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Sagnik Chatterjee: I judge my own work as a viewer every time

  • Published at 08:39 pm September 2nd, 2019
director Sagnik Chatterjee
Director Sagnik Chatterjee | Courtesy

Indian director Sagnik Chatterjee won Best Debut Non-Feature Film of a Director award at 66 National Film Award of India for his debut documentary, Feluda: 50 Years of Ray’s Detective. In an exclusive interview with DhakaTribune’s Showtime Nazia Adnin, Sagnik Chatterjee talks about the film and behind the stories, his career and future plans.

What inspired you to make the documentary Feluda: 50 Years of Ray’s Detective?

I first came across much detail documents, related to Feluda, in Satyajit Ray’s library. It was around 2006/2007 during assisting Sandip Ray in Tintorettor Jishu. They are books of Feluda in other Indian languages (Oriya, Marathi etc) and International languages (French, Intalian, Japanese etc). I was not aware of this reach and span of Feluda . Then also I found that Feluda is viewed and heard in present digital platforms. Now, the question arose  in my mind that how and why an imaginary character is having such acceptance across generations and changing time? This quest for Feluda had motivated me to jump into this documentary.     

Tell us about the film and its journey briefly? How difficult was it to make this film?

While growing up, I was addicted to reading due to two reasons. 1. As the only child, I had nothing to do but read books, Active participation in sports were the only way out ,in order to keep myself engaged, as we did not have access to technology.

Secondly, all my elder cousins, parents, other elders both from my father and mother’s side were addicted to Feluda stories and other writings of RAY. Many a times, cousins and elders had spent hours on discussing the details of latest Feluda stories at the dinner table during the annual Desh Puja. I wanted to participate in it,so I started reading it without delay. Feluda was a HERO at that time. Feluda stories had introduced me to adventurers, discovering a new place through detailed and intricate descriptions. I loved the other characters beside Feluda, as well as the mind-blowing sketches.

No other formats were suitable. Moreover, the documentary, with this elaborate content, is designed like a journey film. I’m not trained in documentary at all, but I’ve watched several different types of documentaries. Since I’m trained in feature film, I was confident enough that this Docu-Journey film will do justice to the content. Except my Editor – Sujay Dutta Ray, Sound Designer – Nihar Samal, and Voiceover Artist – Mir , this film is a debut film for ALL other technicians along with me. 

I started shooting the film in 2014 and took one year before as ‘pre –production’, to do the research and tp prepare the basic shooting structure.

Initially ,a friend of mine was interested and financed it, but dueto some reasons he could not continue when the film was 50% shot. I had no intention to be a producer. I approached some people to come on board, but no one came forward because it’s a documentary. Then I deposited all my savings, did gold loan and finally through ‘CrowdFunding’, I could complete the film. It’s the first film from the Eastern zone, which could meet the target of 15 lac through the Wishberry Crowd Funding Platform.  

Sagnik Chatterjee with Soumitra Chatterjee, who has been featured in the film | CourtesyHow it feels to have won the National Film Award?

It’s a great honour for the film. My parents, Sandip Rayand Lolita Ray, Yogesh Mathur – my teacher in Pune,  all became very emotional. I felt relieved and happy for the people who had confidence on my vision and creativity, stood firmly with me in my bad times, my technicians who stood with me and the film when it was passing through rough phases. I dedicate my achievement to these people and FELUDA fans all over the world. 

What is your film-making method?

I’m a learner. I learnt the film making craft from RAY Gharana, specially from Sandip Ray. I was not at all trained in making documentaries. So while making this, I was re-inventing my own skills as a film-maker. I didn’t approve of a second of the film till  I was convinced that it’ll hold the attention of viewers on screen. I judge my own work as a viewer every time, reject many things out rightly and rework on it time and again.   

Did you feel intimidated while making a  documentary on such an  iconic character by the great director, Ray?

I grew up with Satyajit Ray’s numerous creative outputs on print and screen. So I was not intimidated or pressured. Since I had worked with Sandip Ray in Feluda movies, I was experienced to handle the expectations of Feluda fans. I had the confidence that the way I’ll portray it on screen, others won’t be able to do it that way ,because I lived almost 10 years almost with the idea of the film and it’s execution ,till it’s commercial release in theatres. 

Who is your favorite director?

Plenty. It’ll take one full page to name them. It starts from Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, some films of Ritwik Ghatak, Tapan Sinha, Tarun Majumdar, Rajen Tarafder, Ajay Kar, Ashit Sen. I also like some films of Buddhadeb Dasgupta,Gautam Ghosh.  In present time , directors like Atanu Ghosh , Anik Dutta and many others in Bengali films. I miss the presence of Tareq Masud very much. There are many other Indian Directors as well. I admire  Mehboob Khan, Bimal Roysome films of Raj Kapoor to Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Vijay Anand, Govind Nihalani, Shyam Benegal, Basu Chatterjee , Adoor Gopalakrishnan, K Balachander, Balu Mahendra, G Arvindan, Girish Kasaravalli, Mani Ratnam and presently Vishal Bharadwaj. Raju Hirani, Vikramaditya Motwane, Sanjay Vansali (as a craftsman) and many others. 

In world cinema , it always starts with one and Only Kurosawa, Bergman, John Ford, Hitchcock, Charles Chaplin to Traffut. The earlier films of Goddard, later films of Luis Bunuel, Stanley Kubrik, Francis F Cappola, Sidney Lumet, Spielberg, Sergio Leoni to Wolfgang Peterson, Michael Heneke, Giuseppe Tornatore, Werner Herzog, Miazaki, some works of Tarantino are also my favourites. The list is endless.  

Tell us about your journey in the film industry?

It’s always learning experience in all steps. A new phase of journey will start now. Only my work will  tell me more about my journey. 

What is your next project?

One of Satyajit Ray’s novel’s rights is with me. I’m done with the 2nd draft. But before that I want to make a one-room thriller, written by me,  which I’m very keen to do as my next project. The discussions on the project are still going on.