After seeing his newest film Kadambari (read my review here), I wanted to know more about how the film was made. He graciously accepted my request for an interview, so it is my great pleasure to present some behind-the-scenes information on this brilliant film!
Lightly edited for clarity.
First, I wanted to thank you for making this movie. Was it considered controversial when you first proposed it?
A film which features Rabindranath Tagore will be controversial to begin with. And also the fact that the film focuses on an episode which is sensational adds to the controversy. But somehow that did not bother me too much since I was quite clear as to how I want to present the film.
No, I don’t identify any specific moment. But I always thought that this is a very interesting topic for a feature film.
Can you tell us more about the research that you did? You’ve said in previous interviews that you used Tagore’s writings and other novels as sources. How much of the information came from primary sources and how much from the “myth,” as you have described it?
You see, my main references were Tagore’s own writings, a famous novel by Sunil Ganguly called “Prothom Alo” and a book by Mullika Sengupta called “Kobir Bouthan”. But apart from these I read all the biographies of Tagore that are there- Prasanto Kumar Pal, Prabhat Kumar Mukhopadhyay and Krishna Kripalini. There is a wonderful book by eminent psychoanalyst Sudhir Kakkar called “Young Tagore” which delves into the psyche of Tagore during his early years which are particularly relevant for the film. What I did was first I read through all the materials and then started writing the script. So whatever came into my mind organically I kept it in the film. And as I have always said- since I am not making a documentary I felt free to keep the ‘myths’ surrounding the incident and Tagore family that are prevalent. I mean whatever was necessary to build the narrative. Of course I was always careful to preserve the dignity of the family since I did feel a sense of responsibility too.
Was it difficult to find information about Kadambari’s suicide? As you indicate in the movie, the family tried to keep that information private.
It is indeed true that the family tried to hush up the incident- which is also portrayed in the film. But you know there is now evidence which shows the details of what was done to hush up the incident. Details at such a micro level as to how much bribe was given to whom and such. There are many writers who have given their own interpretation as to what happened but my reading is that much of it is subjective. So I had a tough time to cull out from the necessary facts and fiction.
My husband and I were very impressed by the historical accuracy of the costumes and sets. If I may ask, where was the movie filmed and what sources did you use to recreate that time period?
Source: Parambrata Fans Club on twitter
Suchismita Dasgupta), my Art Director (Tanmoy Chakraborty) and of course my DOP (Barun Mukherjee) for that. Much before we started shoot we used to find detailed information available in books and also in the internet about the costumes and sets. What was crucial was that we were all in the same wavelength. Regular discussions and exchanges took place. Apart from the main characters’ costumes there were instances where Suchismita had to use her knowledge and sensibility to think about the costumes needed. For example there is a party scene at Gyanodanandini’s house. You will see the variation in costume designs for each and every character. Similarly in the Art Department we had tough time thinking about how to build the house boat. Initially we thought we will create it from a trawler but then we could not capture the authenticity. Tanmoy actually built the house boat from scratch afterwards. So it was a very collaborative venture.
The movie was filmed in and around Kolkata. I used different locations which captured the various aspects. We had a long period of location scouting with my Production team before honing in on the locations.
I have noticed that the Indian film industry produces far fewer period films than the American or Bangladeshi industries, for example. What is your opinion? Are there difficulties involved in making realistic period films in the Indian context?
Yes, period films are expensive. But on the other hand at least in Bengal there have been quite a few made in recent times. Rituparno Ghosh had made “Chokher Bali” and “Noukadubi” (both based on Tagore’s novels), Aparna Sen’s last film “Goynar Baksho” was also a period film. Suman Mukhopadhyay has made “Chaturanga” and “Shesher Kobita”.
In your interview with the Hindustan Times, you stated that you are planning to release the film in the US and UK as well. What would be the time frame for this? How widespread would you expect the release to be?
Releasing the film abroad involves a lot of work. First of all, I am now sending it to International film festivals and from there I will try to crack the film markets associated with the festivals. I think in a globalized world we need to tap the foreign market- of course if a film has the potential to do so.
What is your next project? Can you give us a teaser?
I am working on a couple of ideas. In the next few months I will decide which one I will do as my next. But my next film which will release in December (which is ready) is called “Peace Haven”.