To understand Ram Kamal Mukherjee's tribute to Rituparna Ghosh, it is vital to be well-versed with the changing trends of Bengali cinema, pre-Ray, post-Ray and the arrival of Rituparno Ghosh.
During an exclusive conversation with International Business Times, India director Ram Kamal Mukherjee informed us that A Tribute to Rituparno Ghosh: Season's Greetings was more of a frame by frame tribute to the 12 times national award-winning director.
"I worked with him in Noukadubi, during the promotions and marketing. Personally, I knew him well. I met him on the sets of Chokher Bali. After that, we fought and we stopped talking to each other. Much later at the premiere of the film we patched up, he invited me to watch his film, where Aishwarya Rai was cast opposite Prasenjit Chatterjee," said Ram Kamal Mukherjee.
Most of us were well aware that Rituparno Ghosh was a visionary, but since you have been a friend, what perspective did you build about him?
Of course, because he was well-read and well-versed. He would think differently about a concept. For example, when I met him in Bombay, I was taking pictures, I was shooting for Times of India, we thought of going to Marine Drive. It was officially time and lunch break. Now what happens usually when we go to the seaside, we look at the sea, isn't it? We enjoy the waves. But he was looking at the other side where there were people. I told him, look at the sea, why are you looking there, then he said, 'tui aar tor paglami, sumodhro toh eidike, jono somudro.. '(You and your madness for the sea. Look at the sea of people, why are you looking at the sea which is already there.)
So, you begin your film with a man and woman making love.
I didn't want to hide any relationship because Rituparno Ghosh (fondly called Ritu da) would always be vociferous about human relationships. So be it a man-woman, woman-woman, man-man or even transgender for that matter. Not just with humans, there are different kinds of relationship in our world, human relationship with animals, human relationship with nature everything should be respected and spoken about and should not be swept under the carpet. So that is something, I tried to say through the film without sounding too preachy.
So I noticed a shot of Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan when Romita and Usmaan talk about court marriage.
Thank you so much, I am very happy that you observed that because it requires a lot of good eye and effort of a reviewer, of a cinephile. I am not going to comment anything on Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan, but what I'm trying to say is that the situation is something like that.
We succumb to religion or pressure, but Romita and Usmaan are saying that they can live under the same roof, and practice their own religion which I think Gauri and Shah Rukh Khan are doing. Even in Salman Khan's house, he also gets the Ganpati and celebrates Diwali. I think there are many families who practice this, we know about these actors because they are celebrities. I believe that religion is a very personal thing and neither Usmaan nor Romita have to change religion to love each other.
So when Romita (Celina Jaitly) and Suchitra (Lillette Dubey) start fighting, it reminded me of Unishe April.
Yes, a lot of people were able to find a connection with Unishe April because it is a mother-daughter story. But many have forgotten the story of Titli, where Aparna Sen loved a man, Mithun Chakraborty, she sacrificed her love life for the daughter, Konkona Sen Sharma. Definitely, you will remember Unishe April, Titli everything, because this is a tribute to Rituparno Ghosh.
Previously whenever there has been a tribute to a public figure, the work of art has either been a biopic or a remake of an old film. I tried to do something differently. I tried to use Ritu da's cinematic style and iconic characters and use them in a film. For example, Romita was a character played by Rituparna Sengupta in the film Dahan, here Celina Jaitly shares the same name. Ritu da had been an admirer of Suchitra Sen, that's why he had collaborated with Raima Sen and Riya Sen for several projects.
Here the mother's name is also Suchitra. The name of their residence in Utsav, which is one of his celebrated films. I have also used the track Gahana Kusuma Kunj Majhe, which was from the film Abohomon. You will see the character Avirupa is someone like Rituparno Ghosh. In Chitranganda he did a character where his name was Abhirup. So I added this character to fulfil his last wish.
What are your favourite Rituparno Ghosh films?
Bariwali, Chokher Bali, Titli, Subho Mohorot. It's the first time he tries to do a thriller.
He did play a huge role in changing the face of Bengali cinema…
Yes, of course, he did. He would always cast commercial actors, people would criticise him, they would say that they are not art cinema actors, but I think Rituparno would always ask mainstream actors to work in his films and then give them good roles. Through his films, we saw a different side of these actors, Bumba da, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Jisshu, Preity Zinta.
How did you react to the news of his sudden death?
Oh god, don't tell me. One morning I heard that he was no more! I suddenly got a text from Tota Roy Chowdhury' Ritu da nei'. I immediately called him up and said, what are you saying. Then I called, Jisshu, Bumba da, then I wrote an obituary on Stardust. Stardust never prints obituaries, but I had to fight to write about him.