Bombay Showcase

The film is dead, long live the film

The film revolves around the family of a film exhibitor, his son, wife and the old projectionist of their cinema house.  

or someone who has made 10 of his 16 movies in film, it is ironic that Kaushik Ganguly’s latest, about the magic of celluloid, has been shot in digital. Even as globally celebrated directors like Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan kickstart a campaign to keep film alive –– by entering into a contract with Kodak that will produce the much revered 35mm for their productions –– shooting in celluloid is an impractical and rather romantic idea for a regional filmmaker like Ganguly. For him, films are made on moderate budgets. “Even if one shoots in film, the richness and the texture will anyway be downgraded when it is converted to digital to be screened. The projection systems in most of the theatres have been digitised,” the 47-year-old filmmaker explains.

But even as he gracefully accepts the arrival of digital, Kaushik’s heart still beats for the good old film. “I miss the scratch, watermark, film rolls, the shaky projector, and the human touches. It’s perfect, and too good to be true,” he says.

His new film Cinemawala is a tribute to the remaining few single screens that are home to the celluloid, the projector and the skilled projectionist. He likens his film to bidding farewell to that beloved school teacher upon his retirement. “There are no discussions about it. People are still busy celebrating digital. So I thought its only fitting that a filmmaker arranges for a proper farewell,” he says. At the recently concluded International Film Festival of India, Cinemawala won the UNESCO Fellini Medal that recognised the film for its “social, human contribution, the preservation of the seventh art, and creating a universal subject out of a local but universal problem.”

What is interesting is how Ganguly weaves a family drama into the theme. Set in a mofussil in West Bengal, the film revolves around the family of a film exhibitor, his son, wife and the old projectionist of their cinema house. At the heart of it is the father-son relationship –– played by Paran Bandopadhyay and Parambrata Chatterjee — who represent the old and the new, disagree on ideological grounds.

“We are accustomed to social drama about the rich and poor, love, extra-marital relationships. I thought for a country as movie-crazy as India, it would be interesting to have the changing nature of the film business as the reason for family turmoil,” says Kaushik.

The swansong of single screens could only be told in a story set in a mofussil and not city that is too besotted by swanky multiplexes to remember the old cinema houses. Ganguly also explores the unique position these theatres have in the social life of the smaller towns. “Most of these owners have other businesses too, like trading in fish, granite or construction materials. But none of them gives them the prestige of being a movie hall owner. When the District Magistrate needs ticket for his family for a super-hit film, he calls him up. They provide a strange kind of social upliftment,” says the filmmaker, who has made himself synonymous with choosing unusual subjects of unsung heroes in the lower rungs of the society or showbiz. In the past, he’s made the much talked about Arekti Premer Golpo ( Just Another Love Story, 2010) about gay love, Shabdo (2012) about the life of a folly artist and Chhotoder Chhobi (2014), that revolves around the tragic lives of dwarfs. The latter did well in West Bengal and more importantly, resulted in the government launching a welfare scheme for dwarfs. Two members of the committee are also two actors from the film. Ganguly, who considers himself more of a storyteller than a filmmaker, hopes to bring a change with Cinemawala too.

“It breaks my heart to see the projectors that had once screened many movies that had golden and silver jubilee runs, now gather dust. They don’t even have vintage value. They are being sold as junk. Change is necessary and the only way forward, but we need to preserve the film as heritage,” says Ganguly, who is also a writer and actor.

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2021 11:32:48 AM |

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