Agnidev Chatterjee’s film, Dark Chocolate, inspired by the Sheena Bora murder case, has been in news ever since its announcement. On Monday, the director and producer of the film received a fresh legal notice from Peter and Indrani Mukerjea’s lawyer to stall the screening. “I pray that we face no more problems before the release of the film,” says the filmmaker. Agnidev is one of the few directors in Tollywood, who make films on real-life incidents. His 2012 film, 3 Kanya, was inspired by the Park Street rape case and his next Hindi film is based on the Dhaka terror attacks. HT City chats with the director at his Kolkata home on the challenges of making films on true incidents, Rituparna Sengupta and more:
Your film is inspired by the Sheena Bora murder case, which is sub judice. Given the situation, how did you weaving the story of the film?
We started shooting a month after the news broke out. Dark Chocolate draws inspiration from the incident, where perhaps a mother kills her daughter. It’s not a biography. We completed the film in the first week of November and the mystery started unfolding only after we were done with our shooting. Till now, the motive behind the murder isn’t clear. The telephonic conversations between Indrani Mukerjea, Peter Mukerjea and his son Rahul Mukerjea came out in the media only a few days ago. I know, it sounds strange but all these incidents are also there in my film. It’s uncanny and bizarre. I have used the information, which is available in the public domain. It’s like the work of a detective, who is solving a puzzle.
Did you keep making changes in the script during the course shooting as new facts are coming to light almost every month?
I wrote the initial draft of the film in two days. The television channel was reporting it like a film. I just followed the narrative. When you watch the film, it will be like watching a dramatised version of the news report. The incident is similar but the back stories of the people are different because we don’t know how they were in their childhood. My film is a work of fiction.
Films like No One Killed Jessica and Talvar were made after the cases became somewhat clear. But it’s not the same with the Sheena Bora murder case.
The Indian judiciary and the CBI are not so porous to be influenced by a film. Had that been the case, perhaps every accused would have made a documentary and tried to influence the judiciary. I am not passing a judgment through my film. There’s a thing called Rashomon effect, where several people narrate the same incident. So, you will get to hear various points of view of the driver, Ishani (played by Mahima Chaudhry) and her first husband.
You had earlier made 3 Kanya (2012). A film on a real-life incident generates a certain amount of curiosity among the audience. Is that the reason you choose such subjects?
(Cuts in) It’s not necessary that the audience will come to the theatres because I am making a film on the Sheena Bora murder case. You need to create expectation. It’s a challenge for a filmmaker to direct a film on a true incident. You don’t know what to expect each day. Also, as a filmmaker, we should have a voice and somewhere we should make a statement. It’s important to make romantic and literature-based films, but at the same time, films on true incidents too need to be made. Today, it doesn’t matter the kind of films you make but you do need to market it. Today, filmmaking is like selling a product... more than the content, the first day collection matters.
(Cuts in) Do you think I will deliberately want to get involved in controversies? It’s unfortunate that people think I want controversy before the release of my films. 3 Kanya might have been inspired from the Park Street rape case, but if you watch the film, it had nothing to be banned.
Rituparna Sengupta has worked in almost every film of yours, be it Charuulata 2011, 3 Kanya, Mrs Sen or A Political Murder. Why did you decide to rope in Mahima Chaudhry for this film?
Ritu (read Rituparna Sengupta) was approached but she rejected the role. It was an emotional decision on my part to approach her. But it was a wise decision on her part to not do the film. It’s a dark character, and it has to be done believing in the person that she can do such a thing. If Ritu had done the role, she would have wanted to justify it. Mahima has watched Charuulata 2011 and she wanted to work with me. Initially, Mahima too was apprehensive because she too has a daughter. But I made her believe that the audience won’t identify her with Ishani in real life.
Watch the trailer of Dark Chocolate: