If stories are rooted in reality they will always have an audience. Director Anjan Dutt, who has two releases this month, The Bong Connection and Bow Barracks Forever, feels that both will appeal to national audiences though they revolve around life in Kolkata.
Bow Barracks Forever explores the life of Anglo-Indians residing in a settlement that is under threat.
“It about the life of people who are fighting eviction. It’s about one’s home, Bow Barracks is only a backdrop. It could have been a chawl in Mumbai or a congested locality in Gujarat,” says Dutt, adding, “Every city has its story, its people and these tales are always appealing.”
While Dutt wants to reach out to a national audience he would never move out of the city that has shaped his outlook. The narrow alleys of North Kolkata, the negligible-yet-prominent Anglo Indian population, the nightlife of Park Street in the Seventies, the romantic Himalayas of Darjeeling is what he grew up with. And it provides him the inspiration.
“Rang De Basanti without the north Indian setting and Munnabhai MBBS without a Maharashtrian backdrop wouldn’t have worked. That’s why though Mani Ratnam makes a film in Hindi he still retains that South Indian flavour. For a filmmaker it’s important to hold on to his roots,” says Dutt.
His earlier film Bada Din, too, had an Anglo-Indian milieu, but today he does not shy away from admitting the mistakes he made.
With Bow Barracks Forever he has chosen to rectify the errors in Bada Din.
“There were things that did not go down well. Anglo-Indians speaking Hindi was the most glaring. I decided that I wouldn’t do anything else before Bow Barracks Forever was complete,” says the director.
He is confident of reaching out to the audience even though the film is in English.
“It’s wrong to come to a conclusion that films made in English are not mainstream. Rather it is the only language that connects people in all regions of India. A film should be made keeping in mind the ethos and milieu and that can be in any language,” he says.
It has been creatively satisfying for the director. “Moon Moon (Sen), Victor (Banerjee), Lillete (Dubey) all have been attached with the Anglo-Indian community at some point of time and that made things easier. Moon Moon is one of the most underrated actors. I am thankful to Aparna Sen who suggested Lillete’s name.”
His other film, The Bong Connection, too, captures sentiments of Bengalis residing in Kolkata and those moving out in search of greener pastures. “I have always found it easy to make films from Kolkata because this city provides the true cosmopolitan milieu. The Bong Connection is another example,” says Dutt.
Which of the two films would he suggest one watch?
He says, “Both have different sentiments. Listen to the music of the films and see how different they are.” Music is an integral part of this musician-director’s films. “There has to be a good musician in a director. Ray was a brilliant pianist, so is Clint Eastwood and Woody Allen still carries a clarinet,” he says.
Dutt is now busy giving finishing touches to his Hindi film, BBD, a political thriller starring Naseeruddin Shah, Kay Kay Menon and Jimmy Sheirgill. He has another script that he dreams of converting into celluloid.
“It’s called Mera Naam Juliet. I plan to shoot it in my school, St Paul’s. It’s about a student who falls in love with his teacher. I would love to have Imaad Shah (Naseeruddin Shah’s son) as the student and Aparna Sen would be the ideal teacher,” says Dutt.