Interview Bengali

Raj Chakraborty believes it is easier to pass important messages through children


Raj Chakraborty, writer-director of Adventures Of Jojo, explains the process by which he created the film's story and characters and why he believes it is important for children to be exposed to the world outside. 

Roushni Sarkar

After a year of uncertainty, Raj Chakraborty’s film Adventures Of Jojo was finally released on 21 December.

After Bolo Dugga Maiki (2017), the director was struggling with a few children’s projects before Adventures Of Jojo finally made it to the theatres.

Adventures Of Jojo, starring Jashojeet Banerjee, Samiul Alam, Rudranil Ghosh and Padmanabha Dasgupta, is an adventure film that also conveys the message of co-existence of human beings and animals.

In a candid conversation with Cinestaan.com, Chakraborty explained his goal behind making the film and shared his experiences. Excerpts:

Adventures Of Jojo has a simple storyline with a strong message on environment and nature. Did you conceive the story with all these elements from the beginning or did they come with the flow?

No, these aspects never come in a flow. To write a story, one has to invest a lot of time. We had to decide the important factors on which the story would be built and that is how we conceived the story from the beginning.

There were certain important factors. For example, we had to think of the ideas that go in a kid’s mind when he goes to a forest. He thinks of Bagheera, Mowgli and Sher Khan and hopes to see them in the forest. You can see in the film that we made him [Jojo] aware of the fact that these are the characters from storybooks. But then, Jojo makes friends in the forest that are like his favourite characters.

Not only do they have a beautiful bonding, but the human beings and the animals also save each other from perils. It was our intention to convey that if human beings can be sensitive to nature and its inhabitants, then they will also be protected by nature and animals. In the end, the forest ranger says to the poacher that fierce animals also spare and save those who care for them.

It is always much easier to convey a message through children. Adults tend to overthink and create conflicts with their own thoughts. We start thinking from our own point of view and complicate things. Adults may find the idea of a kid surviving in front of the open guns of poachers absurd. But it is a fantasy film; otherwise, leave children, even adults cannot go inside forests without proper protection. Amidst all the fantastic ideas, the message is real.

Also, we wanted the film to have an earthy feel. We Bengalis love adventures, are extremely emotional about friends, and also love to raise our voice for social issues. I wanted to incorporate all those elements.

You have also emphasized the importance of practical knowledge rather than bookish education through the two twin cousins of Jojo.

Actually I have seen these characters up close. I have seen the parents not allowing their children to play and explore; rather, they are always confining them to books and studies. I have seen how detached these kids are from the world outside and have no knowledge of dealing with reality. They were my inspiration for incorporating those characters.

Jojo and Shibu are two contrasting characters and they complement each other well.

Yes, because two friends from cities or forests would talk the same and think alike. But we have different perspectives about people from cities and forests. Jojo and Shibu are different but have the same motive.

I also wanted to convey the impression that in the film Jojo sometimes becomes Feluda, Byomkesh or Sherlock and Shibu is Ajit, Topse or Watson, but I am not sure whether the audience felt it.

Yesterday, when we visited a screening, we found kids cheering and asking for Chenghis or Nanibala (the tiger and the elephant in the film). It is so satisfying to see kids develop love for those characters and that is what they will grow up with. I have already assigned the responsibility to the children to grow up with sensitivity for animals in the film while making them their officers and calling them the future of the country.

When did you start writing Adventures Of Jojo?

It was not very long ago that we started writing the script. Probably in April, when I could not materialize Tong Ling by Leela Majumdar, we started reading a lot of children’s literature. Then we came across many adventure stories by Arup Ratan Dutta and got fascinated by them. We took the concept and idea of poachers destroying forests and started framing our story.

How was the experience of directing two junior artistes, Jashojeet and Samiul?

It was a nice experience. They are quite talented and will go far if they receive proper guidance. See, we keep learning through experience if we really want to. I have learnt from them a lot and while trying to explain to them I have ended up grooming myself. They have worked like two professionals and I quite appreciate that. And they are so sweet, hence, naturally, it was a nice experience on the whole.

Can you share some memorable moments from the shooting in the forests of Arunachal Pradesh?

The location was amazing and the people there helped us a lot. But it was too hot when we were shooting. It was almost 42°. The forest is not infested with many fierce animals, but it is quite dense and not much populated either. There is a sequence when we hung Samiul upside down in a tree and he started screaming that he could see animals coming to attack us and all of us got scared. We also used to have a bath in the river after completing our shooting. We did the entire shooting amidst fun and frolic. The forest is beautiful.

There are many artistes in the film who are not familiar faces.

Actually they are my assistants. We had an extremely limited budget and hence could not afford to cast big artistes and arrange for their accommodation and everything else.

Jojo’s aunty and officer Swapan are my assistants and with their casting I could retain a fresh look in the film as well. Padmanabhada wrote the script and cast himself. I had to cast Rudra [Rudranil Ghosh] as we were planning to work together for a long time. He is lucky for me and one of my favourite actors. He is almost my team member.

How did you sketch the villainous characters?

They had to be placed in contrast with the junior artistes. Poachers are generally very shrewd and that is how I sketched them, to be a bit fierce and clumsy.

What kind of response are you getting from the audience?

I am happy that we are getting the audience we wanted. School students and children are watching the film, mostly along with their grandparents as we had made our request. We are getting good response and 70-80% of the halls were full.