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Exclusive! Kaushik Ganguly: It is futile and silly to predict what viewers want and make films accordingly

His Kaberi Antardhan which features Prosenjit Chatterjee, Churni Ganguly, Kaushik Sen, Srabanti Chatterjee, and Ambarish Bhattacharya will release on January 20 

Exclusive! Kaushik Ganguly: It is futile and silly to predict what viewers want and make films accordingly
Kaushik Ganguly
  • Shamayita Chakraborty

Last Updated: 03.20 PM, Jan 15, 2023


National Award-winning director Kaushik Ganguly finished shooting Kaberi Antardhan and got back to Kolkata from North Bengal just before India went into lockdown in 2020. Soon after that everything came to standstill and the director could start the post-production of the film only after the second wave subsided. Finally, the film is all set to release on January 20. The thriller which is based in North Bengal features Prosenjit Chatterjee, Churni Ganguly, Kaushik Sen, Srabanti Chatterjee, Ambarish Bhattacharya, and others. In an exclusive chat with OTTPlay, he talked about his responsibility as a filmmaker, his robust acting career, and how he sees the transition of the Indian film industry.  

Talking about if he suffers from nervousness before a film release, Kaushik said he becomes tenser when he is the director of the film. He believes as a filmmaker his responsibility goes up. “When I act in a film, I am usually less nervous. As an actor, my responsibility is to portray my part well and that’s all. In a certain way, as an actor, I am a little selfish. I want my part to be different than everyone else. In the case of direction, I have a lot more responsibility. It’s more if I work in the film as an actor. There, even after my job is done as an actor, I am responsible for editing, mounting, and narration. My job doesn’t get over after I play the character. However, I think I like to take that responsibility. Kaberi Antardhan is my 28th film. It is only possible to make that many films if you love to take the responsibility of a director. In our industry, a director is usually not the producer of a film. Since producers invest money, they also have an opinion. You need to have that sincerity to address producers’ concerns. That’s why the tension is more before the release. Every release is like the first film release for me,” said the director-turned-actor. 

Kaushik has always stayed away from the trend that the Bengali film industry chose to follow. He was not seen taking up a thriller or a whodunit project when Byomkesh or Feluda was trending. He often chose stories of simple lives. “It is futile and silly to predict what people want. Those who think they know what people really want and try to make films accordingly are either crazy or imbeciles. You can never predict audiences’ minds. Raj Kapoor famously said, ‘Take a risk and risk a take’. It is difficult to make 20-odd films if you just try to follow trends. I love to tell stories and each of my stories are different from the other. Kaberi Antardhan is different from Lokkhi Chele. There will be no similarities between Ardhangini and Palan. My audience also expects different types of stories from me. I always feel that I should tell different stories keeping the style and aesthetics in place. I never predicted what my viewers want. If I asked Babuda (Sandip Ray) to give me the rights to a Feluda novel, he wouldn’t have said no. I never felt the urge. I never wanted to make biopics either. Perhaps I am not comfortable making a biopic. A biopic on BR Ambedkar may stop me from telling a story of an individual who suffered due to certain aspects of the constitution of India. At the same time, someone may feel the urge to make a biopic on Ambedkar in today’s time. I have full respect for them. In the case of Kaberi Antardhan, I chose to tell a love story-cum-suspense thriller in the backdrop of the Emergency and Naxal movement. Someone may just make a film on the Naxal movement and that would be their choice. I like to tell stories. Many people, who like to tell stories, write books. I make films. I get stories out of nowhere. Shabdo, Nagarkirtan, Chotoder Chobi and so on. All these elements, including foley artists, transgender people, or dwarfs have been there in front of us for years. Nobody thought to make a film out of these lives. I did. Our audiences want such stories. But what do we do? We try to predict what they want and end up making designed products. We kept on making detective thrillers till the time the viewers are frustrated. When we started remaking South Indian films, we overdid that also,” he said.   

