Interviewee : Riingo Banerjee, Film director
Interviewer : Sreetama Karmakar
Venue : Soundhouse Blues Studio
Time : 6:30pm
Date : 24th June
“I DON’T WANT TO BE LABELED AS THE PAGE 3 DIRECTOR”
1. Tell us something about your life before becoming Riingo, the film director.
Ans: I don’t think I had to struggle a lot because my background was never films. I did my schooling and college from Kolkata and then pursued MBA. Previously I was heading Grey Worldwide, an ad agency and was posted in Bangladesh for 8 years. So that is the time when I went to Bangkok, to edit an ad film which was made by our agency. There I got to know about the spectacular format called High Definition which was operated by the young boys and girls and was also not introduced in India. So I did a specialized course in cinematography there because by that time, I was already making my ad films. After coming back to Kolkata, I was approached by a satellite channel to make telefilms and that is the time I got introduced to Venkatesh and “Kranti” happened in 2006. It was basically hard work for me, not struggle. My experimental work being not repetitive, was getting noticed and it distinguished me from the others.
2. What about your telefilms, full length feature films and the videos?
Ans: Telefilms we have done about 55-60, over 600 ads and made about 145-150 videos which includes Junoon, bands from India, Babul Supriyo, Indian Ocean, Bickram Ghosh, Pete Locket, all the top bands of Bangladesh..so it was quite a lot of journey. We have done 12 feature films and the 12th one is undergoing post production as of now. Rey, Ghuri and Cottage are the full length feature films releasing this year.
3. How did you go about working with these projects, starting from their pre production?
Ans: See, the system is very simple. First, finding a producer, which is very important. This is the place where we get stuck. So I made a very judicial decision, what I promise, I’ll deliver. And if I’m promising something big, then I must make sure to give that big at a lower cost that he expects it to be. It is very important to know the pulse of the producer, which involves a lot of marketing yourself into it. The idea getting translated into a film, finally getting transferred on the big screen and the producer taking lot of pride and showing it to people, he must listen to the appreciation. Once this gets done, the whole thing becomes a easier. Then comes the subject, the entire process and how many people would be wanted. Never over sell your project. Be very transparent with money.
4. We have read earlier that in Bangladesh you had met with an accident and was almost about to lose your left leg. How did it happen?
Ans: It was in 2001. I was shooting a film on Murktijudhyo for a friend in Sonargaon, Bangladesh and it was raining quite heavily. We were in this jamidarbari, which fell down, not being able to resist the storm. Lot of people died that day. I was under the rumbles for 10 minutes, trapped and lost my left leg. It was broken into 16-18 pieces. But yes, I’m back on my feet, all metal and rod and its short in size as well.
5. What impact did the recording of a soliloquy from Rajesh Sharma’s play had in your life?
Ans: How do you know this? (laughs). Its interesting that you mentioned it. It was recorded in a studio of a friend and Rajesh himself is an old friend of mine. We were working on some projects together, so we had little spare time. Had asked my music director Soham Dasgupta to play some chords, he went into the studio, started playing and it was like magic that happened and once that happened, it just inspired me. It gave me that “wow”. It came out of nothing and there was no plan, I wasn’t sure about what was going to happen there. It was like going to the galaxy of the unknown and suddenly discovering a new planet and I think Rajesh was just brilliant, he blew me away.
6. The mass can never be homogeneous. Do you believe in making films for all the sections or you prefer to portray your ideas through your work, where mass plays a slightly different role?
Ans: No. I don’t think movies can be ever made like that. There are a lot of movies which you might like, but people may not and vice versa. So I don’t think proper to say you are going to make a movie for this slot or that slot, never happens that way. The deal is that, if you have got a good story to tell and a good team to back you up and with everything put together, I think it’s a winning situation then. You cannot predetermine who is going to watch your film but do a film where you can connect to the people, they can see a bit of themselves in the film. I don’t think anybody makes a bad film. It goes wrong only when the definition of vision gets diluted, chances are there you are going to go wrong. If you target an audience for a film, it is a wrong practice. I’ve done this myself years back with three films and it didn’t work because from day 1 I was confused. But in my last 2-5 films I’ve completely focused on storytelling and doing it right the way I want to do it.
