Can’t say this without a little tug in the cardiac department: I have shifted to Mumbai. Earlier, I’d go only for production work and return to Calcutta, but now we are here…wife, daughter and me, in a flat in suburban Andheri. It’s closer to my work area, Film City in Goregaon, than it would be if I were living downtown. Why did I shift? Well, after Pink, I plan to make more films in Hindi. All my films before that were in Bengali, so it made more sense to live in Calcutta. Of course, practicality was not the main reason! I love Calcutta like I love no other city. It’s the city I grew up in. Ideally, I would have loved to work in Mumbai and be able to come back in the evenings to Calcutta! I sleep the soundest in the comfort of the city of my childhood. Now I have to do this…whenever my Calcutta-deficiency reaches a certain level, I leave everything and return. Even if just for a few days.
Of course, Mumbai is a magnificent city in its own right. All the stock things they say about the place are true! It’s a great place to work, a melting pot of ideas, a city built on energy. The buzz of ideas in the air is like meat and drink for someone who must create. To be honest, I was a bit apprehensive about shifting at this age, but Mumbai has a way of making you feel at home. Speaking of age, when people ask me how old I am, my reply is, “I am twenty, with thirty years of work experience.” They laugh when they figure what I mean. So, in a sense, Mumbai is the perfect city for me—laid-back and workaholic at once.
I make a film when I have a story to tell. It has to first well up—and the actual making of the film has to be a cathartic experience for me. A story has been building up in me for some time now. And it’s kind of reached a culminating point with the shift to Mumbai. It will be a suspense thriller, with location shooting across Mumbai, Goa and Calcutta. Can’t give out too many details right now, but Ajay Kapur and Sam Fernandez are producing it and we are planning an early 2018 release.
There’s one sacred rule for me. No matter what my workday looks like, I find time to watch at least one movie a day. Every single day. Without fail. Even during the hectic days of relocating, I didn’t give this up. It’s like oxygen for me and keeps me going. If I haven’t found time to watch a film through the day, which is usually the case, I watch it late at night, after work, before going to bed. This is a habit formed early on. Even in my teens, I watched every movie that was released—it was indiscriminate—and tried not to miss any film festival. This incessant imbibing of world film culture, simply through watching, has been my single biggest training as far as filmmaking is concerned. After friends and family realised I was so addicted, they would gift me films. Once in Paris, I decided to be on a shoestring budget and spend only on DVDs and CDs. I walked all over the city from my hotel near the Eiffel. My legs hurt but I built up a rare collection of films and music.
I listen a great deal, and surf through all sorts just to sample them, but Hindustani classical and jazz are favourites. I like to take in a lot of instrumental—from Ali Akbar’s sarod at one end, to contemporary fusion percussion via Tanmoy Bose and Bickram Ghosh. Sometimes I’m in the mood for Kishore Kumar. At other times Bob Dylan. I stay updated thanks to my daughter. The other day she handed me a CD of African music and said, “Baba, you must hear this.” By contrast, I don’t get much book-reading under my belt—I find my concentration levels are presently too low to go through lengthy novels. So besides what I have to read up to keep abreast of what’s going on around the world, especially in my field of work, there’s isn’t much by way of the textual. It’s music that I like my cup of silence filled with. My wife has gifted me a record player. And friends and relatives have started to hand me down their old long-playing records. It’s a treat…I’ve built up a pretty big collection and can’t stop listening! Quite a new experience, in complete harmony with my new life here in Mumbai.
In Mumbai, what I really miss is Calcutta food. A lot. My favourite meal would look like this: white rice, the bitter appetiser we call shukto, laal saag, kajoli maacher jhol, which would be a light curry of catfish, and last but not the least, nolengurer patishapta, pancakes sweetened by date palm jaggery!
The writer is a filmmaker