The first documentary on Rituparno Ghosh is all set to release soon. Before she hops onto a flight out of India, director Sangeeta Datta speaks to RBN about the challenges and satisfaction in paying her tribute to the late filmmaker. Excerpts.
How did you research for the documentary?
The background research was both challenging and complex. Hunting for archival footage wasn’t easy because many of Ritu’s films were during the pre-digital age and on celluloid. That aside, there are ownership disputes on some of his films, and we couldn’t use those footage.
We hear the film started on a small scale and became bigger with time
Yes, absolutely. Some of the most prominent actors in Indian cinema worked with him, and when they heard I was making this film, they told me that I won’t be able to complete it without their involvement (laughs). So we interviewed Soumitra Chatterjee, Aparna Sen, Nandita Das, Kaushik Ganguly, Konkona Sen Sharma, Sharmila Tagore, Arjun Rampal and others. We also interviewed many of his close friends who helped him in exhibiting his films abroad. We stared in 2016 and two years later the film is finally ready (smiles).
You prefer to call your film a docu-feature
Yes. A major part of the Bird of Dusk script is based on the First Person columns that Ritu wrote for a leading Bengali weekly. That comes as the feature part in my film, where theatre actor Ranjan Bose plays a character who is searching for Ritu. Ranjan had earlier acted and directed a play on Rituparno Ghosh. At the end of the film we will see Ranjan staging the play. Rituparno was one of the most influential filmmakers in recent times and we have tried to highlight his pan-India and international profile in the documentary.
Bird of Dusk was shown in the Kolkata International Film Festival last year. How was the response?
The response was tremendous. People were standing on the aisle when the film was shown on the last day of the festival in the tribute section. It was still at the work-in-progress stage at that time and longer. Many people returned without seeing the film as we couldn’t accommodate them inside the hall.
There were funding issues while making the film
Unfortunately, documentaries don’t find patrons in our country, and Bird of Dusk faced similar challenges. One producer was interested to finance it but the amount offered was far below our requirement. Being a longtime associate director of Ritu, I didn’t want to pay him a half-hearted tribute, with shoddy production standards. But things bettered later and we were able to make the film the way we wanted.
Kolkata seems to be a character in your film
Yes. Ritu’s entire body of work was from this city. Kolkata is deeply ingrained in many of his films. A documentary on Ritu can’t possibly me made without Kolkata in it. The film to me is more about an artiste and his city.
Release in Kolkata?
We plan to have a theatrical release sometime around his birthday which in on 31 August. It will travel to international festivals before that.
And your next project?
Well, I am working on two scripts. One is a documentary and the other is a feature film. But as of now I am not sure which one will come first (laughs). The feature film is likely to be a double version project, like my 2009 film Life Goes On.
Pic: Gopal Naskar