Category: Post Script Cover


 

Supreeta Singh
After a parachuting accident, that almost broke his back, Bear Grylls went on to win the Guinness Book of World Records (1998) at the age of 23 for climbing Mount Everest.  Almost paralysed, it took him 18 long, difficult months to recuperate. It was then he realised that when life gives you a second chance, one should just grab it without thinking twice. Putting behind the stuff that nightmares were made of, Grylls is back in the game as the action-driven host of Discovery Channel’s extreme adventure series, Man Vs Wild.
The new season sees him travelling to remotest places on the globe, including Australia’s northern territory, the Republic of Georgia’s Caucasus Mountains, a deserted island south of Papua New Guinea, the snowfields of the Canadian Rockies, sharing invaluable survival strategies along the way. Grylls loves adventure. “These places are unforgiving and you have to keep your enthusiasm intact. There’s no alternative.  Adventure sports make the world a hard place,” he says.
For a man who lives life in the extreme, survival strategies are a must. Grylls says that it’s important to let people know the route you are planning. Then comes water, a knife, a map, flint and a compass. “I always have a little laminated picture of my family that I tuck in the sole of my shoe. Carry whatever gives you hope. That’s a big part of staying alive,” adds Grylls.
After endless close-shaves with near-death experiences, Grylls now defines his work by the times he gets it right, not the times he gets lucky. However, he does have several funny moments too. “I remember once I was filming in the black swamps in Sumatra. It’s a place where the Tsunami had hit and all these crocodiles had been feeding off 65,000 human corpses and it was just a desolate, dead, stinking, infested area full of snakes, mosquitoes and leeches. I remember getting out and thinking never again back there.”
Since adventure-sport is often touted as counter-culture by many, Grylls has come across parents afraid of letting their children be part of such extra-curricular activities. He says, “My agenda is to encourage young people to follow their dreams and live their adventures. I get responses from parents saying their kids who only wanted to play computer games before are now wanting to climb mountains. Isn’t it great?”
After traversing almost all adventure sports destinations, Grylls believes he would need 10 lifetimes to tick off all the activities on his list. He hopes to visit India soon. “I have been to the Himalayas for hiking. There are so many wild places, great jungles, huge mountains and amazing deserts. I’d love to film in India,” he chuckles.

 

 

The latest Coke ad, with the classic track, Aaj Ki Raat… has caught the imagination of Gen-Y

 

Ashok Chatterjee

Retro ads are gaining popularity with the Indian marketing gurus. Songs from the 1970s and 1980s are making a comeback in Indian commercials. Vintage is special. Success of Akshay Kumar with his printed shirt and big collars in Action Replayy and Ajay Devgn in Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai are enough evidence of the retro making a big comeback in our lives. Advertising is known to capture the pulse of the people. So, the numbers Jata Kahan Hai deewane for the Coca Cola ad, Aaj Pehali Tarikh Hai for the Cadbury Dairy milk chocolate ad or Genelia D’Souza’s New Fanta ad surely grab eyeballs. The latest Coke ad, with the retro number, Aaj Ki Raat… has caught the imagination of gen-next.
The advertisers are not only scoring high with the catchy songs but also leaving no stones unturned in recreating the perfect look and feel. Take for example the Vivel Deo ad, which shows a boy and a girl playing badminton in whites, recreating the song, Dhal Gaya Din, from the Jeetendra-Leena Chandravarkar starrer Humjoli or the Himalaya Face Wash ad where the girl dresses up in retro style or even the Biskfarm cookies ad, where a strong retro concept of patriarchal society comes across with the famous dialogue ‘Pran nath, aap kya kha rahe ho?’.
Shah Rukh Khan has also changed his looks for Dish TV advertisement. He is seen as a 75-years-old man in the ad. He looks cool with a stick.
The ads of the late 70s or 80s still have their brand recall. It is hard to forget the Bajaj bulb ad with the jingle, Jab main chota ladka tha, badi shararat karta tha. Meri chori pakdi jati, Jab roshan hota Bajaj — now, there lies the charm. When ad agencies create ads, their goal is to make a commercial that is catchy and memorable. The use of jingles is to make it linger in your head and remind you of the product.
Another television commercial, which is still fresh in our memories, is the Vicks ki goli lo khich khich door karo number. The ad caught on with the audience so much that it led to a rise in sales of Vicks cough drops. If these were the ‘funny’ ads on TV, the classic Raymonds ad which showed the ‘complete man’ still rings in our head. Advertisers feel the same old magic can be recreated with the new products as well. As ad-man Prahlad Kakkar explains, “I’ve been observing this trend for some time now. It all started with the Close-up toothpaste ad, followed by Fevicol ads and the Cadbury ads. The retro theme breaks the clutter. But if the theme is used in abundance, then it becomes a clutter in itself,” he says.
“In advertising, we have been neglecting the Silvers (the silver jubilee club). Since a healthy 35 per cent of the elderly are the target audience, these retro ads not only make the elderly nostalgic but also get the youngsters notice it. We must always remember the moot point of selling a product is to hook the viewers. And these ads are doing it fine,” Kakkar adds.
But senior account executive, Versus Communications, Rahul Mehra, who also is the manager of music band, Insomnia, begs to differ. He says, “Corporate houses are trying to woo the youth. The IT industry has altered the audience base for products. Youngsters, just out of college are earning high salaries these days, working in BPOs. They constitute a major segment of the Indian population. And this population still loves to listen to ABBA and the Final Countdown for entertainment.”
If Jumping Jack Jeetendra once ruled the popularity charts, today Imran Khan is ruling the roost. The latest Coke shadow ad, features the Break Ke Baad hero Imran doing funny act with the classic Aaj Ki Raat playing in the background. No surprises, it is the most downloaded ad today. The song takes you back to the 1973 film, Anamika.
Talking about the success of the jingles, music composer and audio producer, Drono Acharya, says, “One of the major reasons for the success of these songs is the melody. But the advertisements can go wrong if they make mockery of these golden classics.”
Bollywood singer, Kailash Kher, who has many popular jingles under his belt, refuses to believe that retro is the latest craze for ad filmmakers. “I cannot endorse the view. In order to be different, some advertisers go back to the past for inspiration. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t,” says Kher. 
The person behind successful ad campaigns like the Kamasutra condoms and Emami Fair & Handsome, Alyque Padamsee sums up the phenomenon. He says, “It is just a fad. Agencies copy any success formula. The industry is full of copycats. If one retro-themed ad clicks with the audience, everyone follow suit. Personally, I want to be original,” he clarifies.
Fad or not, retro ads surely have got everyone talking.

