It takes real courage for any director to venture out into a detective franchise of his own, let alone a debut director.
It was very unusual when debutant director Dhrubo Banerjee along with writer Mr. Dasmunshi, his childhood friend, brought out that particular genre to life on screens for the very first time. ‘Guptodhaner Sondhane‘ which releases on Friday, is an original piece of work. It should be routinely mistaken for any other detective franchise that draws its inspiration from novels and other art forms. The three essential characters play the eponymous, fictional detective on the upcoming film by Dhrubo.
Banerjee is also a rarity in Indian cinema in the sense that, he promises to spend years researching and tracking down history to find a narrative for his film. With his debut film, which he took years writing along with Mr. Dasmunshi, he is excited and uncertain as ever as to how it will be received.
Here’s an exclusive interview with Dhrubo Banerjee, and his narration about his own interpretation of the characters and the film.
Q. Why did you choose a detective film for your debut film?
A.This is not a detective story, firstly. Shona Da is not a detective. He’s a quintessential Bengali boy. He did well in his studies, went abroad and then returned home. There is a sense of homecoming. Everyone is fond of him. Every Bengali family has a dada-like that, and it makes him very relatable. His nephew, Abir, and he are very fond of each other. Abir is not his sidekick. They go to Shona Da’s maternal place and meet his friend, and they form a trio. It’s not a treasure hunt, per se. The scenario changes, later on, becoming more intriguing. Situations lead them to a trail, and they will go on a hunt for treasure. Every story is original. It does not have traces anywhere else. We create a series which has only a history of Bengal. That makes it unique for Bengalis globally. Our inheritance of Bengali culture is our treasure. Shona Da then explores the aspects of all the Bengali culture on this trail. It makes you go back to your roots again. We can’t follow the west because our sensitivities are different. I hope you will love our representation. We have involved kids in our storytelling as well. After Feluda and Kakababu, we need to create something new and fresh to bring the kids in. This inspired us a lot. I think this film will appeal to kids a lot.
Abir has portrayed both Feluda and Byomkesh. Abir also made sure that Shona da did not resemble Feluda or Byomkesh. The audience will get to see Abir in a completely new light.
Q. You’ve said that it’s a completely original piece of work, and you’ve not drawn references from literary pieces. But it does have historical events. So how was the research methodology for such an amalgamation?
A.Treasure hunt films are rare because it takes a lot of time to write the script. It has to be fictional and the research has to be correct. But as a lover of the genre, that is really something that you savour. Everyone who is afraid of history would fall in love with it all over again. It’s so jovial in nature, with intrigue, tension, stress, but it’s also a day to day scenario. It doesn’t make you feel like you need to learn history again. It’s brought about as a part of the regular narratives. It just keeps you there. That’s why it took so much time to write. It might just create a new genre, in terms of a treasure hunt. I’d be really happy if it does.
Q. Did you and Mr Dasmunshi divide your research work or was it a collective effort?
A.The advantage of having him is that we are actually childhood friends. laughs The fact that he is a gold medallist from Calcutta University also helps. He is a Bengali professor as well. His command over the subject merits excitement. Now you can probably understand why Shona da is a professor. laughs To create a professor in his image was easy.
I somehow managed to get three huge directors to act in the film as well. When that happened, at the first day of the shoot, I don’t think there’s anybody who will not feel nervous.
Q. Abir Chatterjee is quite experienced in the genre, in a way. So how did his inputs help you?
A.It was another challenge. He has portrayed both Feluda and Byomkesh. To show him as a completely new character in Shona da, with no literature to back you up, it was a worry. In this case, the film comes first and the book might come later. Consciously, even at the script level, the character is so fresh that you will not be able to draw references. Abir also made sure that Shona da did not resemble Feluda or Byomkesh. The audience will get to see Abir in a completely new light.
Q. Can you tell me a bit about the three essential characters of the film?
A.If you see Shona da, he is the golden boy of the family. He’s supportive, knowledgeable, well read, heroic and good in sports. Abir, in contrast, he’s a completely happy go lucky child. He loves to travel and is a student of law. Jhinuk, as Abir’s friend, is completely jovial and intelligent. She’s like the life of the trio. These three create magic on screen. Roni da as the villain is amazing.
I have been a creative director with Reliance animation for about six or seven years. I have directed ad films, for the past three years. I would say that this has been my ground for preparation
Q. What are you expecting from the movie?
A.If the audience loves the trio, there’s nothing more than I want. It’s been a great time. Venkatesh films are producing my first film, with the producers supporting so much, and the camera work, editing, everything is the best in the genre. I’m the only debutant in an all-star clinic. laughs
Q. Does that make you nervous?
A.I was really nervous. I somehow managed to get three huge directors to act in the film as well. When that happened, at the first day of the shoot, I don’t think there’s anybody who will not feel nervous. They are amazing people and made me feel comfortable. They did really well in the film.
There was a scene with a river, and it was extremely cold. Three of them had to jump in the river in that cold! They did it so bravely. It makes you feel amazing that these actors are willing to do something like this
Q. How did this idea come to you?
A.This genre has excited us since childhood. The whole idea of creating a film which can be converted to a book one day was very intriguing. With Mr Dasmunshi’s aptitude as a professor, it just fell into place. Secondly, could we do a little more than just make films? Could we reach out to people with more? Making every Bengali feel pride again, with kids involved in it as well? I think all these wishes finally developed as Shona da.
Q. Was it difficult putting the ideas to the producers?
A.I’m glad that you asked this question. I completely respect the greenlighting process. It was very transparent as a process. I narrated the script and passed different levels as they kept getting approved. They both thought that it was the idea of a franchise! I won’t say that it was easy or difficult. I was just happy that the process was transparent. I think that your progression and your homework should be correct. As a debutant, your preparation needs to be really good. The script should show the effort that went into it. If you work hard, it will pay. Those two and half years resulted in the film.
Guptodhoner Sondhane part two is there definitely. So yeah we start shooting the part 2 in next year January.
Q. Can you tell me a little bit about your professional and personal background?
A.As I said, I have been a creative director with Reliance animation for about six or seven years. I have directed ad films, for the past three years. I would say that this has been my ground for preparation. I’ve put in an effort to deliver. For me, every kind of cinema intrigues me. It just needs to be good cinema, with no language barrier. I’m quite a film buff myself. When I said that Shona da is into education and knowledge, I’m at the other end of the spectrum, as a foodie and an adventurer! laughs
Q. Any anecdote which occurred on the set?
A.We shot the film in winters. Bolpur in winter is very cold. It was almost five degrees. This whole unit was waking up at 3 or 3:30 am every day. They braved the cold every day in the fog. There was a scene with a river, and it was extremely cold. Three of them had to jump in the river in that cold! They did it so bravely. It makes you feel amazing that these actors are willing to do something like this, even if it is very difficult. That cold, in the middle of the river, you have to get soaked. It’s not easy. They did not question it. I will cherish the fact that they were so involved in the making of the film.
In conclusion, I would like to ask you about your future projects?
A.Guptodhoner Sondhane part two is there definitely. We’ve decided to shoot every Guptodhoner Sondhane film in winters; to build a common look and branding. We are hoping that it should be done by the year end. The second scripting is already a work in progress. So yeah we start shooting the part 2 in next year January.