In a candid conversation with OTTplay, Birsa opens up about the making of the film, his experience of working with Dev, and a lot more. Read on…
Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay’s 1952-novel Durgo Rohoshyo turned out to be one of the most celebrated content in the Bengali film industry in 2023. While Dev and Birsa Dasgupta have made a film, Srijit Mukherji has created a web series for Hoichoi, based on the same novel. Evidently, a lot of conversations took place around these two projects. In a candid conversation with OTTplay, Birsa opens up about the making of the film, his experience of working with Dev and how he deals with the recent social media conversations around Durgo Rohoshyo. Read on…
How did you get the offer of directing this film?
I was in Mumbai when I first read Dev’s Tweet on Byomkesh – that he will be playing Byomkesh. I called him and said I would like to direct the film. I never had any particular fascination over making a Byomkesh Bakshi film. However, I always felt if I would ever make a Byomkesh, I would like to bring him out of the drawing room and mount the film on an enormous landscape – like the way Dibakar (Banerjee of Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!) made it. Durgo Rohoshyo gives you that scope to the fullest. When I called Dev, he said, 'You come back to Kolkata and meet me'. In Mumbai, I was in neck-deep work and had no idea what was going on in terms of rights or the making of Durgo Rohoshyo. I saw Dev’s Tweet and called him. That’s all. I worked with him before in Shudhu Tomari Jonyo and we had a fantastic experience.
How did you plan to make your film differently given that we have a deluge of Byomkesh films, TV series, and web series in place already?
First, we need to understand that there are many, many people, who have little idea of Byomkesh – people who haven’t read a single Sharadindu novel, or people who did not watch many Byomkesh films. We don’t even know these people. Besides reaching out to bona fide Byomkesh fans, we intend to take our film to those people who are not exactly glued to the idea of this Bengali detective. Byomkesh fans will anyway come and watch the film. Satyajit Ray made Byomkesh with Uttam Kumar to bring in his stardom and to reach out to make more people. I really liked Abir (Chatterjee) as Byomkesh. But among the actors who are yet to play Byomkesh, Dev is a fantastic choice.
Also, every creator has their own choice and style of making Byomkesh. I like Arindamda’s Har Har Byomkesh for its lavish outdoors. I also liked Anjan Dutt’s Abar Byomkesh, which is set in the foothills of the Himalayas. Every maker and actor brings their own style.
However, for me, Durgo Rohoshyo is different. It is underexposed in terms of making. Also, we will have to remember that Sharadindu penned Durgo Rohoshyo after a break of many years when he was busy writing other things. The novel starts with tales from history before Byomkesh and Ajit get into the main plot. The novel itself is mounted on a big blockbuster on a big canvas.
Also, we wanted to bring a newness to every character. So many people made Byomkesh but I really liked the way Dibakar made Byomkesh. Dibakar and I spoke about it. We wanted to reach out to the largest possible audience. Dev is a hero who is playing Byomkesh. He is also the hero of Ajit, who writes his stories. If Dev is working on a film, you get the required budget because of his stardom. So we never wanted to cater to a niche urban audience. Byomkesh is acceptable and accessible for everyone and that has been our aim. Dev has a lot of young audience and this film is for them also.
But there will be comparisons…
I know there will be a comparison. If the competition is healthy, there is no problem. However, in this film, we have taken a completely different route. This film is more about adventure in finding the mystery. It is not dark or adult. We consciously avoided sex and gore. It has a lot of joy in it. It shows good wins over evil. In the other Byomkesh films, I always see a serious Ajit. In our case, the character is much lighter. In my interpretation, Byomkesh is not just a friend but also Ajit’s hero. I want people to like all the characters. I did not want to make it intellectual. The soundscape is fantastic. As I said, I wanted to make it for everyone. I want Ida (younger daughter) to be able to enjoy it.
Many people, even from within the Bengali industry, criticised Dev when he announced that he would play Byomkesh. How do you see that?
In this film, our Byomkesh doesn’t smoke since he is setting into fatherhood. He takes care of his wife, who is pregnant. There is no intimacy in this film. This is not an intellectual Byomkesh. But he is very intelligent. You don’t really need to be intellectual to make a character intelligent. He is a sleuth and not a Naxalite leader. Also, all these comments were made by only a handful of people and the real-time viewers are much bigger than that population. Real viewers, who pay for tickets, would not care if the actor is enough intellectual or not. They want to watch a spectacle on screen. It is an experience and celebration. We, as a team, focussed on that. Diptarko Bose carefully constructed music. We focussed on making the film in a way so that we could reach out to the maximum number of people. That has been our challenge. Those negativities do not affect us.
Dev and Byomkesh Bakshi both are superstars for Bengalis in their own way. How did you balance this stardom?
There are chances that their stardom supersedes the other. I felt the film will be benefitted from both. If Dev’s stardom becomes bigger, it will be better for the film, is it not?
How is Dev to work with? Does his stardom affect the directorial team?
Dev is a super producer. And he behaves like a Class II student when it comes to the excitement of something new. His success lies in his work. He is always excited about the sets. We enjoyed, laughed, and made fun. In our team, there was no screaming or toxicity. My point is if you don’t enjoy your work what’s the point? The general tone and mood of a team come from the director and the lead actors. When you have a superstar producer, things become easier.
A lot of conversation took place around these two Byomkesh projects. Some social media bantering took place between you and Dev. In fact, there were wars of words and hashtags…
If a person becomes bigger than their film, then the craft suffers. A lot of banter took place on social media and those stay on social media (laughs). Dev and I remained on the same page in making the film. Now it is there. I hope people will like it.