Shauli Chakraborty



Director Goutam Ghose talks about his latest venture Moner Manush. Excerpts:



Why Lalan Fakir?

 Lalan and the philosophy of his sect, I feel, are very relevant in our times. I thought of doing a film on him long time back — right after the Babri Masjid demolition. The communal riots that followed made me think how useful Lalan’s philosophy would be. I did a lot of research on the subject but the project didn’t work out at that time. Post 2001, the world has become intolerant. Political and religious intolerance is rampant. That is why we need Lalan more than ever. We need to preach his philosophy and his views. When Sunil Ganguly wrote Moner Maanush — a novel based on Lalan Fakir’s life and works — I decided it was time to take up the subject once again. I co-ordinated with him and began work on the film.

 Why did you choose Prosenjit to play the lead?

 He was keen to work with me for a very long time. I told him to wait till I had a suitable role and he was patient. His age and his looks make for an interesting Lalan. His eyes are expressive and I knew he was a good choice for the role. However, Prosenjit needed a lot of grooming. For six months he did not take up any other project and preparation time for the role was three months. For an actor this role was one of a kind. He is a star but good roles are rare. I am happy with his performance.

The music…

Lalan lived in a subaltern world. He had no connection with Renaissance Kolkata or 19th century Bengal. He was neither a preacher nor a politician. He was a reformer who quietly worked in rural Bengal through his music. Composing music for the film was a challenge. There were no notations and I went all the way to Bangladesh to meet Sudhin Das at Kusthia. I found 90 songs by Khuda Baksh Shah. In Bangladesh songs sung by baul fakirs are based on the basic ragas but I was in search of a particular kind of tune. I wanted a particular gayeki and when I met Karim Shah I knew I had found my man. He sang 30 songs at one go for me in a hut and I was delighted. Lyrics for Lalan’s songs were hardly ever penned down. They were handed down as recitals from generation to generation. I had to recompose the songs. There is one song based on raag Bhairavi where I used polyphonic tones. In the film songs are part of the dialogue. However, in the CD we have compiled 21 full songs. Latif Shah who is Khuda Baksh Shah’s son was a discovery. He agreed to sing for the film even though he had no experience in recording songs in a studio. I brought him to Kolkata and took him to the recording studio. When he walked in he said, “Chaari dikey to khaancha…tumi amay khaanchar bhetor achin pakhi gayte bolcho (there are cages on all sides…you’re asking me to sing about birds from a cage)”. But he was completely comfortable from the second day. The other singers are Farida Parveen, Antara Choudhary, Upali Chatterjee and Dohar group. A couple of songs were composed by Shiraj Sahi who was Lalan’s guru. Even though the texts are not available Shohajat Firdous has transcribed two songs of Sahi. There are 10,000 songs of Lalon but we used 27 of them for the Moner Maanush.

The other members of the cast…

We have Paoli, Raisulli, Subhra and Champa. There are two youngsters from Bangladesh who deserve special mention — Zeeshan and Tathoi.

What are you exploring – Lalan the man or Lalan and his fame?

The narrative is such that we have a young Jatindranath Tagore confronting an octogenarian Lalan. It is more of a ballad on Lalan’s life. Ananda Shankar Roy once said of him, “Lalan is in no way inferior to Raja Ram Mohan Roy. Both were reformers in their own ways.” That is what the film is about. There is a lot of curiosity about the film.

What should people expect?

Expect love, music and compassion. This is the age of greed and hypocrisy. Youngsters are looking for love and that is exactly what they will take home after watching the film.