Anjan Dutt, though widely popular in Bangladesh as a singer, primarily considers himself a filmmaker and actor. The Kolkata-based artiste has just taken on the direction of “Mon Baksho”, a Bangladeshi feature film.
In a relaxed conversation with The Daily Star, the actor-director-singer expressed the hope that the Bangladeshi audience will get to know him as a director and will respond favourably to his first directorial work produced in Bangladesh.
You are more popular here as a musician rather than director. What motivated you to project yourself as filmmaker to the Dhaka audience?
AD: I am basically an actor and a filmmaker; music came much later into my life. I started off as an actor and cinema has been my main profession but I became very popular as a singer. My primary identity in India is that of a filmmaker.
Psychological conflicts are a hallmark of the stories you relate through your films. Where does “Mon Baksho” stand on that ground?
AD: The script is interesting, and that's why I am here. I felt like it had been written for me, though it's different from my own scripts and it's kind of poetic, and unconventional. Tushar Abdullah's story encircles a modern, restless, uncertain and liberal young girl who seeks true love. Today's society is different and everything, including love and relationships, are becoming virtual. The girl dwells in a virtual life; she dates many individuals but struggles to find true love. She finds love in someone, but her trust is in another person; she finds romance and sensuality in someone who cannot offer security. The story is about the girl and how she gets the right person. It is full of psychological conflicts and humour. At the same time, it is modern and touchy.
AD: I gave my producer and associate director samples and briefed them about my requirements. I wanted some good-looking, energetic and bright boys and girls who are popular in films. Then I auditioned them; some of them were good, while the rest didn't fit my criteria. Whoever I contacted came forward though most of them haven't watched any of my films and don't even know that I am a filmmaker. They are listeners of my music and they love me. I will show them DVDs of my films so that they get to know about my style of filmmaking. I do not care whatever they are doing here; I will groom them according to my need. I hope they are ready to break out and fit into a new mould.
You recently went location scouting for “Mon Baksho”. How did that go?
AD: I wanted a mixture of cityscapes and landscapes. The major portions of the film will be shot in Dhaka, and some locations are in Jaflong and border areas. I need tea gardens, forest bungalows and will shoot on the Sylhet-Meghalaya border and Manikganj. I want village, river, pastoral lands, although the story is Dhaka- based.
And you're also acting in the film …
AD: I will play the role of the girl's father, a poet. He is not the conventional father that we see; he is radical. He is bohemian, modern and cool, speaks in English and smokes heavily. I have done similar roles earlier. I will not have to adapt myself to the character; it is typical Anjan.
Tell us about the music of the film.
AD: My son Neel is doing the music. I don't do commercial music because I don't understand it very well. Neel has a better grasp of it, and he will do it combining popular singers from both Dhaka and Kolkata. But I can safely assure that it will be different from what people usually see in Bangladeshi commercial films. Music will be a very interesting part of the film. Here film music is separated from mainstream music but in India, the same singers sing different types of songs.
Your films are artistic, and yet very popular. How do you balance the two?
AD: I believe in making sensible commercial films; that is why I selected popular faces. I believe mainstream actors can do offbeat characters. Dev, Jishu, Shubhasri are commercial actors but they have also done art films.
I believe there should be differences in the kind of films: there's dance, drama, romance- filled commercial films for a certain category of audience, and there are modern, different and artistic films for a classy audience. That change should come soon in Bangladesh.
What are your expectations from the Bangladeshi audience?
AD: My expectation from Dhaka is not different from what I expect in Kolkata. I hope the audience will receive the film well; particularly I want the youth to come and watch it. There was a time in the '80s and' 90s, when the youths in Kolkata didn't watch Bangla films. But this trend didn't last and the younger generation started going to movie theatres. When I made “The Bong Connection” in 2004, youths were drawn to cinema halls. From then I have been drawing a young audience to halls. It was a breakthrough in Kolkata cinema and since then, many directors like Srijit (Mukherjee), Kaushik Ganguly, Mainak (Bhaumik) are prioritising a youth-centric audience. My listeners are the target audience of my films. So I would expect the affluent, educated young audience to come and watch my films.
What do you think is the major lacuna in Bangladeshi cinema?
AD: In Bangladesh, the multiplex culture prevalent in Kolkata and other Indian states is yet to take off. I have to factor that in as well when I make a film in Bangladesh, since a portion of urban youths are reluctant to watch Bangla films. I believe a change in Bangladeshi cinema is just around the corner, which will develop a polished cinema-going audience.
How would you evaluate your bond with Bangladesh?
AD: I am popular here through my music; some 40 percent of my listeners are Bangladeshis. I have performed for Bangladeshi communities in New York, Manchester, Chicago and other places. Bangladeshi listeners have made a contribution to the success of my music. I also remain in touch with Bangladeshi musicians. Ayub Bachchu, Maqsood, Bappa, Lucky Akhand have been a part of my work. I have key connection here and I love Bangla.