7. You had a film ‘Neel Rajar Deshe’ which did not garner much footfall after the release however the critics were speaking a lot about it. What is your take on this?
Ans: I think there are times things go for a miss. Maybe the choice of theatres, the stroke of luck, I exactly don’t know. I think a movie’s success depends on lot of factors other than just being a good movie, it is never that. Lot of average movies run for months together. So one must be wondering, what is running them? I guess it is the wit, wisdom and the expertise of the person releasing the music and how to market the film because in today’s world where we are catering to Dish TV, HD channels, 200 normal standard definite channels, I think the audience have got a choice now. There comes the role of the producer r the distributor to circulate the movie correctly and to position it to the right halls.
8. Actresses like Paoli Dam, Swastika Mukherjee have taken new leaps in films like Hate Story and Take One. Nudity according to you is an art or a weapon to make the screens go houseful?
Ans: I don’t think they go houseful. (smiles). People can watch pornography at home. That is more nude than what people pay tickets to see that. One would rather watch a pornographic film. I think semi doesn’t work. If you ask me, I don’t think the so called nude films having bold approaches have really worked as a movie. It might have worked for the actresses, sometime, but they do not become eternal. What really stays back is a performer, like Rekha, Madhuri Dixit, Kajol or Rupa Ganguly. They believe in acting deliveries. I don’t think that they had to go nude at all to make it big.
9. The general public are now blaming the item songs for the rapes that are happening. Do you believe that notion?
Ans: No. Rape is a disease. Item songs are not used to lure the audience to rape people. It is a way to make it look gloss and glitter. Rape is a virus which is a different ball game. It is nothing but the sickness of the mind that is luring people to do wrong things. Rape was always there. Previously it was just not considered to be a complaint.
10. What according to you is the sole reason behind Bollywood’s superiority over tollywood experimentations?
Ans: Two reasons are there. One, the budget. The packaging is very important. Because we are used to watching good theatres. Two, the stars which induce footfall which is very important. The stars here are handful. And South is a completely different industry, way out of our league.
11. You’re many a times tagged as a snobbish director. Did the veterans of this industry help you in your days of struggle?
Ans: Rituparno Ghosh did. He was a great mentor. He used to call me up after watching my movies. And I’m not snobbish. I’m actually very direct. I’m not very hypocritical and believe in speaking my mind out. I don’t want to be labeled as the page 3 director. You should only be photographed and remembered only when your work is worth writing about. If I fail to make pictures in the future, I’ll move to advertising because I know I’m good at it. Tomorrow if I don’t get films, I can become a cinematographer. I kept my options open.
12. What challenges are waiting for the budding filmmakers in the industry?
Ans: They over sell themselves. Visiting a producer 20 times is never going to help you make your film. you need to start small. Feet has to be firm on the ground and do your work well. It is the question of the merit. Nothing else matters. Be confident in what you are delivering, if you don’t know something, admit it.
13. Tell us something about your upcoming movie, “Ek Je Ache Shohor”.
Ans: This is a contemporary film which is a very new format of movie making in the recent times in Bengal. Kolkata is just not about Tagore, Howrah Bridge and Victoria Memorial. Its more about the by-lanes and the smaller roads which are insignificant to many but lives live there. It’s the thing that how an FM show can act as a boost or a metaphor to life. It tells us about the big scams that has put us into troubles. It tells us about the people of Mullickbazar who commit themselves to committing petty crimes for a living. I tried to show the reflection of the true Kolkata today. It is a city which breathes and bleeds and grows and glows. Anik Dutta, 2 pegs down, watched the unedited version of the film and claimed that he could have never made it.
14. Apart from filmmaking what else do you like?
Ans: I like driving. Though not many people know about this. I just put on my GPS and drive away, I don’t know where it takes me to.
15. Rapid Fire
Ans: a) Rituparno Ghosh – Dead
b) Chaitali Dasgupta – News
c) Swastika Mukherjee – Kranti
d) Koel Mullick – Sweet
e) Jishu Sengupta – Friend
f) Parno Mitra – Mainak Bhowmick
g) Paoli Dam – Vikram Bhatt