DIBAKAR BANERJEE: ‘SHANGHAI’ IS THE RESULT OF MY SEVEN YEARS IN MUMBAI
Posted by barkha on September 12, 2012 | No Comments
He became the trend setter of New age Bollywood cinema, with his first film Khosla Ka Ghosla in 2006. He brought back the audience to the theatres for the right reasons, to watch a good story. He not only won accolades for his vision but also the prestigious National Film Award. We met the maverick filmmaker at TIFF, where he is bonding with his audience in a new way.
How did the journey from being an Ad filmmaker to mainstream Bollywood begin?
I always wanted to be a filmmaker. For me making ad films was very clearly a stepping stone, a kind of a preparatory step to making feature films. It just so happened that while make ad films my company then ‘Watermark’, became very successful. It was one of its kind ‘New Age” ad film company second only to Pradeep Sarkar’s. It was after three to four years did i realize with all the money and success coming in that i was no way close to my goal of making a feature film. My life was in a great comfort zone. So i sold my stake in my first company, formed another company and started working on my feature film.
Your seem to have a ‘love affair’ with Delhi. Delhi has been the backdrop, a character in your first three films. What motivates you to do that?
It is simply because i belong to Delhi. Believe me, if i had been born in Saharanpur or in Toronto for that matter and had i been a successful filmmaker, you would have been interviewing me about my love affair with Saharanpur or Toronto. The kind of films that i make, the kind of style i have ,it depends very heavily on the local color , detail, people’s way of speaking, the way they live, they behave, all of them are necessary tools of telling a story in a deeper and more meaningful way. The fact that iam from Delhi and i had some stories to tell and still have, so i would use my experience, my life, my observation of detail and that happened to be Delhi, so it naturally crept into my films. The interesting thing is that my fourth film ‘Shanghai’ doesn’t have any Delhi in it. It has Mumbai. I imbibe what is around me and that reflects in my films.
What was the most challenging part of making “Shanghai” ?
I was in Mumbai for seven years and i was seeing how the city was changing. The demography, the landscape, the culture of the city was changing and it was causing a great upheaval inside me, i was getting affected by it. I realized it was politics that determines how we live our lives. In many ways we think we are exercising a choice, but it is something else that is driving us to make that choice. I wanted to probe into that how our lives are not our own and essentially out of that came the idea of making a political thriller. My writer suggested, why not make a film on the book Z. It is a book based on events that happened in Greece in 1960’s and i felt that it could be adapted beautifully to something that can happen to India. So we met the writer Vassilis Vassilikos in Greece. He was surprised and worried that we wanted to make a Bollywood film on this book. We had to convince him that it was a film from Mumbai and not the infantile Bollywood Cinema. Then we got the rights of the book. Soon we realized that the premise of the book will not work for the premise of the film. Greece in the 1960’s had the typical western divide between the left and the right wing. In India the divide is about the rich and poor.So we had to re-invent the premise, which was about power, privileges, poverty and out of that came the story of the city trying to convert itself as SHANGHAI.
What are your upcoming projects?
We have this film project where four filmmakers; Anurag Kashyap, Zoya Akhtar, Karan Johar and I coming together to make four short films about 100 years of Indian Cinema, . We will release it next year, as Indian Cinema celebrates its 100 years. It is such a delight to make a film which is free of all commercial expectations, for the true art of it.
Cameron Bailey, Dibakar Banerjee, Abhay Deol
Why bring a commercially successful film to TIFF?
We got an invitation from TIFF, we didn’t apply for it. TIFF was looking for Indian films which they could feature in its City to City Section, so we said Yes! It is a great opportunity to get your cinema, your work, your language to be seen by cinephiles. A films commercial destiny is one thing, but another important part of the film is the relationship a maker builds with his audience. And when you travel through festivals, it may not be a commercial venture but you gather new audiences, you gather a familiarity with people from different regions of the world that builds up a base for your next film. So Toronto is our first stop and while we are showing our film here, we have been picked up by three other festivals.
Your take on the changing trend of Indian Cinema?
It is changing, of course. Now people come to see the film for its genre. Who ever comes to see my films, comes to see it for me, they relate to my style of storytelling. Even in ‘Shangai’, Emran Hashmi said that it is not an Emran Hashmi film, it is a Dibakar Banerji film with Emran Hashmi in it.