Live and let love

In a world torn by violence, does the credo of baul philosophy show a flicker of hope?

 

 

Supreeta Singh

 

 
Against the backdrop of environmental hazards, physical threats and emotional depletion, the quest for spiritual freedom stands tall. If a man’s ultimate aim is self-realisation, then the need to find meaning in life becomes monumental. Unfortunately, today the concepts of peace, liberty and equality have been stripped of their essence and reduced to a mere lip service at best or buzzwords at worst.
 However, a small sect in West Bengal has a different tale to tell. They are above any organised religion, caste and creed or gender discrimination and completely shun orthodox rituals.
Spread across Murshidabad, Nadia and Birbhum districts in Bengal, Sylhet, Bikrampur and Kushtia in Bangladesh, Baul singers and poets practice an egalitarian philosophy preached by ‘exponents’ of world peace and love. 
Thanks to Gautam Ghose’s film Moner Manush, there has been a reawakening of interest in one of the prominent baul exponents, the iconic figure Lalon Fakir. A Hindu-turned-Muslim fakir, who flouted all established norms of society in his exploration of self, Ghose’s film pertinently makes Lalon’s philosophy embedded in his lyrics seem relevant. 
Gautam Ghose says, “Lalon is contemporary. Bauls are not just performers; for them it’s a way of life. Today, not everyone is a performer but they practice devotion nonetheless.”
 For young folk singer Anusheh Anadil of Bangladesh, bauls uphold a philosophy that is eternal. An ardent fan of Lalon songs, she claims that songs give her a glimpse of reality. “The need for self-realisation does not disappear with time. I am in love with the bauls and fakirs specially because here there is no duality of ideas. It is about learning to be empty and embodying that love which is making creation possible. For me, it’s always been about the message these songs convey. I try to pass it on to my audience in whichever way they may listen.”
 The growing popularity of baul songs and tunes in popular culture also stand as a testimony to its revival among the youth. The lyrics, strains and compositions touch a chord infusing a listener with a sense of unbridled joy. Percussionist Tanmoy Bose whose projects Taal Tantra and Baul and Beyond, where Anusheh is one of the contributors, says that baul philosophy is the best example of unity, brotherhood and friendship. According to him, youngsters must go through the lines of poems crafted by bauls to understand their import. He adds, “Baul does not just mean smoking weeds and singing songs. It’s a way of life that needs total devotion. For me, the most heartwarming and urgent message of bauls is the principle of guru-shishya (disciple) parampara or tradition that it upholds. Every day we read about student and teacher conflicts. The basic foundation of the baul philosophy lies in total surrender to your guru, who will lead you through the tumultuous hurdles of life. It says that you have to know your guru to complete yourself. This is opposite to the language of aggression youths display. In any situation of dispute and disagreement, baul philosophy can teach you to cooperate.”
 In the same vein, Bangladeshi singer Latif Shah says, “When the desire rises in you to merge with the ‘Supreme Soul’, no matter what your age is, you will be drawn to it like bee to a flower. My disciples are as young as 12 years. That’s an impressionable age and therefore they understand all about bauls with ease.” 
Bose is amazed by the fact that our own indigenous baul philosophy finds resonance in African-American blues and jazz entrenched in socio-political revolutions. “I have been to so many countries and everywhere I have found that the native form of music has sprung out of some kind of protest. Both music and baul philosophy are universal. They are deeply rooted in selflessness. Hence, there is much to learn from them.”
 One of the strongest elements of Baul is the way it embraces everyone irrespective of religion, community, class, economic background and gender. At a time when world leaders at large fail to do more than initiating peace-talks between warring nations, bauls talk about forging ties. “Baul is a secular philosophy. Although fundamentalists attack them in many pockets of Bengal and Bangladesh, yet they promote love and compassion. Men and women, who have been ostracised by society, find solace and acceptance in the company of bauls. Many of them come from poor families and have nowhere to go. Earlier, the urban and rural divide was not as marked as it is today. Now, bauls flock to cities to participate in fairs and festivals giving city slickers an opportunity to learn from them.”
 Interestingly, Baul songs are engaged in a conversation with the body. For them, human body is the most intricate and elaborate vehicle where universal truth lies hidden. The body is a means to an end – the final reunion with the ‘Supreme Being’ who resides in all of us. Human body is sacrosanct, a symbol of divinity. From novice to advanced baul singers, meditation and yoga are a must every day – exactly what health experts urge people to do.  
 “Physical exercise or shadhon-bhajon is as crucial to bauls as singing. All baul songs are centered on the body, which is a metaphor for leading to higher states of existence. A good guru will always decode the songs and explain its meaning to his disciple,” says 30-something Sanjay of Baul band Brahmakhyapa.
 Bauls believe in the principle of ‘here and now’. There is no concept of reincarnation or idol worship. Free of dogmas, it stresses on body and mind to find all answers. “What attracts me to baul philosophy is it’s scientific nature. To develop the inner psyche, you must reach a level of control that is achieved only when you are physically, mentally and emotionally fit. There is neither any sudden anger nor any sudden joy. Isn’t this what any spiritual guru would advise? Today, people earn bushels of money, but are they really happy?” asks Sanjay. 
 The prominent place of women in baul communities is another stellar aspect. While conservative religions put women on the pedestal and worship them, domestic violence continues unabated. Bauls are routinely dismissed for their apparent sexual proclivities, their lifestyle often dubbed as ‘free sex in a free society. Yet rising statistics of divorce and separation speak about the lack of respect and love in urban couples. Tanmoy Bose is aggrieved by such misinterpretations. “It’s an injustice. You have to look beyond the physical intercourse and discover the epitome of love in your partner. And it’s not as if bauls indulge in indiscriminate sexual orgies. They too have fixed mates,” he fumes.
 Echoes Sanjay, “My partner Malobika and I live together. We have a daughter too. As in tantra, baul philosophy too believes in the union of male and female and only the union of the two can lead to creation. There are so many married couples in the society who are miserable. Does the ‘married’ tag stop them from abusing each other? So, how is it different for the bauls?”
 Kartik Das Baul of Santiniketan, who is married with a son, says, “Bauls are not separate entities outside the purview of society. Lalon advises us through his songs to be free of restrictions. In India and abroad, we have finally got our due recognition and things look brighter for the future. As long as I can connect with myself, nothing can dampen my spirit.” 
 Golam Fakir, a noted baul from Nadia, observes that bauls as a sect will always remain a little mysterious and unfathomable to laymen. “Only those who come with a sincere heart and thirst for knowledge are able to apprehend the true essence of bauls. Yet for a world whose heart is bleeding, he shares a snippet from Gita  — Whatever has happened in the past, happened for the best. Whatever will happen will happen for the best too.”

 

What do you prefer — watching Mahalaya on television or listening to the radio recital?

