Interview: SRIJON BARDHAN - Debutante Director of POSTMASTER (2016) New Bangla Movie

By J P Mandal and Asmita Mukherjee, WBRINN (newsdesk.kolkata@washingtonbanglaradio.com)

Actress Pujarini Ghosh with Director Srijon Bardhan
Lead Actress Pujarini Ghosh with Director Srijon Bardhan of POSTMASTER (Bengali, 2016)

Kolkata, India, June 27 - Srijon Bardhan, who made his directorial debut with the new Kolkata Bengali movie ‘Postmaster’ (2016), is neck deep in promoting the film along with his lead actors Pujarini Ghosh and Ishaan Majumdar. The debutant director chatted with Washington Bangla Radio about Postmaster just before his film opened in Kolkata, talking about his background and more. Excerpts:

WBRi: How did you come to filmmaking ?

Srijon: I had the habit of visualising the stories I used to read. Soon I got the knack of editing videos when I was in high school. I also have a considerable background of musical training. I have also spent a few years in the theatre circuit too. I used to take part regularly in dramas since my school days.  During my college days, I realised that if I want to put all the skills I have developed from these activities into one single platform, it will be nothing other than a movie. Cinema was the only platform where I could exercise all the things I was pursuing. During my college days I made my first short film titled ‘Jodi’. That marked my venturing into filmmaking. Though it was a very amateurish effort but it received positive reviews which gave me much confidence. Next I made my second short film, this time with professional cast and crew. This too got positive reviews from everyone I showed it to. Next I started preparing for venturing into full length movie. All the while I was gestating the concept of ‘Postmaster’ and was bent on making it my debut movie.

WBRi:  Aspiring filmmakers generally gain experience by assisting established directors before directing their own films. What made you jump that stage?

Ishaan Majumdar with Director Srijon Bardhan
Lead Actor Ishaan Majumdar with Director Srijon Bardhan of POSTMASTER (Bengali, 2016)

Srijon: I did try my luck in assisting directors. I even registered myself as an assistant director in EIMPA. Most of the directors I contacted for assisting actually discouraged me from coming into filmmaking. But I was determined not to get derailed from my ambition of making a film. So I set out to direct my own film rather than assisting others.

WBRi: Why did you choose Rabindranath Tagore’s Postmaster which has been already  made into film by someone like Satyajit Ray?

Srijon:  Yes, Satyajit Ray made the film ‘Postmaster’ with the exact story written by Tagore while my version of ‘Postmaster’ is not the exact story but an adaptation of the story with a different storyline. I have made many changes and additions which will be entirely new thing for the audience. The essence of the story is the same but I have taken into a different period and have drawn more characters than the original story. That is the reason why the credit of the film says ‘Story and direction by Srijon Bardhan and adapted from the story by Tagore.

WBRi: What made you pick Postmaster among all the stories available to adapt from?

Srijon : Since the day I had read Postmaster I always felt that this story surely has something before the point it starts and has something after it has ended. I personally could not accept the fact that the story ended so abruptly. I always had imagined that Tagore may have had written few more pages but somehow those have got lost. For example, in the story we find that the Postmaster had gone to Ulapur but never find where he comes from or anything about his family background. We read the platonic love between Postmaster and Ratna which Tagore had been beautifully put into words. But somewhere I felt that it was incomplete. So I started expanding the story and conceived what the audience will see in my film.

WBRI: Tell more about the changes you have made in the storyline of Postmaster.

Srijon: There are many differences in my adaptation of Postmaster. Rabindranath’s Postmaster is basically a linear story set in the same timeframe but my film is a non-linear one and has different time frames in it. Also there are multiple generations in the film which is another big difference from Tagore’s story. The biggest difference is in the climax which the audience will have to see in theatres.

WBRi: Your movie does not have any big star and both of your lead actors are new faces. What are your thoughts  for such a casting?

Srijon Bardhan
Director Srijon Bardhan, POSTMASTER (Bengali, 2016)

Srijon: I wanted good actors rather than big stars. I did approach a few big names but could not afford them as we did not have a very big budget. I was very confident about the strength of my script and I went for new faces as I believed that if the script is good, star faces are not required for a successful film.  The characterisation of Ishaan and Pujarini, the two lead actors of the film are very strong. Nanda Sen, the postmaster in my film has three different shades. Ishaan though went through auditon for getting selected in the film, I had seen my Postmaster in him. He resembled so much the Postmaster I had visualised. When I first saw Pujarini, she looked very glamourous, just like any present day model. But when I auditioned her, I found that she is also a very strong actress. She had great scope of showing her acting talent in this film and has done that perfectly.

WBRi: Apart from being the director of the film, you are also the music director, story and script writer of the film. What was the biggest challenge in handling so many things at a time?

Srijon: The biggest challenge was to ensure that the entire film should be made well. For that purpose every aspect of the film needs to be executed with care. I built the film bit by bit ensuring that every part of it is perfect.

WBRi: Would you ever like to be a music director only if an offer comes?

Srijon: Why not? I consider director Srijon Bardhan, Music director and Scriptwriter Srijon Bardhan are  different entities. In this film they have managed to work together. If any film demands that only one of them will work for it, he definitely will.

I started making the music of the film from the year 2013. I was very sure about music as I am into it since childhood. The biggest challenge was actually making this film in such a small budget and that’s too in an outdoor location which has no infrastructure at all. Moreover we shot in the freezing winter season but portraying summer. The actors faced the most extreme challenge as they had to wear summer clothes in that chilling weather.

WBRi: How was the experience of working in Plassey?

Srijon: It was a very unique experience to shoot at Plassey. Perhaps it was the first time that an entire movie has been shot at Plassey. Thousands of people used to flock around us while shooting as if we were shooting with big stars like Prosenjit or Jeet. I was even told that the head count of the crowd even reached to around one lakh. We were shooting at a place called Ramnagar which was around 2 hours away from Baharampur and around an hour away from Shaktipur. While we were shooting an entire new route for auto rickshaws cropped up there which was known as Shaktipur to shooting spot of Ramnagar and the fare was sixty bucks per person. Still people used to come there in huge numbers. Also a number of temporary stalls selling sugarcane juice, nuts, sweetmeats and other things started to assemble at our shooting spot. The cops also had a hard time in managing the crowd. Even they had not anticipated so much crowd. Also there were regular requests from many persons for an interaction with us. One day I got very angry and shouted to them that I was not here to meet  and interact with them, but to shoot my film. They firmly replied “We came here spending sixty bucks to watch your shoot. What would it take to meet us for a minute?” then I realised what it meant to them to be in a shooting spot.

Moreover we involved a lot of local resources from that places and all the persons we incorporated are blessed with huge talents and potential.

WBRi: What are the high points in the film for which the audience should watch it?

Srijon: The entire film is a high point. There is no low point in the film at all. The film starts with a moment which produces a suspense and also ends with a climax which will shock the audience. The editing of the film is very tight and no slow moment has been allowed. This will keep the audience glued to their seats. Also the film is full of moments which will touch every emotion known to human. So the audience will go through a roller coaster ride of emotions while watching the film.