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Interview Bengali

Each story is about what we all are going through, says writer Zinia Sen on the Lockdown Shorts

Along with Windows Production House, the writer has conceptualised the stories in the series of films on the current lockdown. 

Roushni Sarkar

Screenplay writer Zinia Sen is managing to stay quite busy despite the lockdown as she has been one of main contributors to the Lockdown Shorts by Windows Production. Along with directors and producers Shiboprosad Mukherjee and Nandita Roy, Sen has conceptualised the stories of Hing and Apple Tree.

With the lockdown effectively shutting down the film industry, Roy and Mukherjee, known for delivering some of the most commercially successful Bengali films in recent times, came up with the idea of creating content through lockdown shorts - a trend that is being followed by many other production houses and artistes.

The lockdown was declared when Brahma Janen Gopon Kommoti (2020) was running in theatres. “Nobody was prepared for the lockdown and the screenings were forcefully stopped. This is an unprecedented situation. Hence, we thought of creating content that can be relevant for this period,” said Sen, who had also penned Brahma Janen Gopon Kommoti.  

“Each story is about the time we are all going through,” she said. Hing, for example, establishes the importance of homemakers in the light of the lockdown wjhile Rupkotha salutes the healthcare workers fighting against COVID-19. “See, we could not be too ambitious in creating content because we do not have access to theatres. Maximum people have nothing much to do and so we wanted to do something constructive,” she added.

Sen is grateful to Mukherjee and Roy for coming up with this idea as she was eagerly willing to involve herself in a creative format. “We are not quite used to sitting at home and not doing anything. I got excited when they allowed me to write something and send them across to the actors.”

According to Sen, their first lockdown short, Hing was done without preparation. “If you see the films, you can figure out that we are now better prepared with the camera and also improving ourselves technologically with each story. Hing was shot without any preparation. We sent the script to the actors and they were immediately excited about the project,” she said. Hing was probably the first lockdown short. Now, a lot of directors are following suit and Sen is happy about it.

“When both Manali (Dey) and Aparajita (Adhya) got the opportunity, they were very excited regarding the whole idea of shooting themselves because, quite naturally, they were getting bored too,” stated Sen. The shot divisions were explained to the actresses and Brahma Janen Gopon Kommoti director Aritra Mukherjee helped to facilitate this, along with Dipayan Saha.

Sen said that besides being extremely cooperative, none of the artistes has charged any remuneration for the shorts, “We are just trying to channelise our creative energy into something we consider to be constructive and entertaining for people, who are going through a difficult phase,” she explained.

However, since the projects involve no money, Windows Production only consider themselves as the presenters and not the producers. “We primarily came together with a spirit of collaboration. Also, it is true that they are known for delivering some of the biggest hits of the decade and pulling in crowds. I remember Sujoy Ghosh once tweeted that he has immense respect for the directors as they can pull the crowds to the theatre,” added Sen.

But when they started the lockdown shorts, they had no expectations about the number of people who would watch the films. “We just went about it without thinking much, following our instincts. The whole idea is to provide some entertainment. Going beyond our expectations, Hing went to have a million views. We are grateful for the tremendous feedback we have received,” said the delighted screenwriter.

Regarding the process of making the short, Sen said that the actors were allowed to do improvisations while sticking to the basic script. “They could definitely add their own interpretations. Since, everyone wanted to channelise their creativity, we thought that they should have the freedom of expression too. We were overwhelmed and at times not impressed by the improvisations. In the end, it was a process that made us happy,” she said. 

Sen personally feels that even after the lockdown is lifted, not many people will flock to the theatres immediately. Even if she reckons that Bengal is in a good position in the fight against COVID-19, people will be hesitate to go back to the theatres. “Many will be scared about public gatherings. In this case, I think we will need more crowd pullers to restore the situation,” she said.

She further added, "People have already got used to the digital platform of streaming during the lockdown. Therefore, I think the OTT platform is going to be the future of the industry. A lot of established directors and actors will adapt to the platform as in the near future, we might be having other severe situations to deal with,” Sen concluded.

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