Thursday, March 17, 2011

Basu Chatterjee interview

Basu Chatterjee, who was at FTII for a seminar, speaks to Sandhya Iyer about some of his delightful, evergreen films that continue to be a great source of enjoyment



His films, along with Hrishikesh Mukherjee's, remain the most avidly viewed films on television by far, and the countless re-runs have only added to their timeless appeal. Films like Golmaal, Baaton Baaton Mein, Chupke Chupke, Choti Si Baat and Rajnigandha have been a source of endless delight, and new age filmmakers too have come to see them as wonderfully conceived classics. And even if these two veterans have been out of the limelight for years, their films feel as fresh as ever.
We met up with Basu Chatterjee at FTII and though he admits he's not really a talker and has preferred to be the man behind the camera always, he does sit down for a tete-a tete, even as he politely waits for his sugarless tea that shows no signs of arriving.



Chatterjee had a long and impressive body of work, but the film that appears closest to his heart is Saara Akash (1969), which was his debut. It also remains important for the reason that almost the entire cast and crew were chosen from FTII. “The only person I could not get was Jaya Bhaduri. I was told that she could not act before completing the course. My point was that the very purpose of such a course was to get an opportunity to act and here I was offering it. So I had to take someone else. But otherwise, almost all the technicians were from FTII and I remain grateful for that,”he says.
Saara Akash is a story about a young, immature man — with political ambitions — and the turmoil he faces when he is pushed into an arranged marriage. The film on the one hand was a satire on the unpreparedness of youngsters with respect to marriage and on the other, was about two strangers discovering each other under one roof. Chatterjee says he surpirsed himself by coming up with such a good film and theme. “That is my best work I feel and very path-breaking for its times,” he says.
As for his other outright classic Rajnigandha — about a woman's struggle to decide between two men she loves — he credits his writer Manu Bhandari. “The story was written by a woman, so it got the complexities right. This was the time when the girl was viewed as sati- savitri and this film subverts that idea because here she is in love with two men at the same time. Originally, the story was written as letters shared between two ladies. I sat down and worked out the screenplay.”
A lot in the film is left unspoken. For example, one doesn't know if Dinesh Thakur's character really loved the girl. “He does,” says Chatterjee. “It's just that he is not expressive.”
The film starred a young Amol Palekar and Vidya Sinha. “I had seen Amol on stage and had liked his face. He was working as a clerk in a bank at that time. Vidya Sinha was struggling for years in the industry when she got this break. She looked very young in the film, but she was almost 28 by then. She was married too,” he tells us about the film that offers one of the most nuanced exploration into a woman's mind.
His films like Chameli Ki Shaadi, Baaton Baaton Mein, Choti Si Baat were all set in a middle-class milieu and were narrated with ironic humour “That’s becauseI belong to the middle-class and was the only thing I knew. Also, comedy by nature appeals to me. I was called a balcony class filmmaker in those days, because most of my films had the balcony full,” tells the filmmaker who also made one of the most popular television serials, Rajini.
Chatterjee's obvious strength was his ability to pick good stories. “Even today I don't think there is a dearth of ideas but you must know how to recogonise and grab the good ones,” says the director who made a Bengali film called Trishanku a year ago — about the conflict between a mother and daughter.
Among recent films, Chatterjee mentions A Wednesday which he liked, and among the filmmakers he likes Sanjay Leela Bhasali. He doesn't see the Hindi market conducive enough to make a film himself, though he readily admits that the industry and audience are changing for the better.
All of Chattejee’s films were greatly entertaining, and studded with several useful gems of wisdom. Would he share what he believes about love, life and relationships today? “I don't think my views have changed much since then. I'm almost 80 now. I believe you are wiser when you are younger. Experience is not necessarily useful. Most people who attain something in life do so in their youth. By the time they are old, they are already established," he says. As always, Basu Chatterjee leaves us thinking and smiling.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice article. I think he is as good a director as Hrishikesh M was. Some of the movies here are classics. A word about the songs...there is this song in baaton baaton mein - kishore's...what a song. The difference between hrishikesh and basu movies were that the latter's movies probably had much more melodious songs.

March 17, 2011 at 12:21 PM  
Anonymous Backpack said...

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November 15, 2011 at 11:40 PM  
Blogger Anshu Tomar said...

I was just searching for somewhere to post so that I can communicate to Mr Basu Chatterjee that how much I liked his movie "Rajnigandha" , I had just finished seeing , really , the end was so good , and so close to reality , it was how it should be.

January 12, 2014 at 9:36 AM  

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