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Interview Bengali

Manikbabu reflects my philosophy, says director Abhinandan Banerjee

Noteworthy for its stylistic consistency and strong command over mise-en-scene, the film contains minimal dialogue.

Roushni Sarkar

Abhinandan Banerjee’s debut film Manikbabur Megh, which is based on 'abstract reality', has received a special mention by the jury at the NFDC Film Bazaar.

Produced by Bauddhayan Mukherji and co-produced by Monalisa Mukherji, Manikbabur Megh stars Chandan Sen, Arun Guha Thakurta, Nemai Ghosh, Debesh Roy Choudhury and Bratya Basu. Noteworthy for its stylistic consistency and strong command over mise-en-scene, Manikbabur Megh contains minimal dialogue.

“I have not received conventional training to become a filmmaker,” said the former student of architecture, who entered the world of cinema through Little Lamb Films and eventually co-wrote Teenkahon (2015), which was directed by Mukherji.

Banerjee feels elated to have been recognised as a Bengali filmmaker. “I attended this event for the first time and as I participated in the discussion sessions. I got the feeling that Bengalis, who were pioneers of Indian arthouse films, are nowhere in the map these days. Of course, there are exceptions, but I believe there is a vacuum in that space,” said the director, who also worked extensively in the advertising industry and wrote stories and designed posters for popular programmes, including Radio Mirchi’s Sunday Suspense.

Though Banerjee is quite happy about receiving encouragement at the beginning of his new journey, he is looking forward to the road ahead. “I don't believe there can be any ranking when it comes to selecting films in competitions; however, since the jury had important film personalities from the world film map, such as Paolo Bertolin, Kiki Fung and Stefan Borsos, it really feels great as a Bengali filmmaker to receive the honour,” said Banerjee.

Manikbabur Megh is not a story-based film. The multifaceted artiste feels that living every moment is an art in itself and the philosophy inherent in every moment’s survival works as the true inspiration for him. “We tell stories through our memories of living and the imagination based on those memories. For example, designing posters for Radio Mirchi programme Sunday Suspense helps me live through the existential connection I have with Kolkata while living in Mumbai. I believe in the practice of storytelling, irrespective of the medium," reflected Banerjee.

A writer, designer and illustrator, Banerjee is currently not sure when he will make his next film. “I believe there are two kinds of filmmakers, those who make films to establish themselves as filmmakers and those who cannot help but make films. I belong to the latter category. I am not looking forward to becoming just a filmmaker. Hence, if I require the medium of cinema to tell my stories, I will be back with my films,” said the filmmaker, who took almost two years to finish writing the script of Manikbabur Megh.

Banerjee firmly believes that all the stories have already been told and that there are only retellings of stories in different forms. “Stories are like energy. They are constant and only change their form and shape according to the ever-changing perspectives of humanity. And amidst this humongous timeline of stories on our planet we storytellers are just mere catalysts. Also, this is the same margin from where films can go one step ahead of stories. Films also offer you the experience of it. Hence, choosing an idea or a story or just a mood for a film is not an easy decision for me as a filmmaker. Whenever the need arises next, I shall be ready with my next film,” said Banerjee.

The director is keen on restraining himself and focusing on stories. “I have always delved into creative pursuits without prioritising the commercial aspects; however, fortunately, or unfortunately, cinema is an art form, that links business inseparably to itself,” said the youth, who claimed to be shy and quiet like his character Manikbabu. “Manikbabu reflects my own philosophy that I imbibe through observing life," he said.

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