Sporting his trademark sling bag, Suman Mukhopadhyay looks dapper in a cotton shirt and jeans. You simply can't miss the sparkle in his eyes that the release of his much-awaited film, Shesher Kobita, has brought. The Konkona Sen Sharma, Rahul Bose and Swastika Mukhopadhyay starrer will release on August 7. "I feel relieved," smiles the National Award- winning filmmaker. HT caught up with Mukhopadhyay on Shesher Kobita, Swastika and more.Shesher Kobita was commissioned by the Ministry of Culture in 2010 to commemorate Rabindranath Tagore's 150th birth anniversary. You started working on it in 2012 and the very next year the film started doing the festival rounds. However, the film's release got stuck and it will finally hit the theatres now.
I feel Shesher Kobita has an eternal appeal in terms of its content. Yet when a film is made you want to get it released. The delay is undeniably irritating. It got stuck due to red tape in the Ministry Of Culture followed by a change of government. But looking at the relevance of the subject and the issues it raises, I feel the story is time transcending. It touches the deeper emotions, conflicts and other crucial chords of a man-woman relationship.
Watch Shesher Kobita trailer here:
This novel wasn't your first choice as the subject of your film.
That's true but someone suggested that I try this story. When I revisited the story, I found a lot of meat in it for the film. Given a choice I would have made Jogajog because of the historical expanse it has. I still want to make it someday. Jibito O Mrito was also on my mind but now I feel Shesher Kobita was the right choice. The idea of this film is different. It captures the ideal bourgeoisie in Amit and the class conflict. I have never tried this earlier. I experienced a similar thing when I adapted Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay's Shunyo Shudhu Shunyo Noy for the stage. That also gave me a new outlook. Such new revelations are important for any artiste. The creative journey of his soul is incomplete until new vistas open up to him. Shesher Kobita was a huge shift for me after Kangal Malsat.
One of the reasons why Labanya isn't ready to marry Amit is because she thinks marriage will restrict her freedom, while Amit had his own set of issues. Do you think Amit and Labanya could have been united had living in been an option during those days? Then would the ideal of love and relevance of the story remain?
I don't think so. (Pauses) The story basically talks about man-woman relationship, where Labanya is confronting Amit, who is not looking into her inner self. Rather Amit recreates a Labanya he wants to fall in love with. Labanya understands that and fears that when the real Labanya gets revealed, it might shock Amit. These feelings are there both in marriages and live in relationships. In both cases it is the commitment of love that is important, with or without any legal endorsement. And Labanya looks for that love and respect. Amit, on the other hand, looks for the intellectual beauty. He was fooling everyone till Labanya challenged him. He was trying to win this girl and Labanya realised that it's not love. She therefore withdraws herself and goes back to Shovonlal and Amit chooses Ketaki. It clearly highlights that the ideal of love remains the same. It's the commitment that is more important.
Did you take a different approach while making the film?
After Herbert, I have once again done an extensive outdoor shoot for this film. I have worked with huge landscapes. Also, unlike my earlier films there aren't too many characters in this film. I have also tried to use different colour tones, tempo and texture in this film. Though I have not tampered with the text but
I have made the language easier given that many may find Tagore's language in the text difficult to understand.
Now that you are with Swastika, are you in a happy space?
Life is always changing. The troublesome period I went through was very disturbing but somehow I never stopped working. Social pressures were high but somehow I persisted and remained stable. It affected me no doubt. I never spared any opportunity to talk about things I don't support. If you are a bully then people too won't take you lying down. (Laughs) It's a fact that if you think that by not aligning to any kind of political camp or group you can live happily, then your life will be hell.
Is that the reason why the film and theatre fraternity sidelined you? You also haven't done any film in between?
Yes, and they are continuously trying to sideline me. Some people deliberately ignored the kind of work I have done in the last two decades. Though I revived Mephisto and did a new play (Jara Agun Lagay), I couldn't do any film, as no one ready to work with me. They thought that working with me would put them in the bad books of those in power. But I don't mind that. Pressure is part of life. I can work in any kind of mess. I don't need that comfort zone.
Do you think Swastika is under-utilised as an actor?
I think Swastika is a very talented actor. She has proved her talent in many films. She has many offers but she is very picky. She doesn't believe in doing one film after another. She prefers staying at home and doing nothing rather than doing films that she doesn't believe in.
How was it working with Konkona Sen Sharma, Rahul Bose and Swastika in the film?
It was a pleasure working with them. There's an interesting thing about Konkona. She isn't much into Tagore but she has the capability of understanding any character instinctively. Many don't have this capability. Rahul is just the opposite. He tries to know a lot, understand the meaning and asks many questions. He is a method actor and got a perfect grip over Amit's character. Swastika's understanding of her character is also very instinctive. Unlike Konkona, she has read Tagore. She has a rare quality of easily understanding the psyche of the character that she is playing.
What is the status of your film Auto?
The film is stuck because nobody is keen on working with me. The producer felt that the government won't support the film and backed out. I don't know what will happen next but I will ask for the copyright after sometime and make the film myself.
What play or film are you planning next? Will Swastika be part of those projects?
I shall be going to the US in January to direct and stage Chokher Bali with the Americans. I have an offer of making a film, but nothing has been finalised. Whether Swastika will be part of my next project has not yet been decided. I am also planning to do something experimental combining art installations, music and dance.