Kaushik expressed his gratitude towards his producers for not insisting on him following trends. He said, “Since a director is usually not the producer, the latter has opinions. This has its benefits and shortcomings. I am very fortunate that the producers I worked with have never interfered in my filmmaking process. That’s why my responsibility is more so that my producers don’t suffer. I am an entertainer. I have never promised anyone that I would make hit films. And yet I have a responsibility towards my producers.”

In 2022, Kaushik was seen in a number of projects as an actor. On January 6, Shikarpur was dropped on Zee5 and his performance was lauded in different quarters. Is he aiming for a National Award in acting, we asked. “If I bag a National Award for acting, I would not be sad,” he joked. “My focus on acting in this period was a strategic call. Most of my acting assignments were out of charity. From Bishorjan, and Bijoya to Bastu Shaap, Drishtikone, and others – all the significant characters I played were not commercial. It was primarily a goodwill gesture towards my producer. We needed some big actors for the character. That would incur cost – remuneration, flights, accommodation. I did it so that the money is saved. Also, I love to perform. I always used to get offers to act but I used to decline those offers. This changed due to the pandemic. Due to the covid 19 restrictions, a number of my films, including Lokkhi Chele, Kaberi Antardhan, etc, got stuck. All these films waited in the pipeline and I did not want to start another film before these get released. I decided not to start a film between 2022 and 2023 March. But then I had to do something to survive. And I started accepting acting offers. I am grateful to my audience that they liked my film. This was a strategic call. By 2023 March, I will again stop accepting acting offers and get back to direction as most of the films will be released,” he said.

Recently Kaushik worked with Atanu Ghosh in Aaro Ek Prithibi as one of the leading actors. Talking about his experience of working with another ace director, he said, “It was marvellous. Atanu is polite, cordial, and learned. Moreover, he is a brilliant human being. As a director, he is very sure about what he wants. These days, everybody is shooting in London. He chose a story that needs the London background. It was really nice working with him.” 

Meanwhile, Kaushik is overjoyed with the glorious success of SS Rajamouli’s RRR on the global platform. “I watched RRR and I loved it. It is a proud moment for all of us to see such a fantasy made in India and such technical brilliance happening in this country. I liked Pushpa also. It is not possible to make a film like RRR in Bengal. The budget for the dust used in a scene is equivalent to the budget of two films in Bengal. South films are much bigger than Bollywood these days,” he said. 

Kaushik also believes that the Indian cinema industry is going through a transition. “For years, industry stakeholders talked in IFFI about why we should stop calling non-Hindi films ‘regional films’ and call Indian cinema instead. South has successfully created that narrative. When one south film is made it automatically gets dubbed in multiple South Indian languages. That helps. Their cultural harmony is helping the different film industries in this country. Bengal and Punjab played a crucial role in the Indian Freedom movement. South India is playing a major role in the Indian film industry,” he said adding that in Bengal, it is different. “For us, cinema is not as hypnotic as religion. We still meddle with trolling. We don’t know how much to respect our stars and how much to troll,” he said.  

Kaushik also said that non-Hindi films should be pitched nationally. “I have talked with many experts and stakeholders and they repeatedly said to pitch regional content nationally. Why should a Dutta Babu talk in Hindi? A Bengali story should be made in the Bengali language and a Gujarati film will be made in the Gujarati language,” he said. 

Kaushik also expressed his distaste for stereotyping non-Hindi speakers in Hindi films. “Bengali characters are often stereotyped. Punjabis are portrayed as funny and Bengalis as lousy. When a star comes from Mumbai, they say, ‘Ami Tomake Bhalobashi’ in an imperfect and distorted diction, and people in Bengal love it. I distaste it. They ask for roshogolla and mishti doi as if we don’t have any other sweets in Bengal. It irritates me. I think we, the Bengali filmmakers, have the potential to make them taste doi of different flavours. A regional mind is more dangerous than calling Indian films regional cinema,” he said.