‘ 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

DNA Sunday (Mumbai) - - FRONT PAGE - P_ yo­gesh@ dnain­dia. net, @ powero­fyo­gesh

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.

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