Food and films brings this filmmaker to UP again and again

Gulaab Gang & Cheat India director in conversation with HT City.
Updated on Aug 11, 2018 05:33 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Lucknow | By Deep Saxena

Hailing from Kolkata, having studied in Delhi and now living in Mumbai, director Soumik Sen has gained pan India experience over the years but when it comes to profession the filmmaker instantly connects to Uttar Pradesh.

His directorial debut Gulaab Gang, a crime based film, was set in the state and his second project Cheat India too is being shot here these days.

In a candid chat with HT City, the filmmaker says, “My introduction to Lucknow, like most Bengalis, is through Satyajit Ray’s novel in the Feluda series Badshahi Angti (The Emperor’s Ring) which is set in this city. I have first been here during my school days when we did a Lucknow, Rishikeh and Nanital trail. Also, I am a foodie especially when it comes to Bengali biryani, which we take pride of, is an offshoot of what we get here at Idrees, Mubeens and other places.”

His Gulaab Gang was set in UP but shot in Wai near Mumbai. “Since I had written the script which revolves around Bundelkhand I did come here and visit Banda. Also my producer Anubhav Sinha comes from this place so got to learn a lot about this region through his eyes,” he says.

Cheat India starring Emraan Hashmi has a month-long schedule in Lucknow and 95% of this film will be shot here. The movie is inspired by the crimes in the Indian education system that have created a parallel ecosystem infested with education mafia.

“This is a film of Hindi speaking belt. It is about Kota which is a hub of coaching institutes for higher education. It’s not about paper leaks but about examination system, the mad rush to get into premium institutes and how people take advantage of it with ‘karwa dengey’ (will get it done) formula.”

Some real life incidents too have inspired him.

Soumik Sen in Lucknow for the shoot of Cheat India. (Deep Saxena/HT Photo)
Soumik Sen in Lucknow for the shoot of Cheat India. (Deep Saxena/HT Photo)

“While studying at Delhi School of Economic I saw that students from UP were so hell-bent to crack the IAS and other top posts so I decided to set the film here. I also know somebody who studied in Kota, got into engineering and then so many things went into his life,” he says.

UP’s film policy and hospitality added to this. “That’s a producer’s (Tanuj Garg-Atul Kasbekar, T-Series and Emraan) call but as a director I give a certain flavour to the film. When you want to tell a story which is based on truth then it makes sense to set it in real India,” he says.

Besides Emraan, rest of the cast is new.

“It was a conscious choice to cast new or lesser known artistes. Emraan is a star and rest we wanted to cast people from this belt who can make real characters. Even people who have come from Mumbai are from this belt. Our leading lady Shreya (Dhanwanthary) is making a debut and perfectly fits the role.”

On his journey, he says: “After college I joined World Bank and then I was making shows for Business Standard. Then I moved to Mumbai and wrote my first film in 2006. It was a different time unlike this period where commercially viable real cinema is doing well. It’s the audience only which has given a foothold to realistic cinema.”

He has written screenplay for Anthony Kaun Hai?, Ru-Ba-Ru, Meerabai Not Out and Hum Tum Aur Ghost.

Cheat India has five songs. “It has Bappi Lahiri’s old song that has been recreated by Rochak Kohli, a song by Krishna Sarkar (Banno Tera Swagger fame), I have done one song, Agni Mohan and a new Bengali composer Rangon,” says the director who has also given music for Gulaab Gang.

He has also dabbled into web series. “In fact, it was India’s first digital feature Bad Man which was for Voot. It was with Gulshan Grover along with Farah Khan, Chunkey Pandey, Rishi Kapoor, Manisha Koirala, Sujay Ghosh, Mahesh Bhatt — all playing themselves. It did well on web and won Gulshan Grover several international awards,” he adds.

He has also zeroed in on another script for his next. “It’s too early to talk about it and also I am not sure where I will base it,” he says.

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