One of the most interesting aspects of the National Film Development Corporation’s Film Bazaar at the ongoing International Film Festival of India is the co-production market, where producers and directors pitch their stories and scripts to potential funders. Director Aditya Vikram Sengupta is at IFFI with his second movie, titled Memories And My Mother.
As Sengupta says in the course of a conversation the other day, his new film will be an “emotional response” to a city -- Kolkata -- where he grew up. The work is all about an ageing metropolis, where his story unfolds, a story that has been inspired by true events. Kolkata with its teeming millions and confusion confounded will present a study in contrast.
Sengupta’s protagonist will be Manu, who lives in a crumbling old mansion, his ancestral home, and one night he gets on to the top of it to meet his deceased relatives. As the helmer quips, he plans to paint a picture where tradition and modernism will mix and mingle to create “magic realism”.
France’s Catherine Dussart Productions is co-producing Memories And My Mother along with Sengupta’s For Films. Dussart had co-produced Gurvinder Singh’s Chauthi Koot, which played at Cannes’s A Certain Regard last May.
Memories And My Mother will be Sengupta’s second feature, his debut work, Labour of Love, premiered at Venice in 2014. It won the Fedora Award for Best First Work. Later, the movie travelled to Rotterdam, Busan and London before hitting Indian screens in June 2015.
The first thing that strikes about Labour of Love, is its wonderful silence. In an India which is bombarded with the noisiest of sounds, this work has no dialogues. Yes, it has musical scores in the background, but not many.
Helmed with sheer lyricism, Labour of Love or Asha Jaoar Majhe is about a young Bengali couple living in a recession-hit Kolkata, their humdrum middle-class existence filled with monotonous jobs and punctuated by meal breaks and sleep. They never meet each other. For, the man works at night in the printing press of a newspaper, and his wife during the day in a handbag factory.
With Ritwik Chakraborty as the husband and Basabdutta Chatterjee, wife, the film chugs along sporting only two characters, the tedium of their lives coloured by the couple’s love for each other which is exemplified through her cooking and his washing up.
During a chat with this writer in 2014 at Venice, Sengupta said that this kind of marital existence was not exactly rare - lives led with the two people hardly meeting each other or being able to communicate. This could have been one reason why there were no dialogues in Labour of Love.
“But initially, I did not envisage my work without conversations. There was at least one scene which had them. However as we went about shooting the movie, it started to evolve in such a way that it needed no dialogues to make its point,” Sengupta added. He then found it unwise to break the rhythm of the filn by imposing that “talking scene”.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering the Film Bazaar at IFFI.)