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Interview Bengali

Kishore Kumar is nowhere in my film and yet he is everywhere: Kaushik Ganguly

The director of Kishore Kumar Junior explains why he chose actor Prosenjit Chatterjee for the lead role, packed 18 songs in the film and got Kumar Sanu to sing them.

Director Kaushik Ganguly

Roushni Sarkar

National award-winning director Kaushik Ganguly is known for films on issues of social relevance. He is one of the foremost Bengali directors to explore gender fluidity and sexuality in television and films. Obscure subject matters that require social attention and recognition hold his interest.

Ganguly, who began his career as a screenwriter, bagged his first National Award for Shabdo in 2012 and then for Bisorjon in 2018. He first teamed up with Prosenjit Chatterjee for the romantic-thriller Drishtikone (2018) and again for the Durga puja release Kishore Kumar Junior, which tells the story of a Kishore Kumar konthi (term used for singers who do covers of a popular singer).

In a candid conversation with Cinestaan.com, Ganguly shared his views on the film that is special to him and discussed the preparations that the entire team had to undertake. Excerpts:

When did you conceive the concept of Kishore Kumar Junior?

I have been in contact with konthis since childhood and still have personal interactions with them. You could say I have been fascinated with these artistes for a long time and have been carrying the story in my mind.

Every creation requires a certain amount of time for proper expression and the artiste within us wakes up.

There is none in this industry except Prosenjit Chatterjee who could have been fit for the role. This is my second film with him after Drishtikone, which reaped huge success and helped me gain the confidence to go ahead with Kishore Kumar Junior.

Drishtikone’s storyline was rather simple, yet the element of an extramarital affair in it was quite unique. However, in Kishore Kumar Junior, there is a blend of the story of middle-class life with a fairy tale.

Kishore Kumar Junior would have made national news if it were not a regional film: Prosenjit

As films take off from a simple reality and expand into a wider arena of imagination and fantasy, this film, too, talks about a character, who is a successful star under the neon lights at night, or at least that is how he appears to be. Yet, during the day, he is the most common man who struggles with his daily life. The character has a lot of shades and also a share of disrespect. Being a konthi, he has never received proper recognition as a singer. I have tried to bring alive his emotions, sorrows with a lot of entertainment through this film, without turning it depressing.

While making the film, I also had this thought in mind that a story relating to Kishore Kumar, the versatile genius of international repute, who was not only a singer, but also a brilliant actor, scriptwriter and director; would help me to penetrate the mind of the audience. And I am stating it again that there is no one else who could have done justice to the role.

How have you brought in balance between the story of the common-man singer and the tribute to Kishore Kumar?

The film will be able to deliver the best answer to this question. See, a song can be enough to pay tribute to Kishore Kumar, but that is not really my goal. Kishore Kumar is vast like the sea, which has a beach with small stalls that sustain with the elements from it. If there was no sea, there would be no tourists. My concern is those small settlements which sell things from the sea. My tribute is to all the konthis, not only from Bengal, but also from all over the country. This is a huge industry.

What was Prosenjit’s reaction when you first approached him with the story? Did he agree to the project at once?

See, I am not a newcomer. He is aware of my work and I have seen him working for a long time. Both of us wanted to collaborate, but were not getting the right opportunity. He has almost 35 years' experience in this industry and hence he knows how concepts take shape in different directors’ perspectives. Therefore, we did not really have to discuss. I told him the concept and he agreed at once. Then I wrote the script and we started off with the shooting. It has been an easy process that way.

Camellia Productions took the responsibility and they have executed the entire process with a lot of dedication. I would specially like to mention producers Rupa Dutta and Nil Ratan Dutta in this regard. We hardly saw them during the shooting, but we got their support throughout. They deserve equal credit for supporting a film with such a concept.

How was the experience of directing Prosenjit?

Working with him ruins one’s usual habits. It becomes quite difficult when you don’t find similar dedication, sincerity and determination in other actors.

Other actors are extremely busy. They have to do work for television, web-series and endorse brands as well. They all do six or seven films a year.

But Bumba-da [as the actor is fondly called] does only two or three films a year. It is decided that he will do one film for the Bengali New Year, one for Puja and another for Christmas, that’s all. And there are also films like Mayurakshi (2017) that don’t require a special date. It can be watched any time of the year.

He doesn’t work under pressure. This kind of presence is extremely favourable. Even if we postpone the dates there is no issue from his side. He gives plenty of dates if the work is of good quality. He never puts any kind of pressure on the director. He would prepare for months for the character he plays.

Kishore Kumar trailer: Kaushik Ganguly gives dramatic, musical tribute to legendary singer

It is impossible to play Kishore Kumar Junior without any preparation. Bumba-da, Aparajita Adhya, Lama [Halder] and all the musicians did thorough rehearsals for one month. The same musicians who have played in the songs have acted in the film as well. The scenes of their performances in the film are musically correct shots. Though there are songs in playback, we could hear Bumba-da singing if the songs were muted.

Why did you choose Kumar Sanu to sing all the songs for Kishore Kumar Junior?

Is there any bigger Kishore Kumar konthi than Kumar Sanu in India? Sanu is the most successful Kishore Kumar Junior. Sanu, Abhijeet [Bhattacharya], and Babul Supriyo stepped into the music industry singing Kishore Kumar’s songs. They made their own identities and names while singing his songs. We were quite focused in that case. We wanted someone who has a national identity and has been a konthi as well.

What are the parameters of making a Puja special film?

Both I and Bumba-da don’t like films with intense, grim and dark storylines for a Puja special. There have to be elements of festivity and fun as well. And I feel there can be no alternative to Kishore Kumar’s songs in this regard. There are 18 songs in the film and all of them are extremely popular. The audience will feel like singing the songs in the theatres. During the preview, we heard the technicians singing the songs and getting attached to them.

But there is a lot more in the film than the songs. The audience will take away certain values and messages after watching the film. That is why I have made the film. If presenting the songs were my only concern, I would have made music videos. The film is quite special to me.

Six films are being released on a single date for Durga Puja. What are your expectations?

I would not mind if the number was eight or more. I feel Kishore Kumar Junior will get the due appreciation and response on its own merit. If the audience decides to watch the film, nothing will stop them. I feel the audience determines the destiny of a Bengali film. They have good taste and they know what to watch and what not.

In earlier days, there was a time when Prosenjit used to have three releases on Puja, then three on Diwali and another three on the next Friday. Nine films used to run at the same time.

I see myself as a guardian of this industry: Prosenjit Chatterjee

This has never been a big deal. Only the number of theatres has decreased now and so a lot of chaos takes place. However, the way people watch sports matches, they will make their own space and watch the film. Everyone expects a film from Prosenjit on Puja and the trend has started from Autograph (2010) and all of them have been successful.

It’s quite interesting to see how these films have had success. Also, in Kishore Kumar Junior, there is a bigger star than Bumba-da — Kishore Kumar himself. He is nowhere in the film, yet he is everywhere. The film is not his biopic; it narrates the journey of a simple artist.

How do you retain simplicity in all your films irrespective of the themes?

If a director has confidence in the subject and message of his or her film, then he or she can easily avoid complications. Lack in the craft invites complications. Then one takes recourse to external attractions — jugglery of shots.

A good product can be easily sold in a simple container. When the situation is reverse, one concentrates more on the container. My contents are mostly simple. We have grown up in the land of Ramayan and Mahabharat and have listened to the simple stories from our grandparents. Therefore, I feel if a story is told in a simpler form, it can hit the audience with greater depth.