National Award-winning-director Kaushik Ganguly has just delivered another success with his latest release, Bastu Shaap. The film recently completed 50 days at the box office and features Abir Chatterjee, Churni Ganguly, Parambrata Chatterjee, Raima Sen and the director himself in a pivotal role. In conversation with Soumita Sengupta, the maverick director talks about his film:
Your film Bastu Shaap recently completed 50 days at the box office and it is still going strong.
Yes, and I am very happy that my film has completed 50 days and it’s all because of my audience. It took to a slow start when it opened but by the end of the first week, the word-of-mouth buzz was very strong. So the audience has once again accepted a film of mine. Every time I make a film, I survive thanks to the audience.
Today, Bengali films are easily hitting the 50 and 100-day mark as did some of your films. Do you think the perception of the audience is changing?
I believe, with regional films, there is a connection that the audience feels today. The industry went through a dull period but the Bengali audience has once again started coming to cinemas. They are loyal to their mother tongue as the connect is greater with regional cinema. Maybe the language of our urban cinema has changed and that’s what the audience likes. Over the years, what I have learnt is that one needs to change one’s way of storytelling and directing. The audience these days gets bored easily with similar genres and plots. So, as a director, I am continuously on the lookout for new content. The moment you start taking your viewers for granted, they will start rejecting your films.
What do you have to say about your earlier releases like Shabdo, Khad and Apur Panchali taking a slow start but becoming successful due to word-of-mouth publicity?
That’s because with films like this, people wait for reviews on social networking sites and also for their friends to comment. They go and watch the film only if the comments are good. Word-of-mouth publicity is the most powerful marketing tool. Bastu Shaap does not have a big star cast. We have no big names in the film. But I also have had films like Khad and Arekti Premer Golpo that started very well on the first day itself.
Your first film Waarish released in 2004 and you have been making content rich films for 12 years. With films of your breaking earlier records, do you feel pressurised to deliver your best every single time?
Yes, in the last 12 years, I have made 16 films. There is a tremendous responsibility on you because the audience is not walking in only because of the trailer and the actors but also because of the director’s name. So, as a director, it is my responsibility to fulfil their expectations. But what I tell them is this, ‘You have given Sachin Tendulkar the liberty to score several zeroes in his career, so there will be times when I might score a zero but don’t lose heart.’ The more you wonder whether you’re on the right track or not, the more you feel the pressure. It’s better to focus solely on the story and on direction.
Coming back to your recent film, Bastu Shaap, how did the concept occur to you?
In West Bengal, the number of Feng Shui shops has increased. Whenever you hear that a friend is, say, buying a house, you also hear people talking about whether the Bastu (Vastu Shastra) is correct or not. I realised people are looking for happiness, so they don’t mind keeping a laughing Buddha at the door because there is a belief that happiness follows when you do this. We are living in very stressful and competitive times, so one is constantly seeking happiness.
Today we lose faith in our loved ones and friends so easily, which should not happen. And that’s what my film talks about. It is about relationships and faith. My film especially reflects the trust we must have in each other.
You have directed 16 films, a fairly large number for a director. What, according to you, has got you this far?
I make more films because I will not be able to survive on the money I make from one film. But that doesn’t mean I do not look at the quality of my cinema. Hindi cinema has big budgets and long schedules whereas we finish our films in 20-30 days with minimal budgets. And thank God we have enough stories to tell in Bengali literature. The budget of a single song in Bajirao Mastani would have allowed us to make five to 10 Bengali films.
According to you, what is working in Bengali cinema today?
For the last two years, I have been seeing a lot of films doing well at the box office and they all are commercial successes but they all, what you call, ‘off beat cinema’. So filmmakers who were making South remakes and actors who were doing massy films have reinvented themselves again by doing out-of-the-box concept films. There is no other way to survive in this industry, especially for actors as they want to be noticed. So, today, everyone is looking for that good script, which will give them the opportunity to perform