 

Sudipta Dey


The day that marks the beginning of Durga Puja, Mahalaya, is here. It is also the day Birendra Kishore Bhadra has been made an integral part of the Bengali psyche.
Bhadra’s recital of Mahisashur Mardini played by every radio channel, private and government, is more of a ritual ahead of puja celebrations. Right after this local television channels telecast their adaptations of Mahisashur Mardini.
The show was first aired by All India Radio (AIR) in 1937. AIR later sold the rights of the show to HMV which went on to release an album. For the last 50 years, Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s album is one of the highest selling Durga Puja albums. With the advent of television, it was turned into a television show by Delhi Doordarshan approximately two decades ago.
They took the evergreen radio show Mahisashur Mardini and added visuals to it, with Hema Malini playing the role of Maa Durga. “Since it already has chantings and songs, the television show was designed in the form of a dance drama. It was telecast nationally two decades ago,” says a source at Delhi Door­darshan.
With the evolution of technology and graphics each year, visuals of the show get better. The number of local channels telecasting their versions of this mythological journey has increased. But the popularity of Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s recital is still a nationwide rage, both among masses and classes.
Indrani Chakraborty, programming controller of Radio Mirchi, has been playing the CD of Mahisashur Mardini on FM for the last six years. “This is the 77th year of Mahisashur Mardini. It is popular not only in Kolkata  but also across the globe. This has been playing since 1937 by AIR, except in 1976 when it was replaced by some other show. The reaction was huge and it garnered negative response from listeners that year. We are intrigued by the loyalty of the audience towards this show in particular,” says Indrani.
Every television channel in town is ready with their version  of Mahisashur Mardini this year. They will be on air at 6 am in the morning. Star Jalsha has gone a step forward and experimented with the treatment of show. Their show has a fictional rendition to the story. “We at Star Jalsha believe in providing our audiences with something different each year. And we work persistently towards it. It is not an experiment, it is our urge to provide the best to our audiences,” says Suvonkar Banerjee, associate creative director of the channel.
But will Bengalis, most of whom are in awe of Bhadra’s recital, warm up to the idea of a different versions of Mahisasur Mardini? Says Indrani,“Once a private radio channel in Kolkata aired advertisements in between. It completely ruined the show. Later they realised their error and understood the kind of importance our listeners attach to it. We have tried not to disturb the sanctity of the show and treat it with utmost respect.”
Star Jalsha, on the other hand, is confident about the concept. “One cannot compare both forms of media. Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s recitation isn’t entertainment. We believe the radio recital will still be popular as that is part of the glorious Bengali nostalgia. It has risen to a level where it has become a part of the Bengali faith. We do not want to contest that faith but enhance it with our audio-visual presentations,” adds Suvonkar.
Mahalaya, which is a tithi (a particular position of the stars and planets), has now become synonymous to Mahisashur Mardini. Even the intransigent atheist feels the need to go back to his roots when Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s voice fills the autumn morning, welcoming the goddess in the same fashion year after year.

 

Sudipta Dey
A boy and a girl who don’t wish to grow up, live in their world of fantasy where they imagine themselves to be secret agents on different missions. They start all conversations with a ‘password’ or ‘code’. When they accidentally bump into each other on a highway, they hit it off on  a simliar note. She introduces herself as agent Green Spider; he names himself agent Mr India. Both rush off in a car, as if they were on a secret mission.
Initially it might seem like a graphic novel, but it’s not. Birsa Dasgupta, who made his debut in the industry with the cult film 033, is going to present his audience with another entertaining story, Cinamaye Jamone Hoye. It will be a one-hour telefilm for Star Jalsha’s Pujo Special. His telefilms have won many accolades across the country. Birsa Dasgupta is back behind the camera after almost a year-long hiatus.
“It has been a while since I went behind the camera. I thrive on that, I love the feeling of directing a scene,” says Birsa, who is planning his next film early next year.
Recently, he was shooting in Café Bindass, near Salt lake swimming pool, with his lead actress Aparajita Ghosh Das and actor-director Srijit Mukherji.
“The girl is supposed to get married to an NRI, played by Srijit. They meet in this café to discuss their wedding plans,” explains Birsa.
He also went to Bolpur to shoot a few scenes for the telefilm. “I don’t like scenes confined inside a room. The story demands a lot of outdoors, cafes, highways and such places. I shot two scenes in the Elambazaar jungle as well,” says the excited director.
But what made Birsa choose a telefilm? “Why not? I have done telefilms before and its Puja, a time to celebrate. Cinemaye Jamone Hoye is a romantic story. One of the reasons for taking it up was I have not directed anything for quite some time now. Also Cinemaye.. has a gripping storyline,” says Birsa, who was offered to direct last year’s Pujo Special telefilm for Star Jalsha but had to opt out of the project because of prior commitments.
The lead actor in this telefilm is Dhruv Mookerji who was part of his first venture 033 too. The rest of the cast includes Sourav Chatterjee, Arpita Mukherjee, Ardhendu Banerjee and Chaitali Dasgupta.
The telefilm will be aired on October 9 on Star Jalsha.

