Buddhadeb's world expands
For a creative artist, quality and prolificacy do not always go hand in hand. But, then, Buddhadeb Dasgupta is no ordinary filmmaker. The Bengali director's oeuvre has followed a consistent pattern ever since his late 1970s debut with Dooratwa (Distance) and class and a strikingly original vision have unfailingly been at its crux.
As his conquests continue, he will, for the second year running, find himself in a very special league at the upcoming International Film Festival of India (IFFI), scheduled from October 9 to 19 in New Delhi.
Dasgupta has two films in the festival's showpiece Indian Panorama section this year - both in the non-features segment. Last year, too, he had a brace of Panorama films - the lyrical Mondo Meyer Upakhyan (A Tale of a Naughty Girl), winner of the National Award for the Best Feature of 2002, and an evocative English-language documentary about the abode of the Tagores, Jorasanko Thakurbari.
"I make a documentary after I finish an exacting feature film because it helps me release my welled-up tensions," says the director. The year 2002 was a trifle different, though: he ended up making not one but two short films - Meeting Manjit, an exploration of painter Manjit Bawa's world, and Uma, about the celebrated kathak exponent Uma Sharma. While Meeting Manjit has been adjudged the Best Biographical Film of 2002, both the documentaries have made to the Indian Panorama.
Two other filmmakers - Goutam Ghose and Arun Khopkar - have two films each in this year's Indian Panorama. While Ghose's Bengali feature film Abar Aranye (In the Forest… Again) and The Treasure in the Snow, a documentary on Sikkim, have made the cut, Khopkar will weigh in with the Hindi children's film, Haathi Ka Anda, and a Marathi short film, Narayan Gangaram Surve.
"I made Meeting Manjit and Uma virtually at the same time," Dasgupta recalls. "After the Meeting Manjit shoot in Dalhousie, I returned to Delhi to can the remaining portions of the film. I started working on Uma the day after I wrapped up the Manjit Bawa film."
Dasgupta, as is his wont, isn't basking in the global attention that Mondo Meyer Upakhyan has attracted - the film was picked up by a Canadian film distribution company, Cinema Vault, for release in Europe and North America for an equivalent of Rs 6 crore. He is already working on a new feature film that promises to be his biggest venture to date.
To be produced by the San Francisco-based Arya Bhattacharya, the film will be targeted at a global audience. Bhattacharya's company, Arjoe Entertainment, funded Mondo Meyer Upakhyan as well.
The upcoming film will be Dasgupta's first-ever bilingual effort. "The soundtrack," he reveals, "will have a mix of Bangla, Hindi and English. Dialogues will, however, be sparse. They will add up to no more than four or five typed sheets in all."
Will he be casting British actors? "Yes, I will, but they will not be big stars. I am looking for middle-rung actors. It is not a mega-budget film and we simply cannot afford big stars," says Dasgupta. The film, he adds, will delve into the genesis of the current global wave of intolerance and violence through the story of a middle class Bengali family.
"It's wrong to blame Islamic fundamentalism alone for all the world's ills - I see the roots of global terrorism in the racial violence perpetrated by skinheads on Asians in the UK. These attacks were common in pockets of London when I first started visiting that city in the 1980s," he adumbrates. The yet-to-be-titled film will be shot in Kolkata, Mumbai and London, besides a location somewhere in Uttar Pradesh. No Dasgupta film has hitherto been set outside his home state of Bengal.
Dasgupta's films are often about momentous voyages, both physical and metaphorical. His own directorial career, too, has been a constant journey of great import. His 1999 film, Uttara (The Wrestlers), bagged the Best Director Prize at the Venice Film Festival. Last year, he made a major global distribution breakthrough with Mondo Meyer Upakhyan. It would be hardly surprising if his next feature marks his next big leap: a genuine transition into the crossover league. That would be a rare feat indeed for a regional language Indian filmmaker.