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Story of #Homecoming is fictional but the film is personal, says director Soumyajit Majumdar

The film, which revolves around the reunion of a theatre group, will be streamed on SonyLiv from 18 February.

Roushni Sarkar

Actor-turned-director Soumyajit Majumdar's first feature film #Homecoming is about the reunion of a theatre group, Aamra, that takes place seven years after its members parted ways abruptly.

The first film from West Bengal to be streamed on SonyLiv, #Homecoming has an ensemble cast that comprises Soham Majumder, Sayani Gupta, Tushar Pandey, Hussain Dalal, Plabita Borthakur, Tuhina Das, Payel Roy, Madhurima Ghosh, Sreya Bhattacharyya, Apratim Chatterjee, Pujarini Ghosh and Sayan Ghosh.

#Homecoming made me want go back to theatre full-time, says actor Soham Majumder

Speaking to Cinestaan, the director, who has helmed and acted in 20 plays across the country and has also appeared in several films, including Aashiqui 2 (2013), Bibaho Diaries (2017) and Cat Sticks (2019), opened up about the journey of making the film that, he believes, has something unique to offer audiences.

Kolkata is the artiste town of India, says Hussain Dalal on shooting for #Homecoming

You developed the idea of #Homecoming when you were on a solo trip. Can you please talk about the ideation process?

As a theatre practitioner, I feel writing is my first calling. After Aashiqui 2 happened, in order to pursue my desire to write new plays and film scripts, I wanted to develop ideas and started travelling alone. I think travelling is the best form of exercise to concentrate on the individual identity, dissociated from societal identity. It was initially supposed to be a two-day affair, but it ended up being a three-week trip around the district of Darjeeling in 2016.

In a place called Tinchuley, I started developing the idea of a reunion of a group of friends who used to be a part of a maverick theatre group. I was ready with the synopsis of the story by the end of the trip. But I had to fulfil some prior commitments and was occupied almost for a year. Then I took a complete break from acting for a long time and started Lok Caravan, a writer’s studio, where I invited creative people and also, got ideas from them about the script, which eventually led to the draft of #Homecoming.

Though the story is fictional, the film is quite personal as it is about all the independent artists I have come across or heard of on my journey so far. It is a tribute to all the artistes on whose lives I wanted to build characters and form something fictional.

How was the process of mounting the project?

The process was quite organic. I already had the experience of working with a huge ensemble cast and crew members before. I was definitely eager to get into fresh setups, but I did not look at it as an uphill task and just went along with the flow. Also, I chose some of the actors with whom I had worked before or whose work I was aware of.

Since I had the experience of working with Mukesh Chhabra in the casting of Kahani 2 (2016), Pari (2018) and Darknesss Visible (2019), it was easy to get the contacts of the artists I desired to work with. It was quite an overwhelming experience to have their instant positive reaction to the presentation of my script, which I sent over WhatsApp. I was also confident that I would be able to present a hybrid culture of the Mumbai and Kolkata film industries and the independent film circuits of both places through my film. It was a great community feeling on the set. There was no vanity van etc. It was a close-knit group like a theatre collective.

This is the first film from West Bengal that is going to be released on SonyLiv. Was it always the plan to have a nationwide OTT release or did you consider a theatrical release?

Actually, the film has been made in the form of episodic cinema. Though it has a proper beginning, middle and end, every 10-12 minutes something or the other happens in the form of an episode closure. This was definitely destined to be an OTT-friendly film; but yes, had the situation been a little better, we would have brought the film to the theatre as well.

What do you think the audience will take away from the film?

It’s a friendship and reunion film. A maverick theatre group comes back after seven years on Durga Puja. People will be able to relate to the part of themselves they lost when they reconnect with their old friends. There is also great music and performances and the story is the protagonist of the film. Within 90 minutes, twenty-seven characters reach their full arc of development. It took a year for me to develop the script in such a way that I could respect each and every character, even if their presence is for one scene. As a writer-director, I am responsible for granting the actors a fulfilling experience in terms of the scope for performance. I also don’t think many films have explored the cosmopolitan spirit in the way this film has. In fact, it was also a highlight when the script was selected for the NFDC (National Film Development Corporation of India) producers’ lab of Film Bazaar Goa in 2019.  So, it might be a reunion story on the surface, but beneath it, there are multiple layers of the pangs of leaving home and many other such emotions, which will resonate with the global audience.

Do you think your background in the theatre has helped you build the characters?

I think the inspiration has definitely come from cinema. Theatre has helped me bring the collective spirit and community feeling, and also in direction, and production. The entire cast and crew are also from theatre. The effortless energy of shooting for 11 nights straight came from theatre too.

What are your expectations from the audience?

I am confident that people will like the film. People who won’t relate to the film will understand the craft. I am very happy that the film will be streamed on SonyLiv because my ethos of no gimmicks and no above-the-line promotions match with theirs. I feel, with #Homecoming, cinema will do the talking rather than the paraphernalia around it.  

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