Tie-ups between television channels and puja committees assure a bigger and better puja experience this year

Sudipta Dey
The gigantic idol, the frenzied zealots, a strong scent of incense sticks and flowers add to the sense of intoxication that Durga Puja brings with it. Pandal hopping with friends is a must-do for the puja, and being present at the most popular pandals is crucial to the celebration as it always makes for a good story to tell.
Following this simple principle, TV channels are also making their presence felt in puja pandals, documenting each celebration as well as adding to it. Most channels have tied up with puja pandals all over the city, as a marketing and promotional venture. Some make it their own puja, while others become a major attraction for the pandal hoppers.
Star Jalsha has tied up with the Deshapriyo Park Puja and is calling it Jalsha Pujo. “We wanted to build a brand. Deshapriya Park puja has been around for a long time, and we wanted to tie up with it and build on it further, so that the puja makes it on the list of all pandal hoppers,” says Yubaraj Bhattacharya, creative director, programming, Star Jalsha. It works as a cross promotion for both the parties, the channel gets to interact with their audience directly, and the mass audience gets to meet their favourite soap star.
While Star has its Jalsha Pujo, Zee Bangla will be celebrating the Mahapujo at Maddox Square and Chetla Agrani Club. “The main objective behind choosing these locations is that these Pujas would be attracting a lot of people from the city and outskirts over the festive week. The crowd that are expected at these venues predominantly consist our target audience. Therefore, the pujas are an excellent platform for us to interact with our audiences,” says Sujay Kutty, EVP and business head, Zee Bangla.
Though they are not bound by a written contract, Bhattacharya says that Star Jalsha is looking into a long term relationship with the puja commitee, with something new to offer every time. “The Deshapriyo Park Puja Committee has been extremely co-operative with us. They don’t have to worry about finances, since that has been taken care of by us. Compared to last year, we are better organised. We are trying to make this puja as comfortable as possible, so that people can visit, sit, chat as long as they want to,” says Bhattacharya. 
The channels have already started advertising their pujas on their channels but the real celebration starts from Mahalaya onwards. A series of events and activities are being lined up for the five-day festival. And most of them will be aired live from the pandals. “We do not have our own puja as such. But we have tied up with 20 pujas to carry out on-ground activities and shooting of live events that will be telecast during the five days of the puja. We have pujas like Sontoshpur Lake Pally, Dumdum Park Tarun Sangha, Ahiritola Sarbojonin, Behala Notun Dal, Kalighat 66 Pally, Paschim Putiari Pally Unnayan Samity to name a few,” informs the branding and marketing team of Rupashi Bangla.
At Maddox Square, other than the usual attraction, there are more this time. “At Maddox Square this year, we would host a Dhaaki Dhunuchi Competition, Painting Competition for children, Rockbazi where bands like Cactus and Bandage would be performing. Shindoor khela would also take place on Dashami. At Chetla Agrani Club we would be hosting similar kind of activities and in addition to that a Best Couple Competition and Shera Ranna Competition would also take place,” informs Kutty. 
If the competition is not what attracts you, the channels have more to please their loyal audience. “It is our puja, so the Jalsha family will definitely be there,” confirms Bhattacharya. Kutty also guarantees the presence of their Zee television stars at these puja pandals. “We will have Shindoor Khela Live on Dashami from Udita Complex where celebs like June Maliah, Aparajita Ghosh Das, Konineeca, Lajbonti and Sahana will be present for Shindoor Khela,” confirms Rupashi Bangla.  You might just be rubbing shoulders with your favourite stars.

Celluloid signature

 

Debutant director Srijit Mukherji is ready with his film, Autograph, which releases on October 14

 

