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Interview Bengali

Always wanted to speak on equal rights for women: Rick Basu on next film Rani

In an interview, Basu spoke about the development of his first directorial venture, Devi, the idea behind his new film, Rani, and why a film on an all-female band is the need of the day.

Roushni Sarkar

Filmmaker Rick Basu is keen on changing the Bengali film scenario with women-centric films. Basu earned a name with his debut film Devi (2017), an unprecedented adaptation of Saratchandra Chattopadhyay’s Devdas, in which he reversed the gender of the protagonists. After Devi (2017), Basu is now working on his next, Rani, a film that focuses on an all-female rock band that fights the social perils with the weapon of music.

Basu speaks with Cinestaan.com on the development of his first directorial venture, Devi, the idea behind his new film, and why a film on an all-female band is the need of the day. Excerpts.

You started your career as an editor. What prompted you to embark on making films?

Yes, I started my career as an editor. I used to edit songs, trailers and was working for both commercial and parallel films.

I was associated with Sree Venkatesh Films for almost 10 years and worked on short films and television series in both Kolkata and Mumbai. Then many directors and actors said that I have got a vision of my own as I had directed quite a few songs and series for filmmaker Mainak Bhaumik. Almost 60% shooting of his film Ami Aar Amar Girlfriends (2013) was done by me.

So the encouragement from the film fraternity prompted me to work on my first my film Devi. Filmmaking and direction was always my passion. I believe that when the audience watch the film in a theatre they actually view the editor’s psyche playing for all the directors.

Have you always wanted to be a filmmaker?

Let me tell you that I am not from any film institute and did not pursue any academic course in films or its technicalities. I used to do a lot of 2D and 3D animations as a hobby. Around 2007, I got Adobe Premiere in my hands and then started fusing Bengali songs with English music videos, inspired by Channel V's show Mix Masala where they used to air Hindi film songs with English music videos.

The fascinating concept got me into the editing scene and sowed the seed of my present journey.

So did the interest for both, editing and music, give birth to the idea of Rani?

Talking about music first, I was closely associated with all the leading Bengali bands like Fossils, Cactus and Chandrabindoo. I used to roam around
with them for various shows as a groupie and shoot both backstage and onstage videos for them. I used to be present at all the gigs that were happening at Someplace Else and had recorded some of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s live shows.

So now I really feel both, nostalgic and content, when the employees at the Park Hotel tell me that once they had seen me shooting with a small camera and now they see me doing the same with a big one!

Coming to Rani, it was actually conceived a long time ago when I was in school. The name that I thought then was Mismatch not Rani. There was a
lovely film named School Of Rock (2003) starring Jack Black. The film was on a children’s band and it prompted me to muse about a female rock band in the present male dominated society.

I have no gender bias and I have always wanted to contribute to the noble cause of speaking for equal rights for women. My first film Devi is an outcome of a similar thought-process.

Also, there has never been a female rock band in Bengal and [there are] hardly any in India. Therefore, with a mind to make a musical which has not been done in the recent times, first we started auditioning for the band.

Out of the 45 girls, we selected Sneha Ghosh, Shreya Majumder, Amrita Chattopadhyay and Arunima Chaudhuri and then we set off shooting for the film. I believe the film has got its own grandeur. The plot is entirely about women standing against the system and changing the system through music.

When I had first conceived the idea, the plot was rather personal, involving two female characters from India and two from Manchester United, who unite and win a band competition in London School of Music. The aim was to emphasise on the fact that music has no boundaries. But now the primary thrust is on how the band fights against the political system and establishes the necessity of standing up to evil forces.

A poster of Rani

Can you also talk about your first film Devi?

I have always been a big fan of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, and according to me, the character of Devdas is the dark and black card that came out of him and got portrayed numerous times with different interpretations. So I thought about entirely switching the gender of the characters and presented the idea to Paoli [Paoli Dam, lead actress of Devi].

First I conceived the title to be Paoli but then she pointed to me that it would sound quite narcissistic. Therefore, the name Devi suited best to me as the female version of Devdas. The name of the protagonist was Devi Banerjee as well.

How do you think Rani is going to leave an impact on the present band culture of Kolkata?

It is very sad that the band culture in Kolkata has declined. There was a time when we used to climb over the boundaries of Nazrul Mancha [an auditorium in Kolkata] to get a glimpse of concerts by Fossils, Cactus. But now the scene has changed, listening to music has now just become a part of an evening.

I really miss that period and that is why I felt it was necessary to come up with the concept of a band and it becomes more socially relevant with a female rock band.

To keep the authenticity of rock music, I asked Kuntal De, the lead guitarist of Underground Authority, to score the music of the film.

Have you decided on the release date of the film?

Not yet. A few more days of shoot are still left.