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Interview Hindi

I want to work with people who enrich my craft, experiences: Filmmaker Sanjoy Nag on Yours Truly


The filmmaker talks about his inspirations for the story and the choice of casting Soni Razdan in his film.

Sukhpreet Kahlon

Filmmaker Sanjoy Nag’s latest feature, Yours Truly is an adaptation of one of the stories titled The One That Was Announced, from the book Love Stories #1 TO 14 by Annie Zaidi. Starring Soni Razdan, Pankaj Tripathi, Aahana Kumra, and veteran filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt in a special appearance, the film is an exploration of the loneliness and solitary life of a woman.

On the sidelines of the 24th Kolkata International Film Festival, Nag spoke to us about the appeal of his story and metamorphosing the city of Kolkata through his lens.

Your film is an adaptation of a short story. What appealed to you about the story and propelled you towards making this film?

I wanted to do a love story and I read this story 4-5 years back when the book came out, and ever since the story has been haunting me…. So what attracted me was the love story. We have some templates of love stories and how love stories should be portrayed on screen, even in literature. But I thought this was one story that’s out of that.

The first film that I did, Memories in March (2011), also has this thing about voice. There were three characters in the film played by Rituparno Ghosh, Deepti Naval and Raima Sen. It also had this fourth character that holds the film together, whom we don’t ever see in the film. Since then I have always been intrigued by how a voice can also act as a catalyst for a character, how that also becomes a major part of your film without saying as much.

Rituparno Ghosh and Deepti Haval in Memories Of March (2011)

When we are watching cinema, the visual strikes us more, we register it more, voices kind of get dismissed. So, how to make a voice which is almost on the sidelines and how to get that voice an importance so that it becomes a main character - these were some of the things I had in mind when I was structuring the film for the last 5 years. That was the main trigger…I felt that I could play around with the content because it was not like a regular start to end kind of linear narrative, so I could play around with structure and being in some other templates that I wanted to.

In your press conference here, you mentioned that you were fascinated by the audio-visual and how you wanted to highlight the audio in your film...

There are two main voices that play in the film. We have some visual templates in cinema, more so in Indian cinema, where when you talk about a villain, we will think about Amrish Puri or Amjad Khan. So these templates are somewhere ingrained in us because of our engagement with Hindi cinema for so many years. But we don’t have the same thing for voice. We’ve had brilliant actors with brilliant voices. Amrish Puri, Amitabh Bachchan, they all have amazing voices but we don’t talk about their voices, we talk about how they look… so I thought why not use that as an extension. If I use two voices, will they also generate the same feeling as a villain’s voice and a good person’s voice, can I also create that? That was a challenge that I had for myself. It is pointless for me to make a film and for nothing to happen after that because as a filmmaker, it is very important for me to enjoy the process of making the film.

For this film, my recce took almost two months because getting the house was very difficult. Since it was important to see the train from the house, I would travel in local trains because it was important for me to see the house from the train. I don’t remember in Indian cinema anyone trying to do that, whether they have succeeded or failed I don’t know, but I don’t remember that happening in Indian cinema, the playing with the voice.

I found the idea of this house on the outskirts of the city and your engagement with the city different because you have explored places that are on the margins, as is the character of Mithi. You seem to be consciously avoiding the typical markers of Kolkata, in fact Park street is only mentioned by Mithi, so what guided this choice?

Actually, you do see Park Street but because it is shot differently, you don’t realise it’s Park Street. Been born and brought up here in Kolkata, I have seen Kolkata in Hindi films...and there are certain templates - there is Victoria Memorial, Howrah Bridge, so I thought why not use the same city and dig a little deeper because this person has an unconventional life so might as well get into an unconventional space that I don’t get to see.

That is my city also. I am actually shooting in the major business district in Kolkata, Dalhousie. There are shots of Dalhousie but it’s shot differently, so if you don’t know that space very well, you’ll hardly realise that’s the place. Also the ferry, we all know that the ferry exists, but we hardly get to see it.

It was also very important for me that Mithi undertakes that journey where she takes a rickshaw, a train, a ferry and then reaches office because then only will she get to hear the voice. It’s almost insurmountable odds. If she’s doing all of that it’s important to see Kolkata in that space and that pace. I visualized it as when Mithi comes to office, that Kolkata is almost like Mithi, the pace of life that Mithi is getting accustomed to, is also like Mithi.

Mithi’s character is fascinating because she is solitary yet retains her compassion and is not insulated from humanity. What made you think of Soni Razdan for the part?

Soni Razdan as Mithi in Yours Truly

My reference for Soni razdan is her early work and as a kid, when I watched the television series, Buniyaad. There was something that stayed with me. I love working with people who want to do good work and who are waiting for good scripts and will give you that 100%. And of course they have to be competent, there’s no doubt about that. In my first film I had Deepti Naval, before that Deepti was doing nothing, just bit roles, another film that I did had Revathy and Shabana. So I don’t know what the exact reason is. I loved their acting and I loved the cinema that they did…

Nostalgia.

Steeped in nostalgia and I always wished that I got a chance to work with them. The same thing happened for Soni though I made the biggest blunder, I called her up and said I loved you in Kapoor & Sons! I don’t know what I was doing! But she was very gracious. I read somewhere that she was doing Raazi so I thought I’d give it a try and call her, so I spoke to her and she agreed.

Also, as a director I want to work with people who enrich my craft and my experiences. I also want them to help me learn certain things. Soni has experience in theatre and I knew that I could change the way she looks and she would be willing to experiment also. I thought she would be more receptive to changing the way she looks. The entire brilliance of the performance is also its adaptability. She also came up with many suggestions and was completely into it, which was a very good thing. If you lead actors completely into that space, it becomes that much easier to direct also.

Will we get to see a theatrical release of your film?

We are hoping for it but let’s see. Hopefully, next year sometime, as things stand.

Related topics

Kolkata International Film Festival