Sudipta Dey
Until a year ago, he didn’t know how to handle a film camera. Now he’s directed a film, Autograph, which features the biggest name of Tollywood Prosenjit Chatterjee. For a first-time director, Srijit Mukherji has already taken up more challenges than his peers in the industry. In Autograph, he pays tribute to one of the greatest films ever made by Tollywood, Sayajit Ray’s Nayak.
Srijit, left a cushioned job of an econometrician to pursue his passion in films. He was into English professional theatre at the same time. He wrote his first non-canonical reinterpretation of Satyajit Ray’s sleuth Feluda, a play called Feluda Ferot, that dealt with futuristic rendition of Feluda, when he would be 60 and Maganlal Meghraj challenges him one last time. Srijit himself played Maganlal Meghraj.
From a successful playwright, to an actor, lyricist and assistant director to Anjan Dutt (Madly Bangalee) and Aparna Sen (Iti Mrinalini), Srijit has taken a step at a time to finally turn to direction. With a “pride in the industry, and child like enthusiasm,” Srijit Mukherji set off to “create magic”, writing the story, script, screenplay and a couple of songs as well.
“Cinema is magic, I love the feeling of crafting that piece of magic,” says Srijit, who stills finds that magic in “the dingy alleys of the Tollywood studios, where great filmmakers like Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Ritwik Ghatak once walked… the makeup rooms, where actors like Uttam Kumar added the finals touches to his feudal moustache.”
On a regular evening in Bangalore, he was discussing a play with his long time friend Nandana Sen, when he came up with the concept of Autograph. “Nandana was excited and wanted me to go for it, in fact she pushed me into it,” says Srijit, who finally went on a producer hunt and got in touch with Sree Venkatesh. “I showed them the script, and they were ready to produce the film,” he recalls.
“The film has three layers and was conceived way before Inception.” One of the lead character is Subobrata Mitra, played by Indraneil Sengupta, and has a striking resemblance to Srijit’s real life character. “It is not entirely my story, but yes, it has a shadow of my own life.” The character, a first time director goes to the Tollywood superstar, Arun Chatterjee (Prosenjit) to ask him to consider his film, which is a remake of Nayak.
The second layer is the ‘reel-meets-real’ sequence. “There are references of Nayak, where the director is remaking Nayak in the film.” And the third layer is where there are real life characters that play real life character in the film, like Dilip Ray, Rudroprasad Sengupta and even Prosenjit Chatterjee where he plays a superstar.”
 The film-within-a-film format has always intrigued Srijit and he has been toying with the idea for long, before he scripted this film. And while doing so he realised his film would not have been possible without Prosenjit. “There is no one else who can fit the bill. I wanted someone who has been in the industry and has been popular. “It is a story of a reigning superstar, a journey of a filmmaker, a theatre actress who is the directors girlfriend, and the entire matrix of relationships between the three and how it changes their lives.”
Though the film has been ready since June, the film is scheduled to release on October 14, during the Pujas, along with another big budget film, Raj Chakraborty’s Dui Prithibi. But Srijit has faith in his producers Sree Venkatesh, who has also produced Dui Prithibi. “Dui Prithibi is a commercial film and would release in single theatres. But the kind of audience Autograph is targeting is urbane Bengali multiplex going crowd,” says Srijit, who has confidence in the producers’ decision.
Although Srijit is a bit impassive about the competition, he is tensed and excited. “Expectations are high and everybody in the film starting from Bumbada to the spot boys have given their 200 per cent. If not anything else, the honesty of the attempt would show in the film. The industry has helped me a lot in every step of the making.”


