Mainak Bhaumik: “It has been the most visually enriching journey for me”
ith the evolution of Bengali films in a transforming industry, there’s still Tollywood on one side, and Mainak Bhaumik on the other. This ruminative young director whose childhood has been straddled over the United States and India has now created a genre of his own – the new genre.
He delves deep into the psyche of a character, boldly addresses every issue, and like a fine artist paints the raw emotions that outlines it. With his latest venture TAKE ONE ready to hit the screens this Friday, our little birdie struck an exclusive conversation with the film-maker at a Dover lane espresso bar. An excerpt follows…
How did TAKE ONE happen for you?
I wanted to do a film which is exploring in a way, getting into the psyche of a woman, and the isolation despite everything – good, bad, ugly – how they face it is what I wanted to capture. I wanted to define the space.
Are there any inspirations that triggered it?
I remember when I was shooting Bedroom in 2011, there were two films such as Gandu and Chatrak, whose trailers had come out, and there was a lot of criticism from people tagging them as ‘porn films’, and since I have had known Paoli and Rii personally, I found out that such criticism didn’t affect them at all! Anubrata was a part of my film, and he wasn’t bothered either. Their lives weren’t changing. Interestingly, a film like Gandu, in 7-8 months’ time, landed in the Berlin Film Festival. Immediately, it became the film to talk about and people’s perceptions changed. So this is when I thought of doing something and wanted to find out how the public reacts to that.
The film has a very bold outlook. What’s inside?
It’s an isolated journey of a woman that nobody can identify with or understand completely.
See, it’s not easy being a mother; it’s not easy being an actor. It’s very difficult to be at the workplace and also be an omnipresent family member. And I also wanted to see the way we look at an epic like Ramayana. Sita was put under fire trial to prove her chastity even back then. And if you look at a woman today, she still faces the same hypocrisy and has to justify herself. I wanted to explore here through the juxtaposed comparison only to find out how minimal the change has been.
You strongly empathize with women and many from the industry say that your strong understanding of the woman psyche and emotions makes you the most comfortable director to work with. Can we call you a feminist film-maker then?
‘Feminism’ is a strong word. It has a lot of socio-political agendas attached to it. I’d rather like to be called a feminine film-maker.
A woman’s mind is more layered and more complex. I like to study it more.
Women are more than mere eye candies in films. I will always stand up against objectifying women and fight for equality. Someone needs to step up and make films like ‘kahaani’ and ‘Queen’ more often.
TAKE ONE has already traversed troubled waters. How challenging has it been for you?
It has been very difficult because it is a complex film. It is probably the first film that I’m getting into which is quite silent. And, to not being able to tell how people will react to it makes it even more difficult. If a film is funny and people laugh, then you’re successful. But with something this serious, it has too many layers. People may remain quiet. Getting reactions for something dramatic…I don’t know that yet. And then there has always been this constant criticism as well!
So, what’s your opinion on society and its criticism?
I know exactly how they are operating and it’s interesting how they behave. Sometimes what’s disappointing is how it is still very predictable. The negative reactions regarding the MMS clip after the first press release is so similar to how people reacted when we interviewed them one and a half years back for the purpose of the film, which again shows how little people change!
Why did you cast Swastika Mukherjee for the character of Doel Mitra?
Firstly, she’s one of the finest actresses I have worked with.
Secondly, there’s a tremendous amount of complexity to the person she is, and she has the kind of depth I was looking for in the character.
Thirdly, she is uninhibited, and also I’ve known her for a while now.
We have practically made the film together. TAKE ONE is our child. She has been like a father dealing with society and its problems, and I would be like the mother who was nurturing it.
How has been your journey through the film?
It has probably been the most cinematic journey I have had. And it’s the kind of a journey that I would like to take again in the future. I enjoyed everything about TAKE ONE. And mostly the visual space that I used. Being able to do so much storytelling through the visuals, as opposed to words, has been very satisfying. I’m really happy with the application, and it has been the most visually enriching journey for me.
What are you expecting from the audience…strong reactions or penetrating silence?
I think I will be surprised either way. The only thing I don’t want is an audience with a preconceived notion. I want them to see it for what it is.
Pictures by: Akash Goswami