“I hate actors; I don’t choose actors, but only reactors as they have to react in front of the camera,” said Kaushik Ganguly, the well-known Bengali writer-director belonging to the contemporary breed of filmmakers, adding that most actors read only their part in the script and hence have no vision of the entire film, which is heartbreaking. “They also need to know the technique of dubbing, as many nicely shot films are badly dubbed,” he observed.
Ganguly, who was speaking at ‘In Conversation with Director’, at Black Box, Kala Academy, being held on the sidelines of the 46th International Film Festival of India (IFFI), had selected Dulal Sarkar, a non actor for his 2014 film ‘Chotoder Chobi’ (2014), who went on to win Best Actor Award at IFFI 2014. The particular film revolved around the lives and opinions of a group of dwarfs working as jokers in a circus.
“In fact, after the release of ‘Chotoder Chobi’ dwarfs are now recognised by the government of West Bengal as physical handicapped, and receive all benefits they are entitled to, which is a big improvement considering that people earlier made fun of them,” Ganguly said, adding that dwarfs are now not only socially secure in West Bengal, but have even been nominated on the board and committee for the physically handicapped, which is a big achievement for a film.
Speaking further the Bengali actor, who had made 10 films on celluloid before stepping into the tide of making digital films, said: “I was privileged to be able to work on celluloid. Really speaking, one learns discipline from celluloid films. The precision and concentration needed to make celluloid films is now sorely missing. The celluloid films are fast vanishing, but cinema has to survive, and therefore, I thought of writing a story wherein vanishing single screen theatres that projected celluloid films are presented in conflict with the DVD/ piracy culture, within a family.” He was speaking about his latest film ‘Cinemawala’, which is not only included in the Indian Panorama section of IFFI 2015, but is also selected as one of the 15 films in the Competition Section of the film festival.
“As against the orthodox father, who is holding on to his single screen theatre that has heritage value and has seen good days of Bengali cinema, the son in ‘Cinemawala’ has a DVD business and handles the situation in his own way ,” the Bengali director said of his film’s story.
Ganguly, discussing his other film ‘Apur Panchali’, based on real-life story of actor Subir Banerjee who had acted as the protagonist Apu in Satyajit Ray’s 1955 classic ‘Pather Panchali’, said that it was very difficult to develop an association with Subir for the film. “When I went to visit Subir for the first time he did not even open the door of his house, stating that he had nothing to do with either ‘Pather Panchali’ or Satyajit Ray. However, after I presented him with the music cassettes of my father Sunil Ganguly, the renowned Hawaiian electric guitar player, he started opening up,” the Bengali director informed, stating that Subir was never a good actor, and even Ray had faced difficulties while working with him in ‘Pather Panchali’, later stating that the kid was unmanageable. “Subir is still unmanageable, but nevertheless he did enjoy the glory he received from ‘Apur Panchali,’” he said, pointing out that only eight-and-a-half minute footage of ‘Pather Panchali’ was used in ‘Apur Panchali’, but the images of the Ray film are so strong that one feels that the footage runs for half-an-hour.
The Bengali director further informed that he wanted to be an actor and after finishing class X he started visiting local studios in then Calcutta. “At that time, I saw aspiring actors roaming with their photos, while heroes with pink lips moved around with umbrellas accompanied by their secretaries, and I was scared,” Ganguly admitted, maintaining that it was then difficult for an actor in Bengal to get the role he deserved. “Actor Rabi Ghosh, who looked exactly like the landlords of Bengal – the zamindars – was never cast as a zamindar, while actor like Utpal Dutt, Chhabi Biswas and Uttam Kumar were selected for such role,” he noted.
Stating that at one point of time people got fed up of Bengali films with their same camera movements and Rabindra Sangeet repeated film after film the Bengali director said around this period, young filmmakers arrived on the scene with short films handling diverse topics such as progeria, dementia, rape victims and LGBT. “However, only two to three directors survived this short film genre period,” Ganguly, who is one of those few short film makers to survive said further observing that the telefilm/short-film era should come back or else there would be no young filmmakers anymore. “However these short films should not be cheaper versions of mainstream cinema, but must follow the experimental path,” he stated.
As a final take, Ganguly observed that senior filmmakers often spoke about their films being more successful at the international circuit. “Today the pattern of economy in filmmaking has changed, and new-age directors feel responsible for their films recovering money for producers, which is why today’s directors play to the gallery. “We, the present-day directors, could have handled certain emotions in low key. We could have also presented many scenes without music as loved by international audiences, but then we don’t suspend that emotional music only to cater to our audience,” he concluded.