Sudipta Dey
A certain group of filmmakers don’t rely on producers and make films on their own, keeping alive the decades old genre of underground filmmaking. With the advent of technology and availability of equipment, film enthusiasts are taking it in their stride to make films, mostly short ones, on issues they want to address and on their own terms.
Q’s documentary film Love In India released in Delhi on September 16, after creating enough fervour over the internet when the trailer was out. Q’s other independent project, Gandu is one of those ‘Indie’ films which are extensively talked about in cyber space. However, they are never released in mainstream theatres — a plight shared by all independent films.
In the late 1950s, the term ‘underground film’ began to be used to describe early independent filmmakers working first in San Francisco, California and New York and soon in other cities around the world as well, including the London and Ubu Films in Sydney. The movement, churned out what most called experimental films by non-conformist filmmakers. By the late 1960s, the movement was represented by mature filmmakers, who began to distance themselves from the countercultural, psychedelic connotations of the word, preferring terms like avant-garde or experimental to describe their work.
Independent films are those that are produced mostly outside the mainstream film industry, often underground. The term also refers to art house films, but now even art films are marketed side by side with commercial flicks. In addition to being produced by independent production companies, most filmmakers procure the finances from different sources. They also take the onus of distributing the film, mostly on the internet.
It is difficult to trace the history of independent filmmaking. The Indian New Wave, commonly known as art cinema or parellel cinema, is an alternative to the mainstream commercial cinema, with a keen eye on the socio-political climate of the era. This movement is distinct from mainstream Bollywood cinema and began around the same time as the French New Wave and Japanese New Wave. The movement was initially led by Bengali cinema, which has produced internationally acclaimed filmmakers such as Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Ritwick Ghatak and gained prominence in the other film industries across the country.
In 1969, the Film Finance Corporation, now renamed National Film Deve­lopment Corpoartion, financed most independent filmmakers of India. But in Bengal, it can be traced back to 1982, when Saumen Guha, started his workshop on Little Filmmaking, in association with the Jadavpur University Film Society (JUFS) and People’s Film Workshop (PFW). Here he propagated the idea of making films on 8 mm gauge. The Super 8, as it was popularly called picked up momentum, with many adopting this technology to make film addressing social and economic issues. One such film enthusiast was Mainak Biswas. Now a noted film critic and also a lecturer at the Jadavpur University, Biswas credits the beginning of the independent film movements back to 1950s when Ritwick Ghatak made his first film Nagarik.
“Nagarik was an independent project, which was supposed to release in 1952 but didn’t. It was much later, that the negatives were revived and fresh prints were made and released sometime in 1976. Similarly, in 1950 Nemai Ghosh’s Chinnamul based on the Partition, too didn’t release formally. But these are considered landmark films in the history of Bengali film history,” says Biswas, adding, “There are many who make films independently. Unfortunately, since they never get a formal release there are no documentations of such projects.” Biswas, points out that Super 8 was a success because the cost was low. But post 1983-84, VHS tapes came into India and anyone who was interested, could make a film with the handycam. “Now, it is even easier to make films. Every second person has a digital camera,” says Biswas, adding, “There are many students from Jadavpur University, who have gone on to make independent films and release them too, in DVD formats and over the internet too.”
Digital filmmaking has given rise to another genre of filmmaking, no-budget films. Anamitra Roy, is one such filmmaker who has been one of the driving forces in the no-budget filmmaking scenario of Kolkata. He is one of the founder members of the no-budget Indie filmmakers’ collaborative titled Little Fish Eat Big Fish, which has recently released a DVD compilation of five short independent film. His only film available is Jean-Luc Godard Had No Script. “It is practically impossible to make a film in the no-budget category. But the idea is to transfer the cost, in the sense that we have volunteers, who are ready to work, plus its digital… the ultimate cost is the cost of living and may be Rs 90, which is the price of the battery for the camera,” says Anamitra.
