Filmmaker Goutam Ghose is in an odd state of mind. The commercial release of his latest film, Yatra, has him on unsure ground.
“The film has been hurriedly released. The producers/ distributors thought it was a good date as there were few Hindi films releasing at this time. I’m a bit fidgety. Every time my films are screened at festivals, I am okay, but when it gets to the theatres, I’m nervous. There’s this entire process of ticketing and audience moods,” he says, adding quickly, “I’m curious too. My films have always had a niche audience. The baby is born, let’s see how it grows up.”
Even as Ghose dismisses the Animal Welfare Board’s axing a few shots of a film (of a caged bird) with a mere “I’ve re-edited it but I’ll miss it,” he is zealous about his actors, particularly Rekha, who plays a courtesan in Yatra.
“Rekha is part of the collective memory of the audience as Umrao Jaan. Though her role is very different here, I chose her primarily because her age fit the role. And somehow, she has managed to keep a sense of the mystery associated with her alive,” he admits.
“The story is set in the border of Maharashtra and to that end Nana’s (Patekar) look is perfect. Also it’s a great comeback film for Deepti (Naval), a powerful actor who is quite underrated,” he says.
Ghose has always had his way with Bollywood actors. “It depends on the subject. I primarily select them in my Hindi films as language is of great concern,” he says.
A great deal of Ghose’s perspective stems from his nurtured belief that he refers to as a “hangover of the 19th century Renaissance.” His films are endowed with subtle nuances of sounds and sights that he leaves the audience to figure out.
He explains, “It’s like a reader. There is an obvious storyline but inquisitive persons can sneak a peek into the nuances and dive into the irony of the spoken word. Yatra is full of that. It travels between fact and fiction, dream and reality; it’s very enigmatic,” he says.
Ghose’s dream is a historical film. “I want to make a period film on Dara Shuko. Talks are on with an NRI friend and it’ll be a US co-production, having a mixed cast of European characters. I find it a relevant theme as Dara fought against fundamentalism. Had he been the ruler, matters would have been quite different. He is like Hamlet, trapped in his own country. But I’ll need a lot of support for this project,” he admits.
Ghose has completed a 10-part serial on Samaresh Majumdar’s Kalbela for Doordarshan, with Parambrata Chatterjee in the lead. It is also being made into a film.
“It will be aired from June. It harks back to my student days in the ’60s,” he says.
A bilingual (Hindi and English) Indo-Italian project titled Little Big Boy, based on author Sergio Scapagnini’s The Story of Lala is also in the pipeline as is a Bengali film based on a short story by Sunil Gangopadhyay.
As the talk veers towards Yatra, Ghose likes to liken it to his personal journey, too.
“It is a reflection of all the journeys of the people of my age. I am lucky to have experience both worlds, a highly idealistic one and a hugely materialistic one. I would like to record these memories,” he says.
“Technically, cinema talks about the past, but it links the present in a way that seems immediate. That’s the illusion and beauty of it,” he winds up.