Arindam Sil is just three films old but during this short span, he has delivered hit films like Eagoler Chokh and Byomkesh Pawrbo. Apart from directing films, Sil is also a well appreciated actor who runs a company called Nothing Beyond Cinema. Living and breathing nothing but the movies, he has done the line production of films like The Bong Connection, Kahaani 2, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!, TE3N and Meri Pyaari Bindu. Sil talks to Sayali Parab about his films, Durga Sohay and Dhananjoy, and goes back in time to share his aspirations of becoming an actor
From acting, to direction, to producing, you have experienced all three major areas of filmmaking. Which one is most turbulent?
Directing, of course. When you are an actor, you are concentrating only on yourself. When you are the producer, you are taking care only of the whole production. That calls for management skills. That’s where my MBA degree came in very handy as I was the first proper executive producer. My company, Nothing Beyond Cinema is still the best line production company. We have done very large productions including for Yash Raj Films.
Once you learn how to budget and how funds flow, and you know how to procure permissions, then things fall in place. And once you know how to ride out a crisis, it becomes easy for a producer. That’s how I summarise a good manager’s work.
But being a director is tough as a director has to be an actor, a captain, a producer. So the director needs to have super powers. He ought to know the psychology of each and every person in the production, right from the production assistant to your producer. You are much more than a manager there. You are actually wearing many hats and you have to do it with intelligence. At the same time, you have to maintain your creative sense, above all else.
Which among these three roles is your true calling?
Right now, I am focusing on direction and I love it. With great feedback from my audience and four back-to-back blockbusters, what else does one need? I am blessed by my audience and by God.
As a creative person, how does your experience in acting, directing and producing complement each other?
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that I am a failed actor. Indeed, I have been a top actor on television and have done many films too. People tell me I am a fantastic actor but I have never been offered roles that would take me forward. On the other hand, when I am directing and I show my actors how to act, they say things like, ‘We have never seen something like this.’
That’s where my acting experience comes in, to guide my actors and make sure they are well taken care of. Actors are emotional and they have to be treated as such. Hence, I make sure they don’t face any hassles and that they are in the right mood.
I wear the hat of a producer when I deal with technicians and others. They are not emotional people, they are guided by a few things of life and you ought to see that they are maintained. In addition, if you are friendly with them, which doesn’t cost you much, you can buy them off. As a director, I need to know everything from budgeting, actors, sets, etc. This year, I complete 30 years in the industry, so this whole experience of mine and what life teaches me helps me a lot.
You are currently working on Dhananjoy…
Dhananjoy is also being produced by Shree Venkatesh Films. It’s about the murder of an 18-year-old girl Hetal Parekh and a security guard Dhananjoy Chatterjee, who was hanged for the murder. This event took place in 1990 and he was hanged in 2004. He served 14 years in prison before he was hanged, the last hanging to have taken place in West Bengal.
The kind of research we have done shows that Dhananjoy was actually innocent. It was therefore very difficult for us to shoot. We spent many days at Dhananjoy’s house. We have spoken to so many people. It’s a film that is happening after six to seven months of hardcore research. It’s taking a toll on me and my unit.
That must be emotionally draining for you…
I am going through an extremely emotional journey right now. But, in the meantime, Durga Sohay is happening. This film is oriented to the masses and talks about the inner strength of women. I hate the term ‘women empowerment’; I don’t believe in it. Instead, we must talk about gender equality and the inner strength of women, which is deeply suppressed by a male-dominated society.
This film is set against the backdrop of a traditional, North Calcutta, Bengali family, where Durga Puja is being observed. A nurse enters in the family, to take care of the eldest person in the family. Her name is also ‘Durga’.
Since 2013, how have you evolved as a director?
I have been learning a lot. During the process of being an actor and a producer, I had been subconsciously preparing myself to become a director. My inspiration has been Satyajit Ray and his films and, at present, director Alejandro González Iñárritu and Majid Majidi as well as some other Iranian filmmakers. So when I think of Indian cinema or Indian regional cinema, I wonder where we actually are on the global map of world cinema. The truth is, we are nowhere.
We might rejoice with making an Aligarh, The Lunchbox or Chak De India! but we have to evolve more. I am talking about the Cannes Film Festival, Berlin Film Festival and the Oscars; it’s not happening. Despite that, I am saying that regional Indian cinema has been evolving. My colleagues like Srijit Mukherji and Kaushik Ganguly also inspire me. I feel a sense of competition, to try and do something they have not done and that’s how we evolve.
As an executive producer, you have worked on several Bollywood films like Kahaani 2, Meri Pyaari Bindu, Te3n etc. Are there any plans to direct a Hindi film?
I shouldn’t be saying more than I am saying. There are two major studios in talks with me. I am developing scripts for one of these studios and we have plans for next year. This year, I am very tied up. I might be doing a film for a Hindi television channel, a short film, which I will be shooting in Goa.
You were pursuing a PhD degree when you decided to join the world of films. What was that one moment or incident that made you give up on academics and propel you towards the uncertainty of the film world?
(Laughs), I gave up on a PhD to become an actor. I have never been a hypocrite and go by my heart. Life has taught me that, before becoming a successful human being, it is important to be a good human being, honest first, and then give 100 per cent to what you love.
I had already applied for higher studies when I suddenly got an offer to act. I also got my I-20 form and asked myself what it was that I wished to become. Did I want to be an academician living in some God-forsaken land? I always wanted to grow and do things for society and so I told myself, ‘tear up the I-20 form and stay here in Calcutta and make a name for yourself. You can still be good at what you are doing.’
Mithunda (Chakraborty) is like an elder brother to me. He is very much into astrology, and he said, ‘Arindam, you are going to be a producer and you are going to have your own company. You are going to be a famous director and you will be nationally acclaimed.’ Within three months of him saying that, I launched my company. I got offers and I started working. He will always be very close to my heart.
What’s next for you?
After Durga Sohay, my focus is purely on Dhananjoy. After that, I want to go back to making another thriller that is very Hollywood in nature, the kind of thriller that has not happened in this part of the country. Also, there is an Indo-Bangladesh offer. Things are lined up. I want to do each and every film with the same integrity that I have been doing. I take life as it comes.