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Interview Bengali

Characters of Uronchondi are only a medium to tell the stories: Director Abhishek Saha

In a candid chat with us, Saha shares the journey of making the film, and speaks of the contribution of his wife, actress Sudipta Chakraborty, and producer, actor Prasenjit Chatterjee.

Roushni Sarkar

Abhishek Saha’s Uronchondi is already creating ripples as it promises an unusual storyline, strong performances, earthy songs and stunning visuals. The film is one of first productions of nIdeas Creations and Productions Pvt. Ltd. The production house, founded by actor Prasenjit Chatterjee, aims to provide a platform to newcomers with creative potentials.

Saha gained extensive experience in the advertising world and dreamt of graduating from making adverts to helming feature films. When he became desperate to materialise his dream, he received active support from his wife, National Award winning actress Sudipta Chakraborty and actor-turned-producer Chatterjee. Throughout the journey of making the film, Saha was conscious to not let both of them down. He knew Chakraborty and Chatterjee were established names and wanted to prove the strength of his vision to them too.

In a candid chat with us, Saha narrates the journey of making the film, which is slated to be released on 3 August. Excerpts.

Why did you want to make a road movie?

I always wanted to tell a story on the incidents that take place on the road. Personally, when I go out of the house, I get new ideas and thoughts. The confines of the four walls don’t really inspire me. Earlier, I often used to set out on unknown journeys on the road.

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I feel that life on the road is quite unpredictable, yet practical at the same time. One meets new people and comes across new experiences that rarely happens in the familiar surroundings of home. Sometimes, we strike a chord with a stranger automatically, sometimes we don’t. So I feel the journey on the road is always exciting and therefore, I wanted to tell a story on it.

How did you connect the stories of the characters with that of the journey?

See, the story begins after the characters set out on their journey, after they lend expression to their wish to become Uronchondi. In a way, I have not shown any sufferer. Rather, I have tried to show what happens when one decides to stop putting up with regular suffering and embarks on a journey towards freedom.

You know, you, me, everyone regardless of our professions, want to quit everything and set out [in search of] an unknown destiny. But only five among hundred such people listen to their hearts and take a step forward. I have taken these four characters who have been brave enough to take that step and have tried to send the message that anyone can be like them and it will be a worthy experience. I feel that it is very dangerous to live in sorrow and depression. Once one moves on, the past begins to become less important and, thus, one can achieve a balance in life as well.

So there is no special significance of the three female characters?

See, the characters began to take shape while I was conceiving the story. It is a story of human beings, of all of us. The character of Chhotu, played by Amartya [Ray], is equally important as the three female characters. He also sets out on the journey. I think everyone will be able to relate to the story. It is a story of shedding all attachments and going out.

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These characters are only a medium to tell the stories. I have consciously chosen the characters from different age groups. The three women are from the age groups of 70, 40, and 19 and the young man is 20-21. Also, there is the lorry that plays an important part in the film. The story is almost impossible without its presence.

So how did you decide on the cast?

I was not really conscious about the casting while writing the story. I wanted two fresh faces for the youngest characters as the film has a new approach. I was also a little apprehensive about casting two new artistes as a new filmmaker and was not sure whether the producer would agree to it. However, thankfully, Bumba da (Prasenjit Chatterjee) welcomed my proposal.

Sudipta [Chakraborty] was a very natural choice for me from the beginning and people will understand the reason once they watch the film. She was not very comfortable with the idea of being cast in my first film, fearing there would be speculations. But Bumba da was very supportive and he specifically told me that I should concentrate on making the film because once the film leaves a mark on people’s mind they forget these trivial issues.

Also, I have been very lucky in finding Rajnandini (Paul) and Amartya, they have been exceptionally good as debut artistes. The audience will also see Chitra di (Chitra Sen) in a new avatar. She has not done such a character for a long time.

challenging situations. People are egoistic, so in any case, it always works better to treat a situation calmly than shouting through it.

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How did you approach Prasenjit Chatterjee for the story and what was his immediate reaction?

I went to him with the story because I wanted his suggestions as a senior artiste. Previously, he had worked in one of my projects. Liking my work he had called Sudipta and told her, 'Ask your husband to make a film, he will be good at it.'

Finally, when I was done with the script, I went to him to take his suggestions regarding whom to approach. He read the story, liked it instantly and told me, 'You don’t need to go anywhere else because I want to make this film.' He also understood my thoughts behind casting fresh faces.

Having been a creative mind, he has supported me in many such decisions and has given me a lot of liberty. Hopefully I have been able to meet his expectations.

The film was entirely shot outdoors, which is a challenging task. According Rajnandini Paul and Chitra Sen, you were extremely calm and patient throughout the schedule.

See, I sincerely believe that in any situation, shouting doesn’t help, it rather creates chaos. Since I was the captain of the ship, it was my duty to stay calm, so that the attitude could reflect in others.

Yes, it was quite challenging to complete the entire shooting in 13 days since there was no indoor shot. I must say that it would have been an impossible job if the entire team was not so positive and supportive. Cinematographer Soumik Haldar, art director Tanmoy [Chakraborty], hair dresser and stylist Hena Munshi, everyone encouraged me throughout.

I believe I could infuse the essence of Uronchondi in them and, thus, have been able to achieve my vision. Now, it is up to the audience to decide whether I have been able to meet the expectations.

How has Sudipta Chakraborty contributed to the making of the film?

She has been there from the very beginning. She is extremely critical and a perfectionist at the same time and, therefore, we had many discussions which helped in the composition of the film to a great deal. Also, she has trained the two newcomers and has done workshops with them. Both Rajnandini and Amartya have grown up in an urban atmosphere. Sudipta helped them in imbibing the dialect and the body language of the habitants coming from the Jharkhand-Bengal border.

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The songs and the trailer have created a quite a buzz around the film.

Yes, I have tried to place Debu da (Debajyoti Mishra, composer) into a different creative zone and get different kind of compositions from him. See, fortunately all the crew members, including Soumik, Tanmoy, editor Sujay Dutta [Ray] and Debu da, all are stars in their own fields and they have their own style or gharana of work. My challenge was to mould them into my style and vision, and I think I have been able to achieve that.

The film's editing was extremely difficult and also Soumik has done a next to impossible job in completing the shoot in 13 days. The film will definitely prove why they are all considered to be stars. Also, I could have done the shooting in Jharkhand as well, but it was my goal to portray the rural Bengal, which I think, is beautiful. I genuinely want to inspire people to visit those places.