Bengali cinema has had a wonderful tradition of comedy films but somehow the genre has languished in the last few years. Birsa Dasgupta attempts to right the anomaly with his forthcoming laugh riot, Bibaho Obhijaan. The film’s cast and crew spoke to Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri.
‘Marriage is an adventure, like going to war.’
~ Gilbert Chesterton, philosopher, art critic, writer
This sentiment expressed by author, critic and philosopher GK Chesterton could well sum up the essence of SVF’s latest production, Bibaho Obhijaan, scripted by Rudranil Ghosh and directed by Birsa Dasgupta. For Birsa, it marks a definite change of pace after the critically acclaimed slice-of-life drama Crisscross.
“Rudranil came up with the story,” says Birsa. “And then Moni-da (Mahendra Soni of SVF) decided that we should attempt something original. No remakes, no action. Just pure unadulterated laughter.”
Rudranil Ghosh, who made waves acting in and co-writing the recent Vinci Da, says, “For me the idea was to break down the distinction between the urban and rural audiences – I feel that film-makers have bought into this difference, whereas the truth is, everyone wants to laugh, people get married in both villages and cities, husbands and wives fight irrespective of class and status. So, this is an attempt to reach out to an audience that goes beyond such forced distinctions.”
There has been no notable out-and-out comedy of late in Bangla – how much did that influence the director’s decision to try his hand at the genre? “Yes, that definitely had a role to play,” says Birsa. “We as a people have probably forgotten to laugh – we take ourselves too seriously, I think. There has been so much stress of late – the elections, its attendant violence, what we are witnessing even now on a daily basis. So, this is an attempt to let off some steam.”
What was it about the story that made him take on the baton, so to speak? “Well, making films is the only thing I can do. It provides me with an adrenalin rush … I always say it’s better than having sex. So, that in itself is a kick.” For Rudranil it was the idea of exploring a very common phenomenon – what do two men do when, fed up with their wives, they aspire to bachelorhood after marriage. “It’s an idea that applies to everyone, irrespective of a small-town guy, a villager or a city folk.”
Birsa adds, “Then the idea of doing something different, original … and yet mainstream enough seduced me. There are no foreign locations, no outlandish action sequences. If you look at the star cast you will get an idea – do you associate Sohini (Sarkar) with a comedy? Or for that matter Ankush (Hazra) whose last film was an out-and-out actioner? Or Anirban – for whom it is probably his first truly “commercial” outing.”
Still basking in the acclaim for his much-feted act in Vinci Da, Anirban Bhattacharya agrees with Birsa’s assessment that he has never been part of something as mainstream as this. “But of course, I don’t think along those lines – mainstream, commercial. What matters is whether the character is interesting. I have never done anything like this before – caricaturish, slapstick. I love the over-the-top aspect to the character and found it challenging because it demanded just the right timing – an essential aspect of comedy – to go beyond what’s realistic in terms of gestures and postures. We have a brilliant tradition of comedy right from the days of Robi Ghosh and Tulsi Chakravarty. Today, Kanchan Mullick, Kharaj Mukherjee are at the forefront, but comedy as a genre has sort of gone missing in our cinema. I am hopeful that Bibaho Obhijaan will fill that vacuum.”
For Ankush what works in the film is ‘is the everyday nature of the story that people will be able to relate to’. “My character Anupam is a henpecked husband sandwiched between his parents and a wife constantly in “agitation” mode, going on dharnas at the drop of a hat, perennially active with her “causes” on Facebook. His only relief is Rajat (Rudranil), his best friend, whose wife – devout, busy with her pujas and engrossed in TV soaps – is just the opposite of Anupam’s. So, fed up of their conjugal lives they venture out and get involved in something more than they bargained for. I love comedies and what helps is having actors like Rudranil, Nusrat, Sohini and Anirban opposite you. As far as experience in the industry is concerned, Anirban is younger to me but he is a much better as an actor and one of the highlights of the film is how we feed off each other, something that is essential in a comedy.”
Birsa has gone on record to underline that this is an entertainer ‘for the whole family’ – how much of it has been dictated by the item number Michrir Dana, which has gone viral on social media. “After the trailer came out, there was some murmur about this being an “adult/sex” comedy – which intensified after we released Michrir Dana,” says the film-maker.
Rudranil clarifies, “There was the fear that the subject would be below the belt so to speak – but I don’t think it’s a sex comedy, there is nothing comic about sex!” Birsa adds, “Yes, given this is a comedy about married couples at war – there is a certain amount of double entendre, or what we call non-veg jokes, but then there’s a context to it vis-à-vis the narrative. And the bottom line is that the CBFC has granted it an uncut U certificate. We have a tendency to slot things according to our prejudices. As far as the song itself is concerned, I personally love item numbers. They have been part of our cinema for the longest time – from Mera Naam Chin Chin Choo to Ina Meena Deeka to Mehbooba Mehbooba and even in Mani Ratnam’s Roja and Bombay. Have we ever questioned their existence in the narrative? I do not look down upon the item number as a form of cinematic entertainment. I enjoy both the intellectual and the commercial aspects of cinema and Michrir Dana is my take on something I love.”
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