Interview: Film-Maker Srijit Mukherji on Bengali Movie "BAISHE SRABON" & the Remarkable Journey of "AUTOGRAPH" (WBRi Exclusive)

Click Play to Listen to Writer-Director Srijit Mukherji on Bengali Movies Baishe Srabon (2011) & Autograph (2010)
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Picture: Srijit Mukherji & Prosenjit Chatterjee (C) WBRi Inc.Guest: Srijit Mukherji, Kolkata, India
Host: Arijit Chakraborty, Toronto, Canada
Recording, Editing & Article By Supratim Sanyal, Washington, DC, USA

Washington DC, July 31, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio) Srijit Mukherji returns to our studios after exactly one year to chat with Arijit Chakraborty about his upcoming 2nd Bengali feature film Baishe Shrabon and the remarkable response to his debut film Autograph. At the time of our last interview (audio available on-line here), Srijit was in the final stages of post-production of Autograph. Little did we know at that time that Autograph would go on to cause such an upheaval in Bengali cinema, winning an unprecedented 38 awards so far and setting a box-office performance record in recent times of an almost 4-month run!

At the time of this chit-chat with Srijit, he is wrapping up his 2nd feature film Baishe Shrabon which is at the final stages of post-production and almost ready to release around Durga Puja 2011.

BAISHE SRABON BENGALI MOVIE POSTER WALLPAPER"After Autograph, I wanted to make something that is diametrically opposite", says Srijit about his forthcoming film. "I have always been a thriller buff".

If Autograph were represented by a color, it would be feel-good white - or perhaps slightly grey. But Baishe Shrabon is going to be darker.

The script for Baishe Shrabon was written in 2008 (for a tele-film broadcast on STAR Jalsha Bengali TV channel owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation). Srijit is no stranger to the thriller - he has written and directed live drama (theater) productions like the English play "MINDGAMES", Bengali play "FELUDA FEROT" (a vision of Feluda's later days from the perspective of Feluda's arch enemy Maghanlal Meghraj), and the play "CHECKMATE", and worked as an assistant director with Anjan Dutta (interview) for Madly Bengali and Aparna Sen (interview) for Iti Mrinalini. Incidentally, Aparna Sen's Iti Mrinalini opened in theaters this weekend along with Riingo Banerjee's (interview) System.

With Baishe Shrabon, Srijit says he wanted to explore genres of the drama and the thriller, violence, and Bangla poetry. Indeed, the producers are using the words "musical thriller" for the film, the oxymoronic labeling adding to the anticipation!

The film-maker himself describes it as being about the dark underbelly of Kolkata, a history of violence and Bengali poems. The film may not be a typical "thriller", says Srijit - it has a lot of the elements of a thriller but is also a drama. It is "very different" from Autograph, and Srijit has tried to introduce a few new ways in which a story is told in a Bengali film. The film has very "edgy" and "gritty" locations - shooting the film in such locations itself was very exciting for him and the unit.

We will watch Indian film-wizard Gautam Ghosh (interview) playing a role in Baishe Shrabon as an actor after twenty-nine long years. Prasenjit Chatterjee (interview), Parambrata Chattopadhyay (interview), Raima Sen, Abir Chatterjee (interview) and others also appear in the film. Songs in the film are written and composed by Anupam Roy (interview) and background score by Indradeep Dasgupta. The playback singers Rupam Islam, Anupam Roy, Srikanto Acharya, Raghav Chatterjee (interview), Saptarshi Mukherjee, Anindya Chatterjee and Shreya Ghoshal.

Now that Srijit has himself upped the bar of Bengali Cinema, is he feeling the pressure of living upto or exceeding expectations while making his second film ? Sreejit answers this question in a way you might not have expected!

Talking about Autograph, when the game-changing film released and viewers and critics alike started to shower their praise, love and best wishes, a joy-filled Srijit was of course all smiles. However, as it turned out, good things kept on happening to the film - it goes on earning the cast and the crew accolades and adulation very much continuing today. Srijit's initial euphoria gave way to astonishment, and he is now at a stage where he is almost numb trying to process the enormity of the achievements of his film.

Srijit says all the awards and reviews by the critics are, of course, wonderful to experience, but it is also extremely important to him that Autograph has penetrated deep inside scores of Bengali households, and hearts of people for some of whom the film has had a life-changing impact, thus reciprocatively changing Srijit's own life forever as well. It is in some ways scary, too !

You will listen to Srijit, talking from the director's chair, sharing his thoughts about what might have made Autograph a phenomemnon. A lot of factors came together for the film:

First, says Srijit, Autograph is not an isolated phenomenon - a sea-change in Bengali film was on it's inevitable way via a series of modern films being made by progressive new-generation film makers almost one after another just before the time Autograph opened.

Second, "Autograph celebrates our glorious past", says Srijit - it is a tribute to Uttam Kumar and Satyajit Ray, two of the biggest icons in the remarkable legacy of Bengali cinema.

Third, Autograph is successful in bringing in contemporary cinematic language and dialog, and connected very well with the young audience.

Fourth, Autograph has a "soul" - a strong emotional core, which, says Srijit, often greatly contributes to the success of a film.

Fifth - the music of Autograph is a "huge huge factor that gave Autograph mileage and reach". The barriers between the commercial and the parallel/art-house are far weaker in music, and it is music that can make this cross-over happen very easily - and Anupam Roy's contribution as the singer-song writer for the film's songs is invaluable. As you will hear Srijit saying, music is perhaps the single most important asset of the film, and it is music that enabled it to make the successful transition into a landmark commercial success.

Then, of course, there are the performances. For example, Prasenjit Chatterjee's acting is likely to be remembered by viewers over their entire lives - an opinion that is shared by many people who have worked with Bumba-da including Rituparno Ghosh and Anjan Dutaa.

"A good thing is not good enough until it reaches the people", says Srijit, describing the impressive manner in which Autograph was promoted by the producers in India and abroad - there was considerable interest and effort in making sure the film reached film festivals and a global audience.

Here is wishing one of the brightest film-makers of today's Bengal all the best with Baishe Srabon and his subsequent films.

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