After Nirbashito, I will direct more films: Churni

Accomplished Bengali actor Churni Ganguly had to actually break away from acting to direct her first feature film Nirbashito (Banished), based on the life of exiled Bangladeshi author, Taslima Nasreen and her pet cat, Baghini. The film—which premiered this week at the 16th Mumbai Film Festival (MFF)---will probably be screened at the Kolkata Film Festival in November. Ganguly, who also plays the lead role of Taslima Nasreen in the film, says that there is nothing ‘official’ about a release date for Nirbashito yet. 
Ganguly, a sensitive actor who always wanted to direct her films, started writing the script of Nirbashito in February 2012 and in April 2013, completed it. It was an ‘anxious’ period for her. She decided to take her script to Nasreen---who was then staying in New Delhi---for her opinion and approval. Once Nasreen approved of the script, an inspired Ganguly started doing the recce and planning the shoot of the film in Kolkata and Sweden. Nirbashito was canned by December, 2013.

While exploring the subject of loneliness and confinement(forced in Nasreen’s case because she was continuously on the run), the film captures the pain of separation that Nasreen and her pet cat experience and their continuous longing for each other through the film. Both, rebellious in their own way,  the author as well as her pet go into confinement  probably because they find it safer. ‘The film explores certain human values like tolerance and love. Just as the pet cat misses her mother (Nasreen), the exiled author misses her motherland and her mother in her journey across continents. The allegory is interwoven in the plot. Nasreen of course finds a few new friends outside the borders’, Ganguly told Millennium Post.

Interestingly, Ganguly plays the lead role of the exiled author in the film..It was a difficult call since she was also directing her first film. ‘I took the look test and passed. Also, I had scripted the film meticulously and knew the character really well. Also, my assistants knew what to do when I was concentrating on the scene as an actor’, recalled Ganguly, who will go back to direction after she’s taken a break.

So how did Ganguly tackle difficult subjects like Nasreen’s controversial and banned books or her journey away from her home in Bangladesh? Also, does she touch upon the issue of strained relations with some of her peers?’ The film is not a  biopic. I  try to talk about her  writings through her poetry in the film. It is subtly interwoven in the plot. The music in the film is also pertinent and conveys the mood rather well. Nasreen is the Everywoman who has the courage to accept opposition to her beliefs and still has the courage to fight for her cause. I have avoided and skirted controversy as far as possible in the film’, says Ganguly.

So how did Ganguly treat this difficult subject of being banished from one’s own country through her technique? ‘The colour saturation has remained low throughout the film. The highs and lows, the drama, the quietness, the film has to deal with all these elements and I have tried to convey that mood’, says Ganguly of her treatment of the film. The film is  presented by her director-producer husband Kaushik Ganguly, who had ironically wanted to direct a film on Taslima for a while.

The debutant director now veers to the subject of the cat in thefilm—Taslima’s pet---with obvious pleasure.  So how did the Gangulys train the cat in Nirbashito? ‘Many people I know advised me to use a dog, which can be trained easily. But the basic idea was to depict Taslima’s cat in the film for her ‘untamable’ quality. In fact, Kaushik was worried that the cat may jump off the window at some point and then the shoot would have to be wrapped up’, laughs Ganguly.

As for the audiences, Ganguly’s film has already drawn audiences at the festival. ‘I have also shown the film to Taslima and she said I did justice to it. I am happy to be chosen by the MFF authorities to bring my film here. The response was rather encouraging here. I thought it would be received well by mature women but then I realized that even 25 to 30 year old men liked it’ she told Millennium Post. Ganguly has a word of praise for Sirsha Ray,  the DOP in Nirbashito while the music is done by Raja Narayan Deb. Bodhaditya Bandopadhyay is the editor. Apart from Churni Ganguly herself, the film also features acccomplished authors like Saswata Chatterjee and Raima Sen. ‘I am really lucky that top actors of Kolkata agreed to do roles which lasted over a few scenes but were so important’, said Ganguly. So is Ganguly saying her farewell to acting?’No’, she smiles, ‘I am just waiting for the right roles’.
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