Family Album is my version of Manhattan: Mainak Bhaumik

Director Mainak Bhaumik is all set to release to his new film, Family Album starring Swastika Mukherjee and Paoli Dam. HT caught up with Bhaumik on films, same-sex relationships and more.
Updated on May 29, 2015 05:01 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | By, Kolkata

Director Mainak Bhaumik is peeved. The Ami Aar Amar Girlfriends (2013) and Bedroom (2012) filmmaker says that the audience do not debate on a film anymore after watching it. "Earlier we used to debate on a film after watching it. Nowadays, the audiences watch films and come up with absolute statements on social networking sites. For example: Iron Man 3 is horrible. Everyone is making an absolute statement on social networking sites. Nobody cares to read good books or watch good films but pretends to be well read. If this continues, the society will never grow," says Bhaumik.

When HT caught up with the filmmaker at a coffee shop in Kolkata, it was already 5 pm. He had been watching The Blacklist, an American series, last night till late hours but there was no sign of tiredness on his face, "I wake up at 4 pm," says Bhaumik, as he sat down in a jeans and a comfortable T-shirt. As we got ready for the interview, Bhaumik, who was brought up in New York, shared that he has presented Swastika Mukherjee as Woody Allen and Paoli Dam as Diane Keaton in the film, because he wanted to create his own version of Manhattan, but with two girls. "I have explored a love story, but with two girls. The film's not typically about lesbian relationship. There are fun moments too," he says.

HT caught up with Bhaumik on films, same-sex relationships and more:

Ireland has become the first country to legalise same-sex marriage by popular vote. Whereas having sex with a person of the same gender is punishable under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.
(Cuts in) It is really sad that we are still discussing if legalising gay sex relationships is good or bad. It's 2015 and it's ironic. I don't expect much from human beings. They keep repeating their mistakes. In chemistry there's a concept called entropy where everything tends towards chaos. In human beings, there's a tendency to stay mediocre. They don't want to be progressive. Progressive seems to be a niche concept. Everyone wants everything to remain backdated and with age they get even more backdated.

Your film, Family Album, is about same sex relationship. What are your expectations from the audience given that homosexuality is still a social taboo in India?

I am left-handed. I've heard from my grandmother's friends that being left-handed is a wrong thing. They don't understand that I am a left-hander by birth. I didn't have any definite plans of making a film on the LGBT community. I was writing a story about two people who are attracted to each other. One is nervous and doesn't go anywhere and the other comes and shows the world to her. I was looking at a Kal Ho Na Ho pattern (much like the Shah Rukh Khan and Preity Zinta relationship). Then I felt, why not do it with two girls? I wanted to tell a love story and what difference does it make if both happen to be of the same sex? In most cases, especially in India, whenever we make films on gays, lesbians or the minority communities, even if it is a film like Slumdog Millionaire, we constantly exploit these people. We have a typical mindset of making a sad film on them. Most films on minorities are made with the objective of attracting audience sympathy. I hate the didactic mentality of selling messages through a film.

Family Album is based on Char Dewal, a novel by Suchitra Bhattacharya, who passed away recently.

I read the novel in 2000. I was blown away after reading the first five pages. In a Bengali nuclear family, we are used to seeing a mother as someone who cooks and take care of us. What if she stands in front of the mirror and sees the wrinkles on her face. I loved the way Suchitra di interpreted the character of a mother in the story. Later, I incorporated the story of two girls in the film. I wanted Suchitra di to watch the film but she passed away suddenly. I told her that I am doing something with the story and she warned me not to touch the character of the mother, which I haven't.

Your last Bengali release, Kolkata Calling, where the three Sens - Moon Moon, Raima and Riya - shared screen space for the first time, didn't do good business at the box office.
Kolkata Calling is still my favourite film. I was not trying to please the audience. I was playing with visuals. I was quite aware that Kolkata Calling wouldn't be for everyone. I have decided to try out such films once in a while apart from fun films such as Maach Mishti & More. We are independent filmmakers. Films like Bedroom, Maach Mishti & More and Ami Aar Amar Girlfriends became hits but I never made those films with the intention of only pleasing the audience. The audiences came to watch the film by chance and they liked them. My entire objective of making films is something different. I have always looked at films as blogs and have made films whenever I had something to say.

You are known for making urban-youth centric films.

Just because some of the films have done well, these labels have been attached to me. I dropped in at a few theatres after the release of Ami Aar Amar Girlfriends in 2013 and saw that 40% of the audiences are older people. I don't believe in labels.

A still from the film Family Album.

Swastika Mukherjee played a glamorous actor in both your earlier films, Take One and Ami Aar Amar Girlfriends, but she plays a nerd in this film.
I had always wanted to write a Woody Allen kind of role. I wrote it for Swastika this time. This is my version of Manhattan where Swastika plays Woody Allen and Paoli is Diane Keaton. There's a fun side to same-sex relationship. Parents don't raise any question when a girl spends a night at another girl's house. But that doesn't happen if a boy wants to spend a night at his girlfriend's house.

There are quite a few kissing scenes between Swastika and Paoli in Family Album.
(Laughs) They are good actors. Swastika, Paoli, Parno (Mittra), Raima (Sen) and Rituparna (Sengupta) have enough faith in me. They believe I can handle female characters pretty well. The only worry Paoli had was if she would be able to pull off a masculine character just the like way I had written in the script.

The shooting of Golpo Oder was stalled for a few months. Also, your upcoming film, Chalachitra Circus, is based on the Bengali film industry.
The shooting of Golpo Oder with Rituparna Sengupta and Swastika Mukherjee will resume from June. I've been in this industry for more than four years now. I have a lot of irritation, respect and disrespect towards the industry.

Instead of expression my emotions and feelings on Facebook, I decided to say it through a film. Chalachitra Circus is an extension of me through cinema. Anybody who I am talking about in the film, I feel should have a sense of humour. I am making fun of myself too in the film.


    Anindita Acharya is deputy chief content producer of Hindustan Times. She has been covering the Bengali film industry for eight years. Apart from this, she also reports on lifestyle.

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