Death fascinates me but not in a morbid way: Srijit Mukherji
Filmmaker Srijit Mukherji's phone hasn't stopped since he won the National Award for Chatushkone. Mukherji, however, says that his earlier film, Jaatiswar, remains his personal favourite. The filmmaker, who is aggressively promoting his Friday release starring Sushmita Sen, hardly has time these days, as he is also busy with the post-production of his next multi-starrer and the pre-production of his second Kakababu. HT City caught up with Mukherji, who informs that he might tie the knot either in 2015 or latest by 2016. Experts:
Your phone hasn't stopped ringing since the National Awards were announced. What's the best compliment you have got so far?
It's very difficult to choose one. Someone posted on Facebook that Chatushkone redefines the art of storytelling for this generation. It was very touching. Deepak da (Chiranjit) has been generous in his praises. After watching Chatushkone, Deepak da told me, 'My work is done. I don't have to do anything anymore.' (Laughs)
You made your debut with Autograph in 2010 and have made five more films since then, which have won multiple awards.
In the last four years, my films have won 125 awards. My six films have run for 575 days in theatres, which makes it an average of 95 days per film. Four of my six films completed 100 days at the box office. My films have travelled to various national and international film festivals including New York, London, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Glasgow, Stuttgart, Calgary, Melbourne, Mumbai, Calicut and Delhi. Life certainly has been very kind to me (laughs). These six films have given me so much that I sincerely have nothing much to say. I only hope that the audiences continue to like my films.
Chatushkone was the biggest hit in 2014. The expectations of the audiences soar every time a film of yours is about to release. Does that increase the pressure of performing?
Honestly, I didn't expect Autograph to go into its second week. I thought my friends and family would only watch it. But it went on to run for 17 weeks and then the song Amake Amar Moto became a phenomenal success and the film went onto win several awards. After the release of Autograph, I did a lot of soul searching. I could have made something similar but I hate repeating myself. Variety is the spice of life. I have varied interest in cinema, which range from Kie?lowski to David Dhawan. I have a diverse interest in music too, be it Indian classical, hip hop or Bangla band music. The diversity in my preferences gets reflected in my work. I sincerely feel filmmaking is like writing blogs. Films are an extension of me. My philosophy, my deepest insecurities, anxieties, love and hatred get reflected in my films. Films are like blogs on celluloid. So, I don't feel any kind of pressure. I enjoy the entire process of writing and filmmaking.
So, what's the origin of your ideation?
I am a voracious reader. I am incredibly interested in history and current affairs. I love reading books on criminal psychology too and that's how the idea of films such as 22 e Srabon (Baishey Srabon) and Chatushkone came to me. I also observe people a lot.
I was shooting the song, Ekbar Bol for 22 e Srabon in 2011 in a morgue and I told my assistant that the morgue resembles a housing complex. Every coffin looks like an individual flat. That's how the idea for the fourth story of Nirbaak, starring Ritwick (Chakraborty) struck me. I saw a painting of Salvador Dalí at a museum and I felt the tree has life. The painting has his signature style and elements of anthropomorphic surrealism, where nature somehow morphs into human beings. That's how another story developed. Srijato, Indraadip (Dasgupta) and I were working on an idea called Aath Poure. It was supposed to have eight stories around eight songs. The project got shelved but I took two stories from Aath Poure for this film. One of the stories is about a narcissistic man and another about a dog who is possessive about his master. Indraadip's dog, Payesh, is obsessed with him and I got the idea from there.
Sushmita Sen's Nirbaak will release on May 1, 2015.
Death is a recurring theme in your films.
Apart from Autograph and Mishor Rahasya, five of the seven films I have completed so far have an episode on death. Death is the greatest leveller. Death fascinates me but not in a morbid way. In Hemlock Society, I looked at death in a humorous manner. In 22 e Srabon, I looked at death as a catharsis. In Chatushkone, I used death as tool for revenge. Death is a recurring theme in my films but I don't do it consciously. The greatest certainty of life is death. So in my films, life and death peacefully co-exist.
Unlike your earlier films, this film has no songs and silence speaks a lot.
My strengths have been my dialogues, songs and the way I use the canvas. I have denounced all my strengths in this film. As a filmmaker I have challenged myself. How can a tree communicate or how can it express love or lust? A dog cannot speak, so how does it express when it sees his master holding another woman in his arms? That's the challenge I took on as a filmmaker this time. The cinematic language is different in Nirbaak. There are no songs and I've used silence more. The pace of the film might surprise a few. It's very languid and has an old-world charm. Nirbaak doesn't have the breakneck pace one is used to while watching in my earlier films.
Rituparno Ghosh used to work with Bollywood actors in Bengali films. Are you following his footsteps by casting Sushmita Sen in this film?
Ritu da has been a perennial source of inspiration but then it's just a coincidence. If I wish to work with someone, I will approach him or her. Sushmita is intelligent, articulate and extremely well read. She has a mind of her own. I liked her persona and I wanted to work with her.
Jisshu Sengupta's performance in Jaatiswar was appreciated and now he will be seen in two of your films. And you have finally managed to rope in Anjan Dutt for your film?
Jisshu is a dear friend and he has great potential as an actor, which needs to be explored. It was incredible shooting with Ritwick. He doesn't act but just behaves in front of the camera. I have always wanted to work with Anjan da. It couldn't happen in 22 e Srabon and Chatushkone. Thankfully, we have made it now.