‘Puja is the worst time for business’

The hit director duo Nandita Roy and Shiboprosad Mukhopadhyay are releasing a film on Durga Puja for the first time

‘Puja is the worst time for business’

Over the last 12 years, Bengali directors Nandita Roy and Shiboprosad Mukherjee have consistently surprised and delighted audiences while achieving success at the box office. They’ve delivered memorable films such as ‘Ichhe’ (2011), ‘Bela Seshe’ (2015), ‘Haami’ (2018) and the poignant ‘Bela Shuru’ (2022), which featured the late greats, Soumitra Chatterjee and Swatilekha Sengupta. Now, in their 12-year career, the duo is releasing a film during Durga Puja for the first time. ‘Raktabeej’ marks the return of veteran actor Victor Banerjee to Bengali cinema after a long break. This real-life-inspired Bengali film starring Mimi Chakraborty and Abir Chatterjee also releases in Hindi and Assamese. In an interview with ‘Millennium Post’, they discussed the challenges of a Puja release, OTT and more:

In a 12-year career, this is the first time you are releasing a film on Durga Puja.

Shiboprosad: Directors often dream of releasing their films during Durga Puja, a special time in Bengal. Movies like ‘Kahaani’, ‘Utsab’ and ‘Joy Baba Felunath’ have had strong connections with this festival. The same holds true for our film, ‘Raktabeej’. It revolves around an incident on Ashtami. While our films typically release during the summer, when we decided to make ‘Raktabeej’, we knew it had to be a Puja release.

Durga Puja typically sees numerous Bengali film releases and this year is no different, with four big releases. As a result, each film might get fewer shows.

Shiboprosad: In the off-season, we usually get more screening slots, but during Durga Puja, all films have to contend with fewer shows. This can affect the business prospects of all four movies. We specifically chose to release ‘Raktabeej’ during Puja because the story is intertwined with the festival. Otherwise, Puja is the worst time for the film industry in terms of business.

‘Raktabeej’ draws inspiration from the real-life incident of the Khagragarh blast.

Nandita: Yes, we saw an article in a newspaper.

Veteran actor Victor Banerjee is back in Bengali cinema after a hiatus. Was it tough convincing him?

Nandita: We thought he was an ideal choice for the role. Shibu messaged him to check if he was aware of our names or our previous work. He requested Shibu to call, stating that if he hadn't heard of us, he might not have responded.

Victor Banerjee plays a character inspired by the former President Pranab Mukherjee.

Shiboprosad: At the time of the explosion, it came as a surprise to many that the President was so near to the site of the incident. He was in his ancestral village of Kirnahar in the Birbhum district in Bengal during Puja.

Today, your films have a dedicated following among the Bengali audience, who resonates with the family-centric narratives. However, ‘Raktabeej’ marks a departure from this genre.

Nandita: I am confident our audience will root for ‘Raktabeej’. It’s a thriller and you can enjoy it with your family. It will still carry our distinctive signature.

Has the viewing pattern changed post-COVID-19?

Nandita: Today, audiences are more open to different types of films. They are receptive to diverse content and this change has been particularly noticeable in the post-COVID-19 period.

But today, audiences also look forward to films being available on OTT platforms.

Shiboprosad: Audiences are intelligent and make choices about when to watch a film based on factors like the poster, the cast, the filmmakers and how the film is presented. For example, when they heard that Victor Banerjee was returning to Bengali cinema after a break, it drew their interest in ‘Raktabeej’.

Many directors from the Bengali film industry are venturing into OTT. Do you also have any such plans?

Nandita: Yes, but at the moment we are so busy making feature films that we can’t devote time.

The OTT players must have reached out to you.

Shiboprosad: We’ve been approached with numerous offers, but it’s important to realise that taking on an OTT project is equivalent to the workload of two and a half films.

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