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Interview Bengali

Wanted to tell a story that carries essence of eastern culture: Soukarya Ghosal

In an interview with us, the independent filmmaker shares bits and pieces from his journey of making Rainbow Jelly.

Roushni Sarkar

Independent filmmaker Soukarya Ghosal has created quite a buzz with his low-budget feature film Rainbow Jelly. A food fantasy film that speaks of hope, innocence and nostalgia, Rainbow Jelly has not only overwhelmed the audiences, but has also set a bench-mark for content driven, cinematically rich Bengali films.

Also an animator, a lyricist and a screenwriter, Ghosal earned critical acclaim for his debut film Pendulum in 2014. In 2015, he made period film, Loadshedding, based on teenage love story of the 1990s for Zee Bangla Cinema Originals.

Ghosal feels that the hard work of his entire team, including Mahabrata Basu, the child protagonist who suffers from septicaemia in real life, is paying off. In an interview with us, the filmmaker shares bits and pieces from his journey of making the film. Excerpts.

Soukarya Ghosal

How difficult was the journey to make the film?

We had to face the usual challenges of making an independent film. However, the film contains such feel-good elements and a positive spirit that everyone I discussed the script with or expressed my wish to associate to the film, came forward to lend support. Due to the relentless gestures shown by my friends, wife and members from the film fraternity, no obstacle felt too intimidating.

Could you talk about the people who supported you throughout?

The interesting part is that whenever I read out the script to someone it brought out tears or chocked voices and I got the response, “The script is amazing, now tell us what has to be done.” So it started with the script reading, then throughout the shooting and post production, I received support from all possible ends.

Sreelekha Mitra, Kaushik Sen, Santilal Mukherjee all stood for the independent and low budget film. We all had to work hard a lot, and sometimes I used to really feel bad, that I could not arrange for any comfort for them. Perhaps everyone saw the film in their way and had the faith that the story could turn out well on the screen. The film is the result of a unanimous effort by all. Only Soukarya and Mahabrata cannot make Rainbow Jelly.

When the trailer was finally out, Srikant Mohta, the owner of SVF Entertainment Pvt. Ltd., too came forward to help. What I mean to say is that from common people to the most influential figures of the [Bengali film] industry, all were ready to push the film towards its success without any self-interest.

You did research in taste theory. From where did you get the inspiration to connect your research with the elements of fairy- tale and create a story with the character of Ghoton at the center?

I wanted to make a film for the Bengali audience. Bengalis are known for their weakness towards both food and fairy- tale or fantasy. Hence, the idea of a story on food-fantasy emerged. Numerous films on food had already been made in and outside the country. Therefore, I had to figure out a specific element of food which I could explore more. As I delved into the subject, I came with the concept of taste or flavours. I don’t think, in India, there has been any film on flavours and I am including regional films too in my statement. I really want to watch, if there is any.

Anyway, then I pondered on the importance or the significance of flavours on everyday emotions and moods. My research on Ayurveda helped me a great deal in this context. In Ayurveda, it is written, “Don’t make medicine your food, make food your medicine.” On these explanations I built up the story.

I also wanted to tell an eternal story of this land that carries the essence of eastern culture. Hence, the idea of a modernised fairy-tale like story formed in my mind. In fairy tales, we used to read about shooting stars but these days due to excessive pollution we don’t have the privilege of seeing shooting stars.

So what? We don’t have shooting stars but we have Pori Pishi and aeroplanes flying in the skyline. Thus, in the film, when Ghoton wishes something and an aeroplane flies, his wish comes true.

How did you conceive the character of Ghoton?

Ghoton is a special child. I wanted to show how a special child looks at the normal world. Rainbow Jelly is a story of an underdog’s victory. I conceived the character to be more marginalised than a normal underdog child, so that his victory leaves more impact on the audience’s mind. Besides, I also came across characters like Ghoton in my real life — children who were being thrown out of the school for not doing well.

When Moushumi Bhowmick [singer and songwriter] introduced me to Mahabrata, I quite loved his radiant smile which I thought would shine like the seven colours of the Sun's rays — Surjer Saat Rong — the integral mantra of Pori Pishi.

How was the overall experience of working with Mahabrata?

Mahabrata is extremely sincere, dedicated and a rigorous fighter. Coincidentally, there are many similarities between Ghoton and Mahabrata which gave me more reasons to cast Mahabrata in the film. I met Mahabrata quite a long time after I created his character. However, Mahabrata’s mother told me that he also used to get ridiculed by the boys in his colony in his childhood as Ghoton gets mocked in the film. You know when one intends to write a universal story this is how the connections take place.

Also, it is not that Mahabrata did not have to act or he was just natural on screen. If you see Mahabrata in real life, you will find that they are actually quite different. We did intense workshops for three months to prepare Mahabrata for the character and bring out the nuances of his hiccups, halts; that came out so naturally on the screen. When he went to the floor he was thoroughly prepared.

Was Kaushik Sen in your mind from the beginning for the casting?

Well, I had quite a few actors in mind, but the audience had never seen Kaushik Sen play a role of a comical villain. As Leela Majumdar used to say, children’s villains are never thoroughly cruel, they are rather intriguing characters. I had immense trust in Sen that he would perform extremely well and that’s what he has done.

Why did you dedicate the film to Leela Majumdar?

You can say that Rainbow Jelly is entirely inspired by Leela Majumdar. My childhood used to revolve around Majumdar and Satyajit Ray’s stories and Sandesh magazine. I wanted to build the story as in Majumdar’s stories the child characters look at the world. Also, Ray’s black and white illustrations took coloured forms in my mind and the result of it can be seen in throughout the film. The Ray family has an immense impact on me.

Rainbow Jelly is getting immense positive response. How is the feeling? Did you expect such reactions from the audience?

Not at all! Generally the fate of big budget box office films is decided within the third day its release. Independent films such as Rainbow Jelly need two weeks to pick up at the box office through word-of-mouth. However, our film had a house full show on the second day and four house full shows in the third day and so on.

I really did not expect such an overwhelming response. I guess people sensed from the trailer that the film would not deceive them and they got what they expected.