After starting his directorial career with Icche in 2011, Shiboprosad Mukherjee has become a name to reckon with in the Bangla industry. Prior to the release of his next film, Konttho, he talks to Titas Chowdhury about what makes the film special and constantly challenging himself
What inspired you to tell the story of Konttho, a film which you are acting in, besides directing and producing it?
In 2000-2001, my co-director Nanditadi (Roy) and I were part of a satellite channel. We used to work with a health magazine there. It had a section called ‘Aloy Phera’ which roughly translates to ‘a ray of hope’. There, we met Bibhuti Chakraborty, a patient suffering from laryngitis. We learnt how, after a laryngectomy, he used to talk via esophageal voice and an electro-larynx (an artificial larynx), which brought him back to his normal life.
In Third World countries, the number of people suffering from oral cancer due to the consumption of tobacco is huge. Most people do not have the money to buy an electro-larynx. So the only way they can speak is through esophageal voice, that is, through their food pipe. Bibhuti used to visit hospitals and teach patients to speak. His story inspired us to write this film.
The tagline of the film is ‘sound of silence’. Was it difficult for you to convey emotions without the use of words?
Initially, it definitely was. My character is that of a voice artiste and for a voice artiste or a radio jockey, his voice is his most important asset. If he loses his voice, his life becomes meaningless. He will have to learn to speak all over again through an esophageal voice. But, after a laryngectomy, my character comes back with a bang.
How he continues with his radio show and carries on with life was a challenging thing to portray. This is the story of the film. Konttho is the most inspiring story that we have ever worked on. It is about an individual who throws a challenge at his destiny and his God. Even if he loses a part of his life or body, it cannot break his spirit.
You are acting, directing and producing this film. Did any of these roles conflict with the others while on set?
I am very grateful that Nanditadi was there. We always make films together. If the onus of directing the film had been on me alone, it would have been very difficult. The very fact that Nanditadi was there with me made things a lot easier.
You have both carved a niche for yourselves in the Bangla film industry with slice-of-life films that have given a new lease of life to the industry. How do you look at the Shiboprosad-Nandita brand that you have created?
We feel blessed for the kind of audience that we have. Bangla films, today, enjoy a fabulous audience base. In the first quarter of this year, we made a film called Mukherjee Dar Bou. There was another film, Nagarkirtan, directed by Kaushik Ganguly that released in that quarter. Both films worked well at the box office, and the credit for that goes to our audience. Look at the kind of audience we have! They are ready to accept new concepts. If you give them good stories, they will have your back. And that is the key.
Your films BelaSeshe, Prakton, Posto and Haami are four of the highest-grossing films in the Bangla film industry. Since you have a fabulous track record at the box office, does it pressure you to come out with a new film every time?
I would not call it pressure. At this point, what we want is to constantly challenge ourselves. We want to keep getting better. We also make sure we are not in our comfort zone because that will not always work. We want to keep pushing our boundaries and venture into unknown territory, where we do not know what will happen. That is a fun challenge.
Since you said that Konttho is the most inspiring story you have worked on, how do you want this film to motivate people?
The film will teach us the importance of hope. There is so much of negativity around us today. We sulk about so many things. We are not hopeful any longer. When my character in the film loses his voice, his wife, son, other family members and colleagues stand by him. There is so much hope around him. Konttho is all about that. I believe that hope should be the biggest takeaway from the film. Our audience wants to see hope, optimism and positivity. It is these things that are lacking in our lives.