Quietly, unobtrusively, Goutam Ghose is making ripples on the international circuit.
Speaking to Goutam Ghose, that man of many summers, and many a landmark movie, can be both a delight and a despair. One moment, it is all enlightenment as he talks of Sufism, Lalan Fakir, and those days when we lived in harmony. The next moment, he's is at a loss for words; he thinks. First silently, then aloud — about his next film “Lala”, that is still in its the initial stages. It's is being talked about as Richard Gere's India debut, but Ghose does not want to share too much. He is, of course, much more at ease talking about “Moner Manush”, the Indo-Bangla co-production, scheduled to hit the cinemas shortly. Quietly, unobtrusively, Goutam Ghose is making ripples on the international circuit. And, almost effortlessly, stepping beyond the confines of Hindi or Bengali cinema. He takes a few questions on his films, their philosophy, and the international market.
There's a buzz that Richard Gere is acting in your next film ‘Lala'. Why try to keep things under wraps?
I don't want to talk about ‘Lala' yet. Unlike here, in Hollywood, they have a procedure in place. Yes, we have approached Richard Gere, and he has evinced interest in the project. But, he has not signed the film yet. Our producers will come down to India later this month, then we'll finalise everything. Until then, all I'll say is the film's a bilingual — English and Hindi.
Your ‘Moner Manush' is evoking more than just a passing interest. What is the film about?
I just wrapped up ‘Moner Manush', a film relevant to today's times with so many divides of religion, region, race, caste, etc. It is based on a novel by Sunil Gangopadhyay, and relates the story of Lalan Fakir, the 18th-19th Century mystic, revered on both sides of Bengal. I went to Kushtia, his village in Bangladesh to do some research, and discovered his songs have no notations. It is a subject close to my heart.
With this Indo-Bangla film, you've become an international filmmaker….
‘Moner Manush' is an international film, with cast and crew from both India and Bangladesh. Prosenjit plays Lalan Fakir. We have shot it in India as well as Bangladesh.
The film was conceptualised long ago. What led to the delay in completion?
The film was conceived in early 1990s, and I had planned it immediately after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. I wanted to highlight the shared past, the social harmony of our land — the Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and Christians living together. But the film is as relevant even now.
With its focus on spirituality, ‘Moner Manush' is a niche film. How can you hope to take on commercial potboilers when the film releases in the festive season?
The film embodies the fantastic subaltern spirit of our nation that is so liberal, so secular. We have a composite culture. We have Kabir. And, Lalan is similar to Kabir. He did unbelievable work in the 19th Century. His followers worked a lot in rural areas.
I believe there's a certain topicality to the subject that will appeal to people in multiplexes all over — be it Kolkata, Mumbai or Delhi.
There is a school of thought that believes making films in Bangla on an international canvas makes smart business sense…
That's right. Co-productions make market sense for sure, and, an Indo-Bangla production, more so, because there is a world market for Bengali cinema. There are Bengalis or Bangla-speaking people across the world. With the improved Indo-Bangladesh relations, we hope to release more than a 100 prints. The film will be shown across the country at multiplexes. I am confident of it doing well because after a long time we have an Indo-Bangla film. We have a mixed cast and crew. My earlier Indo-Bangla film had also done well commercially. But that was more than a decade-and-a-half ago. I hope to reproduce the magic this time too.