If I Ever Got a Chance to Direct Films, What Kind of Films I Would Make and Why: Wishful Ruminations From The Secret Diary of an Aspirant Filmmaker.
Author: Saswati Chatterjee
I have always been attracted to the craft of filmmaking and to human minds with a creative bent. Having been drawn towards this ‘alluring and exotic’ profession (to outsiders; the people actually doing it will tell you about the sweat and grime and back-breaking efforts that go into the process) at an early age, I was keen to study the subject; however, parental diktats (sigh!) made me take up English Literature, which has, truth be told, also given me plenty of emotional stimulation.
Yet my passion for Cinema has grown undaunted and filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh’s works, which revolve mostly around the intricate nuances of human relationships, have had a profound influence on me. However, if I were a filmmaker myself, I would prefer to explore some other narrative territories or genres.
For one, I would like to make films for a large audience base, preferably children whose minds are captivated with the simplest thoughts of life and nature, presented through fantasy and magic. To be able to create something fascinating for children, it is essential to think like a kid and see the world through a kid’s eyes. Think of timeless classics like The Wizard of Oz (1939), Mary Poppins (1964), and more recently, the Toy Story series and the Disney and Pixar films out of Hollywood.
Closer home, Hindi films like I am Kalam (2010) highlighted friendship across economic barriers and a child’s zest to go to school; Chillar Party (2011) dealt with the demonstrations of a group of children in a suburban Mumbai housing society to domesticate a street dog against state regulations; Dhanak (2015) depicted the loving and painstaking journey of an elder sister across the deserts of Rajasthan to meet a B-town actor in the hope of gifting sight to her blind young brother, and The Blue Umbrella (2005), based on the Ruskin Bond novel of the same name, showed a young girl’s fantastic experiences with a colourful umbrella that she comes across one day and how it changes her perspective on life. All these films have touched a chord with the audiences across all sections of society through their evocative content and intelligent treatment.
Despite a rich cornucopia of highly enjoyable and ready-to-use literary material, the Bengali film industry has not really explored the genre of animated films at length. In fact, it wouldn’t be amiss to say that filmmakers there have barely started scratching the surface, despite budget and technological issues being two important factors which have hampered progress in that direction. I would like to make animated versions of the children’s classics created by path-breaking authors like Rabindranath Tagore, Sukumar Ray, and Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury.
I strongly feel that children today tend to gravitate more towards gadgets and technology than preferring to sit and listen to stories or read books. Consequently, they are gradually untying themselves from their roots. The rapid rise of the nuclear family system, as well as the general lifestyle followed in such families, has been rapidly eroding away the art of storytelling by the grandmas and granddads, which was earlier considered the best—and staple—method of savouring as well as keeping alive one’s folklore and literary culture.
Books like Thakurma’r Jhooli (Grandma’s Bag of stories) by Dakshinaranjan Mitra Majumdar stir up enough mystery and fantasy in the minds of young readers even today with its thrilling content and have remained a favourite with Bengali readers of all ages for a very long time now. The sheer rhyme and rhythm in Sukumar Ray’s fantasy poetry too is a noteworthy example of the vast magnitude of content that Bengali Literature has to offer for all generations of young readers.
Animation films based on classics like Sukumar Ray’s HawJawBawRawLaw (1921), Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury’s Tuntuni’r Boi (1913), and Abanindranath Tagore’s Kheer-er Putul (1896) can do wonders in reaching out to the youngest generations of our society and teaching them about our social traditions and literary heritage.
This would be my humble tribute towards my roots, which are steeped in the twin delights of a vast literary repository and a globally-acclaimed cinematic heritage, and also a deeply fulfilling way of fulfilling my cinematic aspirations. Will they ever come true? The child within me certainly has her fingers crossed!
About the contributor:
Saswati was born and raised in Kolkata with a deeply rooted exposure to the Bengali culture and tradition. Her childhood has been influenced by my family where books and music are an integral part of the household. Although she developed her keenness towards reading and literature much later when she was in college studying English Literature, followed by Post Graduation in English Literature and an English Teaching Diploma.
However, her preferences since childhood were cinema and cricket that started with Bollywood and later she developed a liking for international filmmakers too. She also follows sports like cricket, football and tennis, though not regularly anymore.
Saswati started her professional life with HDFC Bank in Kolkata, then moved to Noida and worked in Naukri. com as a process coordinator, which was followed by a 10-year long sabbatical. In 2015 she has again started working in Mumbai as a content editor for a KPo based in Navi Mumbai. Presently she is based in Dubai, working as a primary school teacher.
Her hobbies include reading, cinema, spending time with friends, travel, exploring people, their culture and cuisines while being an essential Bengali, belonging to Kolkata. Saswati can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and her twitter handle is saswati06.