‘ NOW HAS A LIFE OF ITS OWN’
The success of Pink is mind boggling, Shoojit Sircar, dubbed the Midas of Bollywood, tells Yogesh Pawar as he discusses his latest success story and what went into the making of it
It had been almost a year since Piku made Bhashkor Banerjee’s bowel movements a national obsession. But filmmaker Shoojit Sircar didn’t seem at peace. “I am beginning my next film. Let’s meet after that,” he had said when pulled out my dictaphone on a muggy May afternoon in Kolkata.
Four months later, while sepulchral skies over the JVPD square make a perfect foil for the warm- toned lighting in Sircar’s Rising Sun Films office ( where he locked himself for two months editing his latest, Pink, which critics have called “one of the best and most important film of our times”) we sip chai and talk about the Rs23- crore courtroom drama that has made Rs46.56 crore and counting. The filmmaker keeps getting congratulatory calls; all of them are about being floored by the powerful film that raises fundamental questions on the politics of gender in a way few filmmakers have dared.
“I knew that there will be a connect and it will touch the kind of audiences that liked Piku, but nothing had prepared me for this tsunami of a response. The love being showered on the film is beyond anything I can fathom,” admits Sircar. “Pink now has a life of its own. The way audiences are owning it and making the experience of the three young women their own is mind- boggling.”
Admitting that the time is right and the audience is ready for a subject like this, he does not forget to underline the research that drove the film. “Women go through the experience of my young protagonists in Pink every single day. They may not go to the police or land in court like the trio, but they feel the same outrage. We spoke to lawyers in Bangalore, Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi, using their own past experiences to zero in on cases which we could draw on for Pink. So much of the stuff we heard women are asked in the courts in cases of sexual assault was horrific, brutal and dehumanising in the extreme.”
The story, he adds, went through 15- 20 rewrites and then a completely different overhaul before taking its current shape. “Till then, I was only giving inputs but then dove in and got completely involved in the process along with Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, who has directed the film.”
Little wonder that the filmmaker, who is now being called the Midas of Bollywood by the industry with a string of successes in a row ( Vicky Donor, Madras Café, Piku and now Pink) was able to give the film a Shoojit Sircar touch. “Real life is like that. The absurd and orderly are often part of the same reality that we experience and that’s what I want in my film too,” says the man, also known for iconic TV commercials for brands such as Saffola, 2G, Apsara Pencils, Fair & Lovely, Maruti WagonR, Cadbury and Dove.
Sircar recounts that superstar Amitabh Bachchan came on board within two minutes of the narration. “He didn’t even ask me what role I was casting him in. He was so convinced with the idea and felt that the message the film wants to give is most important for the times we live in.”
Why could the lawyer defending the trio not be a woman? “I didn’t want it to be a film with women, for women. Like Amitabh Bachchan’s character points out, this is as much or rather more about boys and men than girls. It is they who need education and sensitisation. And who better do it with than an actor and role model they all cherish and look up to?”
Like Big B, actors like Piyush Mishra, Taapsee Pannu and Kirti Kulhari were also finalised in a jiffy. “Since I knew the actors, I would see them in the roles the moment I saw the story.” The only character that took time to cast was Andrea. “Finding the right nuance for the north- eastern girl was important, so we went back and forth on that one quite a bit.”
Asked why Mamata Shankar’s role was so small, he says, “As a filmmaker, the script and characters are most important for me. More than actors. I know Mamata Shankar is a respected danseuse and had been cast by Satyajit Ray himself. But here, we had to go with the what the narrative in the script required.”
Incidentally, it is not only Ray’s heroine, but also his intimate storytelling style that is the hallmark of all Sircar films with tight and medium close- ups.
Though this was Bengali director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s first Hindi film, most accolades are being directed at Sircar. Without any pretentious modesty, Sircar candidly points out how the film belongs to the entire team and not him alone. “The accolades coming my way are only because I am the captain of the team.”
What next? “I have two ideas. One is light and funny and the other is intense and serious. I am still unsure which one I want begin work on. I will now take a break in Kolkata till pujo and then think about all this.”
We are waiting.