Little Fish Eat Big Fish’s first successful venture, 5 No Budget Films, was sold at the Book Fair 2010, from the Little Magazine stalls, where they sold nearly 130 copies. The compilation has also been released on the internet, on sites like zinemaya.com and filmmaker.pro, and also on Youtube.
“The idea is not to make profit. We never make films keeping in mind how much money we are going to make or how much money we are going to spend. We have sold each copy of the DVD for Rs 100. To make a profit from webportals, it will take us another two to three years,” says Anamitra, who is yet to recover the production cost of Rs 15,000.
Sustenance is definitely not what independent films promise, so what is the purpose of the movement? Biswas says, “Expression.” Arupratan Ghosh, a poet and one of the filmmakers of the 5 No Budget Films agrees. “We address issues we want to talk about, propagate an idea, among friends and family and those who are interested. Moreover, one does not have to work on anyone else’s terms and conditions.”

Sudipta Dey
“I’m a hippie in the classic sense,” says Q. You might take it as a joke, but after an hour-and-a-half long conversation, you would know, he IS a hippie in every sense of the word. His Love In India finally saw the light of the day on September 16. Extremely arduous in content, the film took him five years to complete, but he says it was a conscious decision from the start.
“I had to grow with the film,” says Q, lesser known as Qaushik Mukherjee, who had to discover his own sexuality over the years. The film deals with the concept of love, through many connotations and contradictions of the idea in India. “There are a lot of things in society that has lost relevance, which has devalued and depreciated over the years. What we are trying to do here is ignite these issues, exercise and make people talk about it,” he says. For Q, the subject has always been sexuality and its multiplicity. Of all the documentaries and independent films, Bissh is one feature film that was released formally. “I never thought that it would release, I never expected people to react to the film the way they did,” says Q, who has always believed that the city is content-driven. 
“Information is restricted to a certain class. Discrimination is at its highest level and there is a political connect to it,” says Q, which has lead to him to follow a simple dictum, “If you don’t act, there would be no reaction.” 
Holding art in the highest regard, Q thinks it is a progressive means. “It’s global and not globalisation. Films in Bengal have always been the best in the country and classics written were way ahead of their times. But somehow, we have become numb and started moving backwards,” says Q, who has a ready solution for that too —“Shock”
Keeping in tune with his motto, he acts, literally and people react to it. Q is one of the key actors in his film. He bares himself of all for his audience to see. “The idea of the hippie movement was to shed your clothes and accept yourself in your skin. I want the world to see me, I want them to see my work,” says Q with an unsettling conviction. “You have to confront yourself first, before you take on the subject.” He attributes this conviction towards his subject as a ‘personal provocation’.
Q has always believed in independent films and never in what he calls “pop-corn films”. “When we make films we never think how we are going to sell the film. The content is important and not the target audience,” says Q, who has been taught the opposite in his advertising profession. 
His film Gandu also explores different sides of one’s sexuality. But he refuses to comment on it as it is an underground project. “Those who have to know already know about it,” he says evading questions about it. A stern follower of the underground movement, he explains, “The idea of underground films are that they should not be publicised, they should come to the forefront. When it does it loses its identity,” says Q, sounding disappointed at the same time.
“People do not support the movement. There are many filmmakers who are doing wonderful work on different subjects. But there are no means to distribute these films here,” says Q, referring to US-based companies who distribute films online. “The culture of buying films online has not caught up in India yet. Hopefully people will wake up from their slumber.”

