Sumit Ghosh is an affable character. Although he joined the Film & TV Institute of India a year after I did, we graduated together, as he was in the editing course, which was then just two years. For a year or so, he was even my neighbor at the institute hostel.
I had requested him to support me in arranging a few screenings of ‘Haal-e-Kangaal’ in Kolkata. Referring to the dates that I had chalked out he had mailed me, ‘Oh, why did you plan during those days?’ He was worried that we could not meet, as he was to go to the North-East for a workshop. But before going he had put me on to filmmaker Pradipta Bhattacharyya.
Pradipta Bhattacharyya had made “Bakita Byaktigato’ (The Rest is Personal), a film in Bengali language that is not only refreshing in it’s form and content but it had also broken away from the conventions of the ‘realism’ debate that Indian cinema has gloriously clung on to, over the years, ever since Satyajit Ray. It also reminded me of New Theater’s ‘Vidyapathi’ and I thought it belonged to that line of Indian film tradition.
Pradipta and his friends run an organization called ‘Kolkata Shorts’ where they have shown films in the remote areas of Kolkata. Bakita Byaktigato had found an audience like this. On the 14th of December 2015, a screening of ‘Haal-e-Kangaal (The Bankrupts) was held in Kolkata under the aegis of ‘Kolkata Shorts’. The kind of excitement the screening generated was one of its kind and is the best I have had till date.
The post screening discussion that we had, dealt with a lot of issues – about the kind of choices that was made in the making of the film, to the kind of audiences that it could be shown to. We also had an animated argument about the nature of Post Modernism, which one member of the audience, to my amusement, was convinced that the film made a case for.
Most of the audiences either were film buffs and short film makers. I did mention my ‘man ki baat’ to this audience that I would want the film to be shown to an audience who are not necessarily from a film background. After the film an excited Pradipta asked me if he can screen the film in his village – the audience of which would be the general public. I readily agreed.
The next day, there was a screening at The Satyajit Ray Film & TV Institute of India (SRFTII); I have to thank my good friends Prasanjit Ghosh and Santhi Ranjan Mujumdar for that – both of whom are teaching there. Most of the teaching staff at SRFTII are from the FTII, so a film on film school graduates was easily related to, especially by some of the staff, all contemporaries from my film school days.
|The screening at SRFTII|
Non mainstream film screenings would mean that there is no uniform quality in those projections; for the projectors may differ from screening to screening. In many cases, the screening spaces might not even be entirely dark. One is mentally prepared for such things. But the projection at SRFTII was by far one of the best projections of the film Haal-e-Kangaal. The other one was at the Manipal School of Communication.
I should say that the attendance count was below what I had expected at SRFTII; maybe the ongoing ‘Sexual Harassment’ case and the palpable tensions that it generated albeit simmering underneath the calm exterior, had played a part in it. Or maybe, in an age where World Cinema is easily accessible and available on a lap top or on a mobile phone, the collective viewing of an Indian no budget independent film is not that good a proposition.
I did miss out of a couple of screenings like the one at the Roopkala Academy; they had their student exercises during my visit. But a few of Roopkala students had come to the screening arranged by Pradipta. Pradipta himself is an alumnus of Roopkala Academy. Jhadavpur University is another possible screening venue.
It was good to have made new friends in Kolkata and to have caught up with old ones like Shyamol Karmakar, Abdul Razzak, Debashish Ghoshal, Pankaj Seal, Pradip Sarkar and Monish Das. I was especially pleased to have met Prasanjit Ghosh, who teaches production at SRFTII. He had discovered the value of wearing a suit when I was there and he was looking like Sharmaji, our Production teacher at FTII.
If I plan another screening schedule in Kolkata one of the ulterior motives would also be to catch up with Sumit Ghosh. It has been ages since we sat together for a chat.
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