'There isn't any Dibakar Banerjee kind of film'
Dibakar Banerjee spoke to Firstpost about his upcoming film, Bombay Talkies, a part of which he has directed, turning into a music composer and working with Nawazuddin Siddiqui.
You could easily miss the small red plate that says 'DBP' in the humble address of Chivda Gali, Parel Mumbai. Dibakar Banerjee's office is like the director himself: simple and unexpected. Banerjee is only four films old in Bollywood, but in these few years, he's earned a reputation for being one of Bollywood's smartest minds and is credited with introducing to Indian audiences a brand of cinema that is distinctively his own.
His latest project is Bombay Talkies, a film that celebrates 100 years of Indian cinema. For the first time, four top directors from Bollywood – Dibakar Banerjee, Karan Johar, Zoya Akhtar and Anurag Kashyap – have come together in a film. Bombay Talkies is made up of four short stories, each directed by a different director, and aims at exploring a gamut of feelings — dream, desire, thought, joy, pain, want, love and sorrow.
Banerjee spoke to Firstpost about Bombay Talkies, turning into a music composer and working with actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui.
Here are some excerpts from the interview:
What is your short film in Bombay Talkies about?
Well, it is based on Satyajit Ray's short story Patol Babu Film Star. It’s about a defeated man, someone who is a failure in life. He believes himself to be an actor although he has not done much of acting...in his realms of thought, he is an actor. You know, how we all are someone else in our thoughts, how we overcome our nursed hurt and grievances in our minds? He does that too. And one day, finally, life gives him a chance to prove himself. Whether he will dare to take it and what follows is what the film is about.
Is there a connection between the four stories in Bombay Talkies ?
No, there are no intersecting story lines or common characters. They are all separate stories. However, there is a string that holds all the four stories together and that is cinema. Movies play a very important part in all four of them.
This is the first time you are working with Nawazuddin Siddiqui. How was the experience?
To be honest, the experience was almost spiritual. It is fascinating to watch him work. He completely loses himself and immerses himself into the film and the character that he is playing and has nothing to do with the outside world. He becomes the character that he is playing.
What made you cast him?
I always wanted to work with Nawazuddin, prior to his starry days. I would so often see him in these small roles and think I have to work with this guy. There had been several times when I couldn't even tell that the it was the same guy playing all these small different characters in various films, because he would transform himself so brilliantly. I would think that each of these characters are being played by different people. But when I did my research, I discovered that it was the same guy and I immediately wanted to work with him. So my willingness to work with Nawazuddin has nothing to do with his Gangs Of Wasseypur fame.
What do you look for in an actor?
Well, in the past, when I looked for some actor to play a particular part, I would try to find someone who resembled as closely as possible the character I have sketched in my head. But, of late, I have found out that it is way more interesting if I find someone who brings something to the character that goes beyond my vision. My idea of the character may be a lot different from how he likes the character to be and our ideas can be like these two disparate elements pulling each other. The result that comes out is finally what the character can be.
Music has been integral to your past films. Anything special about the music of your short film in Bombay Talkies?
Oh, yes! Lots of new things. To begin with, I turn a music composer with Bombay Talkies. I believe that for a film the most important piece of music is the background score, so in this film, I have experimented with it. I have used an old Rabindrasangeet sung by [Rabindranath] Tagore himself in the background. The song is called Tobu mone rekho (Yet remember me).
Which part of filmmaking do you enjoy most and which part do you hate most?
I just love filmmaking. Every bit of it, every part of it. There isn't a part of it that I do not enjoy or that I enjoy more than other parts. However, there is one thing that I do not like at all. It is the promotion and the publicity part of it. Because once the making of the film is over, the creative part of it is done and over with, there is nothing else that can be done to it. So I want to move on to other projects. I don't really like the whole promotion and publicity bit of it because it does not add anything to the product that I have in hand. But then again, it is necessary to get the audiences to watch it, so I have to be [a part of it]. But particularly in the last one year, I have removed myself a lot from the whole promotion drill.
How much does commercial success matter to you?
It is very important for me to see that my work gets appreciated. And, of course, commercial success is important. In fact, I believe none of [my] films have got the kind of commercial success that they deserved. When Khosla Ka Ghosla (2006) released, people barely knew about it. Then the word started going round and now, after so many years of its release, it is considered a Delhi classic. But back then it did not get the kind of commercial success it deserved.
Now that Dibakar Banerjee has become a brand of sorts, how difficult is it to make the kind of films you want to make?
You know, the best part is that there isn't any Dibakar Banerjee kind of film. Every time I come up with a new film, the audiences do not know what to expect. Years after their releases, people club Khosla Ka Ghosla (2006) and Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! (2008) together and call them Delhi classics, but I remember when Oye Lucky! released, people were shocked, since it was so different from Khosla Ka Ghosla. And then they wanted to brand me as someone who makes Delhi-based films. But after Love, Sex Aur Dhokha , they were utterly surprised, yet again. With Shanghai, which was a political thriller, I ventured into a completely different genre, as Bollywood had not produced something like this before. So, by now I think people have stopped trying to classify my films and the only thing they know about my kind of cinema is that it is unpredictable. Being unpredictable is a good, because it is as easy and as difficult to please the audiences.
Any upcoming projects?
Yes, I will be producing Kanu Behl's Titli very soon. Kanu was one of the writers of Love, Sex Aur Dhokha, and I am looking forward to the film.
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