The 'loner' in Bengali cinema
Buddhadeb Dasgupta talks about sticking to his kind of filmmaking and directing a Malayalam movie
He doesn’t interrupt you — not even once in the course of the entire interview. That’s Buddhadeb Dasgupta for you. The multiple National Award-winning director, who is in Mumbai for the post-production work of his forthcoming Hindi film, emphasises on the need to enlighten as well as entertain. Also a poet, he cribs how filmmaking leaves him with very little time to write! In a tête-à-tête with Sunday MiD DAY, the veteran filmmaker shares his thoughts on Bollywood, Tollywood and much more.
As a filmmaker, what does success mean to you?
Happiness means success. Critical and commercial appreciation may or may not come to you but if you’re happy with the way you’ve created a film, then everything else is secondary. Winning National Awards or reading box-office figures never made me happy as such. I have never let others’ decisions dictate my destiny.
Why did you choose Nawazuddin Siddiqui to play the lead in Anwar Ka Ajeeb Kissa?
Why not? Interestingly, I was asked the same question by the producers of my last film, who are also producing this movie, and my reply was the same! I couldn’t think of anyone else who could play the part of Anwar. You see, Nawaz has this non-starry look about him but at the same time, he’s one of the most powerful actors I’ve ever worked with. He not only did justice to the role but added value to it. I was right about him (smiles).
Are you happy with the current scenario in Bengali cinema?
Not very long ago, the Bengali film industry started imitating Bollywood and ended up with terrible films — limited commercial success with horrible criticism. But that was a phase. As of now, I feel things are gradually improving. Speaking for myself, I feel like a loner in Bengali cinema but as long
as I can restrict myself to my kind of filmmaking, I will be glad.
What difference do you notice while making a Hindi film?
At the end of the day, cinema is cinema. In my career, I’ve learnt that the language of cinema is the same although the spoken tongue could be different. Even the audience can, to a huge extent, understand a film without the subtitles. Filmmaking, for all practical reasons, remains rooted to one source and everyone involved easily understands it. Besides, what matters is that I understand Hindi.
So do you see yourself making a film in any other language?
I’ve been deeply in love with Kerala, as some of my best memories belong to that place. In fact, I’ve been planning a Malayalam film for years. Hopefully, that will be my next project. For the record, I don’t speak or understand the language, but I’m sure that won’t be a problem.
What is your opinion of the young filmmakers in the country?
Today it’s more about the audience than filmmakers. A new breed of movie-watchers are coming up and they are well-read, know a thing or two about world cinema and they don’t feed on the dhishoom-dhishoom or the song and dance routines anymore. They know what they are looking for and will pay for only what they’d like to watch. On the other hand, a suitable group of young filmmakers are coming up who cater to this audience. It’s a perfect mix of supply and demand.
Who were your early influences?
There were so many of them. I don’t remember the number of times I went back to Luis Buñuel’s body of work. He is my all-time favourite filmmaker. And, of course, (Andrei) Tarkovsky. Among the Indian lot, I admired Ritwik Ghatak. I also liked Satyajit Ray, although my style of filmmaking has nothing to do with his. He was a great storyteller, whereas I’m more interested in the narrative structure.