason swings his sword and blood flickers out across the screen in a dramatic way. There is even a moment when Hason pauses, when drops of blood drip off the sword are captured in close up.

Never in the history of Bengali film such spectacular action was achieved. This reminded me of the very well known Chinese film called Hero by Zhang Yimou. Tell me how all that came about?

Ruhul: Hero is one of my favourite action films. But of course we could not contemplate creating anything similar to Hero. Our film is not an entire action film, plus it is of a very different genre. I wanted to create something unique for our film than a traditional sword fight. I went to a great length to find a stunt choreographer who was familiar with that particular sword fighting technique. Eventually I found someone and conveyed every move to the choreographer, which was finally coordinated with Mithun-da and all the stuntmen. As you can see we used wires and harnesses to fly bodies over the head, which creates some magnificent moments on the big screen. I hope this will create some sensation in the world of Bengali cinema.

Romuz: The attackers ride on horseback through fields.

As they cross the fields just before attacking Hason, camera on long tracks, on crane and various angles, cover in the most impressive manner. I must say this is another breathtaking aspect of Hason Raja. It reminds me of some epic western films of Hollywood. Why did you go to this length just to capture a simple horse ride?

Ruhul: This was the precise idea to film a simple horse ride which should be so magnificent that no one takes their eyes off the screen and everyone enjoys its full visual impact. As the horses rush through the field towards the action ground, a fearful vibe will be created with the sounds of horse’s feet sweeping across the screen like an earthquake. The tracks will be designed into multi-layer sound effects in Dolby Digital surround sound adding another dimension to this film. I intend to echo every melodious natural sound of rural Bangladesh. So this is not just a visually stunning film with a powerful story, but it will also regenerate authentic ambient sound effects of the landscape and some of the lost tranquilizing effects such as certain insects' and birds' songs.

Romuz: Hason Raja is a magnificent epic commercial film.

Why this a big shift from your previous films. Tell me about the main spirit behind this big venture?

Ruhul: Although I grew up in England and studied film here, I grew up watching Bengali films both of Bangladesh and West Bengal. I don't need to say much on the richness of Bengali cinema. Directors like Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Gatak, Zahir Raihan, Subhas Dutta and many other world-class filmmakers have contributed to soul-searching films to the platform of world cinema. And Bangladesh has a large film industry that created excellent commercial films during the Black and white era. Unfortunately there was a decline soon after the liberation war. Very recently there have been positive developments in the film industry. We are aware of the significant economic growth and admirable achievements in various fields. And the dynamism of the Bengali people and their fight against eradicating poverty and creating a respectable nation is very vividly visible.

The world knows about our greatest literary figures. Just think about the abundant untapped wealth of our folklore, where hundreds of years ago artists were in a quest of deep human philosophy and propagated humanism, love, equality and harmonious coexistence.

There are extraordinary talented film makers from the independent and the commercial film industry struggling just to make a change in cinema.

A proud nation hindering sixty-four millions, doesn't deserve to be deprived of their film heritage. Someone like me to an extent has the luxury of taking Bengali cinema in a new direction in terms of technology and scale of production to reach cinema buffs around the globe. I’m prepared to go to any length to make films for the world platform and to present one of the most dynamic and richest cultures of the world.

Romuz: We know previously you've received one of the most prestigious awards from the British Film Institute and from German and Hawaii film festivals. Recently you were awarded the Shah Abdul Karim award for your contribution to art and culture by the Television Channel S. How do you feel about this recognition and particularly receiving it from His Excellency the Bangladeshi High Commissioner?

Ruhul: This has provided me with an inspiration to sustain the most daunting task of filmmaking. At the same time I see its other greater significance. Through the recognition of my contribution it reminds the upcoming filmmakers around the country that, film is one of most vital and powerful art forms. We come from a rich tradition of Bengali Cinema, plus we are residing in the midst of brilliant British filmmakers. There is no lack of inspiration. I hope in the future we will see many upcoming film makers approaching with their wonderful work.

Romuz: When can we expect to see the film?

Ruhul: Towards the end of this year we will shoot the rest of the film and hopefully by mid next year it will be in cinemas.