‘Many producers unaware of the value festivals bring’

Director Suman Ghosh wouldn’t have made ‘Kabuliwala’ without Mithun Chakraborty

‘Many producers unaware of the value festivals bring’

Director Suman Ghosh is a veteran of international film festivals, especially the Busan Film Festival. His films like ‘Nobel Chor’, ‘Uncle Shyamal Turns off the Lights’, ‘Aadhaar’ and ‘The Scavenger of Dreams’ have made him a favourite on the global stage. Now, his documentary ‘Parama: A Journey with Aparna Sen’ is set to premiere at the prestigious International Film Festival Rotterdam. Ghosh recalled the heyday when works of greats like Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Goutam Ghose and Sen were festival darlings.

During a screening at Busan for ‘The Scavenger of Dreams’, Ghosh was confronted with the question of the diminishing presence of Bengali films in international festivals. “Honestly, we don’t have the potential today,” he rued.

Drawing from an interview with Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Ghosh underscored the disparity in perception, with some viewing ‘certain’ Indian and international festivals as equals. “I know filmmakers often face challenges in securing funding. Also, without NFDC’s support now, the money has to be raised from the market and there’s hardly any producer who understands the value of these festivals. It’s also about cultural identity. That’s why I started my production company, ‘Maya Leela Films’ (named after his two daughters),” said Ghosh, who bagged two National Awards for his debut Bengali film ‘Podokkhep’ in 2006.

A professor of economics at the Florida Atlantic University College of Business, Ghosh has never been in any rush. He usually adheres to a steady pace of one film a year. He believes that when you give all your attention to a project, it’s not possible to do more than one film in a year. He really liked Anirban Bhattacharya’s ‘Ballavpurer Roopkatha’ and believes the director’s effort shows in every frame after working on it for a year. This year, he feels guilty about directing two films: ‘Kabuliwala’ with Mithun Chakraborty and ‘Puratawn’ with Sharmila Tagore and Rituparna Sengupta.

Ghosh sees ‘Kabuliwala’, based on Rabindranath Tagore's timeless tale, as a unique project. He wrote the script for ‘Kabuliwala’ after Mithun agreed to be in the film. The movie wouldn’t have happened without Mithun, said Ghosh straightforwardly. When asked if he was unsure about Mithun joining despite working with him on ‘Nobel Chor’, Ghosh said, “I wasn’t in doubt. But I wanted it to be grand.” So, he asked Shrikant Mohta to produce the film. Knowing Mithun is selective about projects, Ghosh knew the offer had to be really good for him to choose ‘Kabuliwala’ over other films.

Discussing the socio-political context of the film, which is set in 1965, Ghosh said the story is relevant in today’s world marked by turmoil and identity-based divisions. The film highlights the universal theme of love between a Kabuliwali and a Kolkata girl. “Here are two people who have different ages, languages, countries and religions, but their love is universal. Given the current situation of the world, this tale of universal love had to be told again,” said the ‘Dwando’ filmmaker.

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