Khajoor Pe Atke is a Comedy about Death: Harsh Chhaya

The Bengali audience knows him as police officer Purundar Pandey in Arindam Sil’s 2015 film Har Har Byomkesh. In Kolkata for the music launch of Khajoor Pe Atke, Harsh Chhaya speaks to RBN about his debut film as a director. Excerpts.

Let us know the story of your film

It’s a comedy around death. There’s this family in Mumbai and one of its members is on the deathbed. His brothers and sisters come down to the city, insisting that they have to be around and support the family in the patient’s final hours. But the family doesn’t want their support. They just want to be alone. Now the patient’s illness extends and the family doesn’t know what to do. The relatives start exploring Mumbai, since they have come from small towns, to spend their time rather than wait at the hospital doing nothing. Everybody starts lying to each other and grow tired waiting for the patient to die. The film releases on 18 May.

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Is this a social satire or a slapstick?

It’s certainly not slapstick. There are no typical jokes that are a mainstay of slapsticks. I won’t say it’s a satire either. Satire kind of lends a serious overtone to the comedy. My film is about a middle class family, its value system, and the situations that we face in our daily lives. I have drawn from my experiences while writing the film.

And who is playing what role?

Dolly Ahluwalia plays the eldest sister and Manoj Pahwa is playing the younger brother. Vinay Pathak plays the youngest brother. Seema Pahwa plays Manoj’s wife. My wife Suneeta (Sengupta) plays Vinay’s better half in the film. That aside, we have a number of strong actors from Marathi cinema. It’s an ensemble cast.

What made you sign Bickram Ghosh for the film’s music?

Bickram had composed the music for Har Har Byomkesh. Suneeta suggested him when we were wondering whom to ask for the music. I had him in mind but wasn’t too sure whether that would be possible since he is based out of Kolkata and we are separated by cities. But then I offered him the film and he readily accepted.

What about the songs?

Well, there are four songs in the OST. But we have used them briefly, each maybe for a minute and a half. I have written three of the songs and have lent by voice to one of them and that’s entirely because Bickram insisted (laughs).

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You are there in Arindam’s next Byomkesh as well

Oh yes. I and Arindam struck a wonderful relationship during Har Har Byomeksh. I reprise my role as Purundar Pandey in Byomkesh Gowtro. I am growing this moustache that you see for the role (laughs). Pandey was not there in Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay’s original story. You see, as an actor I have a fantastic equation with Arindam, and he has especially introduced my role in the film.

When does shooting begin?

Mussooire. Next month.  

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Foodie, lazy, bookworm, and internet junkie. All in that order. Loves to floor the accelerator. Mad about the Himalayas and its trekking trails. Forester in past life. An avid swimmer. Also an occasional writer and editor

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