Posted September 25, 2013 under Director's Cut By Preetha Banerjee

Indranil Roychowdhury: "if you wait with dignity, you will achieve your goal"

Indranil Roychowdhury:
Indranil Roychowdhury:

e has done over a hundred commercials, some tele-films and a short-film (‘Tapan Babu’ which has been made into Malayalam and Tamil movies), Indranil Roy Choudhury slips into the robe of a feature film director with “Phoring”, a film made with a shoe-string budget but promises to do good at the ticket-windows. In a candid conversation with our Little Birdie, Indranil, or Kobi, as he is fondly referred to, delves into how the film unfolds beyond the much talked about adolescence masturbation and panty-smelling scenes.

What exactly should the audiences expect, when it comes to ‘Phoring’?

Well, it is a story of 14 years old Phoring who lives in a very remote region located at the edge of the Dooars. Phoring has a disturbed childhood because he is born into a family of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh to witness the death of his elder brother and being brought up in a place where the only source of income, the factory has been locked out for years. The economic situation of his family is naturally very volatile and his father has to make ends meet by being a part time homeopath and a fake astrologer. To top that, Phoring himself is essentially a good-for-nothing guy and doesn’t know how to express the imaginations and ideas of his fertile, young mind. The result is a complex, klutzy, messed up teenager who flunks in several exams and is highly berated by his teachers. Unable to bear such pressure, a moment comes when he even contemplates suicides and at this troubled moment, Doyel, his new school-teacher enters his life and changes it forever. Doyel is a very urban, out-spoken girl from Kolkata who was appointed as the History teacher of their school. Phoring takes immediate liking to her as she starts paying extra attention to him for being a slow learner.

There is another prominent child actor in the film. Tell us about his character.

Yes, Lattu is Phoring’s closest friend. They have grown up together but are still poles apart nature wise. Lattu is the complete prankster and extroverted enough to tell Phoring about his first experiences of adulthood. But his over-enthusiasm leads Phoring to develop some distance from him and hide his deepest emotions because he cannot relate to him. “Lattu ta kemon jeno,” is Phoring’s perception of his friend.

How did you chance upon these two child actors? Are they already into acting?

Sourav (Lattu) was a complete non-actor and was introduced to me by one of my crew members and his spontaneity and enthusiasm helped me decide in two minutes that he is perfect for the character. He is a natural actor and sometimes he overdoes his part. So my main job was to tone down his performance a bit. We had to search longer for someone to play the main character because we wanted someone with an innocent face. With Akash (Phoring), the looks were fine for the character but his voice sounded like that of a girl and he also had minor speech problems. But later on, we finalized on him when we were confident that those little things can be taken care of. Also, we had to dub his voice later on.

Why the unusual name ‘Phoring’?

I had attached the name Phoring with the character without realizing there is a famous line by poet Jibanananda Das that goes, “Je jibon phoringer, doyeler”. That was purely co-incidental. My initial feeling was that phoring (grasshopper) is an insect who jumps around unnoticed like little boy. Also, if you look deeper, a grasshopper is basically very weak because it cannot fly high though it has wings. Phoring, my protagonist, is also like a grasshopper, which has the dreams to fly high but is too weak and small to reach his destination.

Why did you choose to shoot in such remote, lush surroundings?

I have been grown up in a small town myself and I feel that children and adolescents can relate most with nature when they cannot share their feelings with the human beings around them. Same is the case with Phoring. So I chose to shoot in Ashok Nagar, a place near Bangladesh border and also in North Bengal & Kolkata because the on-screen location demanded certain backdrops and surroundings. Shooting in so many different places was physically difficult due to the sultry heat but the whole cast and crew made it feel like a picnic, so it was equally fun.

What is Ritwik’s character in the film?

Ritwik is Doyel’s cousin brother who comes to visit her once in a while and thus naturally becomes the object of suspicion for the whole locality who frowns upon their relationship. Phoring also has similar suspicions as he realizes that whenever that man comes to meet Doyel, phoring is not entertained by her anymore.

 If someone analyzes the film from a feminist point of view, can Doyel’s character be said to have been subjected to the male gaze or has been made to look like a spectacle?

No, not at all because Phoring is not adult enough to look at her in that way. Surely he has some sexual fantasies about Doyel but he feels absolutely guilty about those flashes of images because he respects her as a teacher and also is emotionally attached with her because she is the only one he confides in. Also, towards the end, the film mutates into a resonant ray where sexuality will always be the fulcrum.

How did it feel to receive the Prasad award for “Best Work in Progress”, an award received by “Ship of Theseus” last year?

After passing out from FTII Pune, I have always wanted to be a feature film maker. But I wanted to tell stories in my own way. I never compromised on my creative instincts and waited for the right producer to pitch my script. I cannot expect a person who trades in TMT bars to understand why it takes 6 months to write a script. So when I received the award, I felt that my eighteen year long wait is beginning to pay off! So to the budding filmmakers, I would want to say, if you wait with dignity, you will achieve your goal. And never lose hope although being hopeful in today’s world is a miracle in itself! 


Pictures by: Akash Goswami

Indranil Roychowdhury:
Indranil Roychowdhury:
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