Raja Dasgupta An Interview Interviewed by Sunil Deepak, June 2009
Sunil: Raja, looking back at your work, how do you see your evolution as a film maker? In what things you have changed and how?
Raja: Till date I have worked only for television...mostly done fiction for Bengali channels. I have touched probably all genres. Now, for the past four years, I have been very seriously contemplating on making my first feature film. I really don't know if I've changed at all as a filmmaker because I am absolutely at home with any genre. Its only experience that I've gained and gathered. So I feel I'm comfortable with anything and everything.
Sunil: I have seen some of the neorealistic Bengali cinema done by persons like Satyajit Ray or Ritwik Ghatak, as well some of the mainstream cinema of popular films that can be exemplified by the sentimental films of Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen. However, the more recent films that I have seen in bits and pieces, seem much heavily influenced by Bollywood. Do you share that opinion? Do you think that there is a space for particular Bengali sensibility in films? If yes or no, why?
Raja: Yes, you are quite right about the Bollywood "Influence". But VERY poorly executed. Actually, the producers today are mostly non-Bengalis and they force their directors to make such run-of-the-mill stuff. And, I'm sorry to say that even the so-called promising young directors are making very shallow cinema...I've noticed that it is the trend almost all over the world!!!
Yes, there is still very much space for particular Bengali sensibility in films, but sadly there are only a handful of directors to do that. In the past couple of years, only two directors have quite successfully done that. Try to watch "Herbert" by Suman Mukherjee (his first film) and "Kaalbela" by Gautam Ghosh (he is an established director). And I'm quite sure that Birsa's film "033" will be one such.
Sunil: From all your works, what are the three works that gave you most satisfaction and why?
Raja: My telefilms "Mukhguli", "Anya Nakshi" and my serial "Ekushe Pa". "Mukhguli", because here I was dealing with a very sensitive subject - old age home. "Anya Nakshi", because here I was dealing with Muslim fundamentalism. "Ekushe Pa", because here I was dealing with youth...this was a campus story.
Sunil: About your film on Anya Nakshi on Muslim fundamentalism, when was it made? Normally this is an area that is very sensitive and usually avoided by film-makers, as it can easily create controversies and protests. I am thinking of all the controversies in West Bengal recently about Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nazreen. What kind of reactions did you get for your film, especially from Muslims?
Raja: I made "Anya Nakshi" in 2003 and it was telecast on ETV, a major Bengali channel. Surprisingly, there were no adverse criticism or protests. A lot of progressive Muslims hailed the telefilm. In a way I was lucky I guess.
Sunil: Is there a dream in your heart, of making a film on a book, a personality, an event?
Raja: Yes. On a personality. Mir Zafar, the General of Siraj-ud-Dowlah, who has been very wrongly projected as a betrayer in the annals of Indian History. I wish to put things right. I have personally done helluva lot of research on this and I have solid proof to support my claim.
Sunil: I am intrigued by your idea of making on film on the life of Mir Zafar. Like most people, I also have his image as a betrayer. So I am curious about the story behind it, and I am sure that such a film can be a mirror to today's times also since reality gets often distorted due to several reasons and public images of issues seldom reflect the complexity behind them.
Raja: The Mir Zafar film has to be an international project... and with Gil gone I am quite sceptical about it now. We had discussed it at length and he was very enthusiastic about it. It will just remain a DREAM!!!
Sunil: Your son Birsa is also a film maker. What advice would you give him and to other young film makers?
Raja: Incidentally, Birsa is right now working on the post-production of his first feature film which will be released in August this year. I've not given him a single bit of advice and neither did he ask for any. Its just like what happened when I made my first documentary film, way back in 1979. Neither did I ask my father for any advice nor did he come forward with any. Times are changing so fast, Sunil. Its basically generation gap. Now, my advice to young filmmakers would be : Just churn out "good" films (of your own choice), but you must always remember that you, as a filmmaker, have a "social responsibility"... because you are spending such a lot of money. Its not like writing a poem... where you hardly spend anything... except maybe the cost of a piece of paper and a wee bit of ink!!!
Sunil: about films and social responsibility, do you think that with time, films or Bengali films have lost that connection? why? Is it just the dominance of markets? has the social responsibility issue been shifted to TV shows and films?
Raja: "Is it just the dominance of markets?"... you have said it all...
Sunil: Thanks Raja.
More about Raja Dasgupta
Read more about the works of Raja Dasgupta.