Interview of the month    

His Anubrata Bhalo Acho released recently and is already attracting popular and critical acclaim. Among all the boy-meets-girl films that seem to be the staple of both directors and the audience, here is a film that takes a look on love, relationship and death of three mature individuals about to enter the sunset years of their life. In an exclusive tête-à-tête with RBN, director Partha Sen tells about separation and reunion, the two central themes of his flim.

RBN: Why did you decide to make a film on death?

Partha: I was in college when my father died. It was a slow death for three months. I and my mother had to struggle a lot to eke out a living. Sometimes we didn’t have the money to buy medicines. It was then I started wondering, what could be going on in the minds of the family members of a person who is about to die. We usually don’t think about the troubles of the ‘patient party’ as it’s called in medical circles. Anubrata, the protagonist in my flim, also wants to live. At one point of time, he becomes selfish to live, which is not entirely unusual. I found men to be more self-centred than women in such cases. It’s practical and that’s what filmmakers should try to bring out. Otherwise, we always make films to satisfy others. Why not be different at times?

RBN: With all the characters standing on the edge of life and death, the film is often suffocating.

Partha: Yes it is. That’s the reality. We are born to die and often go around in circles in the cycle of life and death. The relationship between Anubrata and Jaya, my female protagonist, is never smooth sailing. If someone thinks all the time whether the relationship will stay or not, it’s no worse than a life and death situation. The characters in the film find themselves delicately balanced in both mental and physical situations.

RBN: You must have seen death very closely.

Partha: Absolutely. My father and uncle. Also my brother-in-law who was 20 years senior to me. He was more of a father figure and protected me from all perils.

RBN: That perhaps translated to the indifferent feeling about death among all your lead characters, sans any melodrama.

Partha: I have also been deeply influenced by Buddhism, which says that death is merely an intermission. You wake up after death to a new life with new enthusiasm. This philosophy further grounded me. Most deaths in India are melodramatic. The fear of death grips all and Anubrata is no different.   

RBN: Ritwik, Debolina, Swastika, were all brilliant in their roles. How did you brief them their roles?

Partha: I don’t believe in workshops. That’s why I only work with those actors on whom I can fully depend. Even when I worked for TV, I worked with stars.

RBN: Even then, Ritwik wasn’t your first choice.

Partha: I had not doubts over his acting capability. I was wondering whether he could play the part of a 50-55 year old man. That is, whether he would look convincing. He got into the part and with proper makeup, was every bit a middle-aged man. Again, when I thought about Jaya, it could be none other than Swastika. I told her that you have to do it. Her reply was, none can do it other than me. Another day I saw Debolina in a café. I just went up to her and said that I have a challenging role for you. She agreed on the spot and did Neeta’s role.

RBN: Is the name ‘Neeta’ inspired by Meghe Dhaka Tara’s protagonist?

Partha: No. All the three names were given by my writer Padmanabha Dasgupta. Not only the main characters, even those in supporting roles like Sumit (Samaddar), Kharaj (Mukhopadhyay), Anindya (Chatterjee) were all outstanding. I never briefed them. I simply told them to be natural and that it shouldn’t seem like acting. I don’t believe in endless retakes. Two or three are enough to bring out the best from the actors.   

-- Prabuudha Neogi
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