Onek Diner Pore writer-director Debarati Gupta speaks about the journey of making a dialogue-heavy film with four women characters in the lead and without a classical plot.
Onek Diner Pore is not a film on four women but on human relationships: Debarati Gupta
Kolkata - 19 May 2019 10:00 IST
Debarati Gupta’s film Onek Diner Pore was released recently on the Zee5 platform and is getting a lot of appreciation. Featuring Swastika Mukherjee, Sudipta Chakraborty, Palomi Ghosh and Rupanjana Mitra in the lead, the film brings out nuances of friendships and various other dynamics of the relationships of four school friends who get together after many years.
In a candid conversation with Cinestaan.com, Debarati Gupta revealed the film's journey, discussed her inspirations, and spoke of how her cast brought her story alive on screen. Excerpts:
The characters in your film are flawed, vulnerable and real. From where did you get the inspiration to sketch these characters?
I have made three films before. My first film, Hoi Choi (2013), revolved around a group of friends willing to build a theatre group. The film reflected stories from my student life, college life, and the creative activities I got into.
My next film, Kalki Jug (2015), received critical appreciation, but it is not essentially my story. It is an interesting thriller, but it doesn’t reflect my world. Kuheli (2016), too, is not my kind of film at all. The producers wanted me to make that kind of film and I kind of served with an assignment.
The co-producer of the film, Rajkumar Mitra, who got associated with Thinking Hats Entertainment Solutions, happens to be my friend. He approached me for a story for their production [house]. Recently, I have been meeting many friends from school, with whom I had lost contact for many years, through Facebook. Hence, I was thinking of a story on a reunion.
We have all had rivalries in schools. So, I was thinking of creating a situation out of a meeting of old rivals. I wanted to explore whether it is possible to be formal with rivals after many years. Also, I wanted to show whether two close friends can maintain the same affinity after several years. What happens if the superficial layers are taken off in a reunion?
Since this time my producer is also a friend, I thought of pitching this story. I studied in a girls’ school and wanted to have four females as the protagonists. I believe women can reveal their complexities more than men. Since women are much more expressive, I wanted to see how they deal with such a situation.
In the film, all the characters turn into stories. How did you conceive that?
I have had numerous references to draw inspiration for the film. [Satyajit] Ray’s Kanchanjungha (1962) was one of them. There is no storyline in the film. A family goes on a vacation to Darjeeling. During the vacation, the clouds of relationships gradually recede in layers just as [the peak] Kanchanjungha makes its grand appearance through the clouds. Rituparno Ghosh’s Utsab (2000) is another example of such films.
A few days back, I saw another film, Nothing To Hide (2018), in which four male friends and their wives and girlfriends gather for dinner and start playing a game through which various layers of their relationships and characters come off.
Another film called An Italian Name (2015) inspired me a great deal. These films gave me the confidence to make a film in which there is no storyline but the characters turn into stories and a subtle link among them leads the story of the film ahead.
Is the film essentially made for women? Will a male audience enjoy it?
I made a promotional teaser keeping this thought in mind. In the teaser, Swastika asks whether the film will be liked by men. Palomi replies, “Who cares? Does everything depend on their preference?” Rupanjana, too, says, “I don’t care what men think, I hate men.” In the end, Sudipta says, “Who says men won’t like the film? Everyone likes to gossip. Whoever doesn’t admit that must be lying.” That doesn’t mean I hate men.
[But] this is a valid question and I feel not many men will enjoy the film. In fact, my husband hasn’t liked the film that much. He hasn’t said so clearly, but I can understand that. I don’t know what to say. I did not like Avengers: Endgame, but it doesn’t matter. I feel there is also an importance of the preference of people like me.
Onek Diner Pore has feminist statements as well, but there is no attempt to attack men through the film.
What I feel sincerely and what the film has also reflected is that men have been the same for ages. They are conditioned by society in a particular way. I feel women also exhibit a certain kind of chauvinism. Often when a girl wearing short skirts gets teased by boys, another girl who is not allowed wear such a dress becomes secretly happy. This reaction comes from jealousy and objectification of the girl. These kinds of notions form the base of patriarchy, which exist in both men and women.
I don’t think my story is of merely four women, it is about human relationships. I feel that anyone who is interested in watching relationship stories will like the film. These women have their significant others, who are men, and they have complex equations with them. I don’t understand why men wouldn’t want to watch the film. Why would they only be interested in watching certain kinds of films?
The film was supposed to have a theatrical release, then it got released on a digital platform. When was this decision taken?
The concept, cast and budget of the film were done keeping a theatrical release in mind. Everyone is a bit low as the film did not get released in theatres, especially the cast, including Swastika, and Palomi, who made her debut in the film. However, I thought it is better to run the film on a platform like Zee5, which is accessible to a global audience, than running the film in theatres in dire circumstances.
The decision was taken by the producers long after the film was completed. They are Mumbai-based and did not want to take the risk of distributing the film in Kolkata and they thought that selling the film to Zee5 would be a more lucrative option.
I am glad that now the entire world can watch the film, but, at the same time, I am sad that my mother or the aunty in the neighbourhood, who are not used to the digital platform, cannot watch the film on their own.
Was it a challenge to make a heavily dialogue-based film?
Yes, it was, and I had conceived that the entire film would be shot in close quarters. See, unless we go on a trip outside the city for a reunion, we generally just sit and chat. To keep the progress of the narratives realistic, I did not want to force any adventure in. When we get together for an adda, we sit in a certain place and chat.
As I said before, the films Nothing To Hide and An Italian Name inspired me and provided me the courage to shoot the film in a room. In these films, the entire narrative takes place in a room and, trust me, it is not boring for a moment. Whoever has watched my film has liked it and not felt that the setting has affected the film negatively. There can be shortcomings in the content, but the content demanded such a setting.
How was the experience of working with the four actresses?
It was great! And it got reflected in the film as well. They have turned the characters and their stories more than alive. Their acts have taken my writing way ahead. Even when they were not acting and merely reacting to another’s actions, they were exceptionally convincing.
We know Swastika and Sudipta are amazing actresses, but Palomi has been discovered by the audience for the first time. Rupanjana has mostly appeared on television, but she has put up such a nonchalant act that it is amazing. Everyone has lived the characters and it is hard to say who has done better. I enjoyed the experience thoroughly and the four of them are truly inspiring actresses. Swastika is a huge star, but she always used to arrive on the sets five minutes before call time.
Onek Diner Pore is being streamed on the Zee5 digital platform.