 

Supreeta Singh

“Joto dureryi thaki na keno ma tomar haather choya theke… moner modhye dhakir daker awaz aar dhunor sporsho bar bar tomar kache amake niye jaye…..mon mante chaye na je tomar theke eto dure achi ma go…..” (No matter what the distance between us mother, the sound of the dhaak and the scent of myrrh keep reminding me of you… my heart is not ready to accept the fact that I am so far away from you). These words have been posted by Amrita Banerjee Ghosh on the wall of Durga Puja, a community events page on Facebook. Originally from Kolkata, she works as a school teacher in Georgia, US. Another follower, Arijit Sur Roy excitedly says the essence of Durga Puja is to buy new clothes, spend time with friends and go pandal-hopping. Others like Soumya Mukherjee, Jaideep Chatterjee, Prasenjit Dey, Sweta Bhattacharya Ganguly, Debarati Nandan and Soumya Mukherjee are keeping a day-to-day countdown to the annual festival. Thanks to Facebook, Durga Puja committees and websites are getting a free platform to publicise their local pujas and market it among peers. All the publicity is being done through events, community websites and their profile pages. Information regarding dates, timings of rituals, where and how they will be performed and other related activities are available on the webpage. Moreover, such communities listed as Religious Organi­sations and Local Businesses are bringing Kolkatans from all over the globe closer. All of them are talking animatedly about their favourite festival, sharing photographs and posting links to blogs. Says Chirantani Dey, “I went to Mumbai in 2006. Although there are many pujas there that I enjoy yet the Kolkata flavour is missing. I have very fond memories of pujas back in Kolkata and I do miss my neighbourhood, friends, puchkas and egg rolls. I joined a Facebook Puja community out of nostalgia.” Interestingly, the creator of Durga Puja 2010 is a 16-years-old Class 12 student of South Point High School, Srinjoy Sen. At last count, the page had more than 4,800 followers. When asked why he started an online page, he says, “I wanted to create an online database for Durga Puja. Facebook gave me the perfect opportunity to do that. I look after web administration of the Bengal Rowing Club and I knew that a Durga Puja events page will get a lot of attention.” Lucknow-based Durga Puja Committee Lal Bagh, Mumbai-based Mahakali Sarbojanin Durgautsav Seva Samiti and Durga – The Holy Deity are some of the communities present on Facebook. Malay Chakraborty of Mahakali Sarbojanin Durgautsav Seva Samiti is a senior manager at Indian Oil Corporation Limited and has been living outside Kolkata for the last 30 years. He has not been able to come back to his city during the pujas for one reason or another. But he has participated in a community puja at Andheri and decided to open a Facebook account to create more awareness. “Online communities are a great way to bring people from all over the world together. Kolkatans living in the UK, USA and other countries get a feel of the pujas in India. Just because they are away from home, they miss all the fun. I thought that a Facebook page will give them the chance to experience Durga Puja as it is celebrated here,” says Malay. Echoes Aloke Kumar Neotia, Managing Dir­ector of Vindhya Group, “Durga Puja is celebrated with grandeur in West Bengal. “But Bengalis living outside the state cannot miss their most important festival. Our site provides them with all the background information connected to puja along with different sections on food, gifts, e-greetings, wallpapers, screen savers, etc. The site gets more than 1 lakh hits a day.” Vindhya Group has a profile page and a website on Facebook called Kolkata Durga Puja. However, the real feel of Durga Puja can never be enjoyed virtually. “Online platforms give people a common reason to share their joy, to develop the community spirit and spread a message of well-being and love. However, they can never replace the real pujas,” he concludes.

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