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One of Bengali cinema’s most beloved on-screen pairs, Prosenjit Chatterjee and Rituparna Sengupta, has delivered yet another hit in their latest film, Drishtikone. The actors, the film’s director Kaushik Ganguly and producer Nispal Singh tell Titas Chowdhury why their film is a winner

National Award-winning filmmaker Kaushik Ganguly’s latest romantic thriller titled Drishtikone opened on April 27 to packed houses across multiplexes and single-screen cinemas in Kolkata. The film, made under the banner of Surinder Films, marks the 49th collaboration between Prosenjit Chatterjee and Rituparna Sengupta, a pair known for their spectacular on-screen chemistry.

Despite its niche content, the film has taken the box office by storm. Drishtikone is a rare blend of commercial success and critical acclaim. The film is such a hit that movie-goers are still coming to watch it in large numbers and exhibitors are refusing the take down the film.

As the movie continues to clock great numbers as well as praise, the stars, director Kaushik Gnaguly and producer Nispal Singh give us an exclusive interview on the film and its overwhelming outcome.

On the box office reaction

Lead actor Prosenjit Chatterjee says, “Somewhere, I did expect such a response. Rituparna and I have come together two years after Praktan, which was a huge success. So, I was expecting something good. Secondly, it is a film by Kaushikda. He is an eminent director. The only pressure was that our film released along with Avengers. Despite that, the box office collection of Drishtikone was huge on the very first day. We are really happy. I was expecting something good, but not this huge.”

Rituparna Sengupta remarks, “I was completely taken aback by the huge success of the film. It was not just multiplexes – which have a different kind of audience that want these kinds of films – that ran to packed houses. To our complete surprise, single-screen theatres (which only run commercial potboilers) ran housefull for the last two weeks. I think this is amazing. It is proof that our pair still has that attraction and magnetic pull.

“I feel very charged, happy and excited that everyone is going ga-ga over this film. This one person in the audience said to me, ‘I have watched this movie seven times to understand every character in detail.’ That was an eye-opener for me.”

Kaushik Ganguly states, “Success is very accidental. It is not like I have not made better films than this, but this kind of success and blockbuster takes place by accident. You cannot plan or design this.”

Nispal Singh says, “Firstly, the film has Prosenjit and Rituparna. They have given huge hits in the past. People love them. Secondly, it has been directed by Kaushikda, who has delivered some of the best films in the past and has won both national and international awards. When he came to me with this idea, I was very excited about it. I was very sure that this movie would click with the audiences because this is a very different kind of story. Bengali audiences love such stories. It has a little bit of thrill too.”

On the hit pair’s return

With Drishtikone, the pair has returned to the big screen two and a half years after they starred in Praktan. “Last week, Rituparna and I went to Nandan in Kolkata. The older audiences stood up and said to us, ‘If you both are in a film, we will definitely to go the theatres to watch it.’ That feels really good. We have been working for the last 25 years. To this day, youngsters and older audiences come to theatres to see our chemistry. Nobody can create this chemistry, it just gets created. This is our 49th film together and we have made it to the Guinness Book of World Records. No other pair has done so many films together,” says Chatterjee.

Sengupta says that Drishtikone has further strengthened the duo’s hypnotic hold over the audience. “The Prosenjit-Rituparna pair has always given many substantial films to the industry. Praktan was after 15 years of us not working together. People were wondering whether this pair had any charm left. People had assumed a lot of things but the speculation has been put to rest.”

The actress adds, “We chose Kaushikda as our director with the aim of making a very different love story and a beautiful film that is spectacularly unique in terms of emotions. This pair has been known as a romantic pair all the way through because of the films that we have done. After Shiboprosad and Nandita, Kaushikda was the definitive choice for us. Since we had not worked together for a long time, we wanted somebody who could do justice to this pair.

“Rituparna-Prosenjit has always been marked as a commercial pair. No matter what kind of cinema we do, we have always had a commercial image. We are products of commercial cinema, there is no doubt about that, but Drishtikone is all about sensitive value and emotional output. The audience connects with the film because we make it more commercial,” she explains.

Blurred lines

Regarding Drishtikone blurring the lines between niche and mainstream cinema, Chatterjee opines, “Mainstream films are definitely there. But, with the kind of cinema that is happening all over, the word ‘mainstream’ is changing. In Kolkata, directors like Kaushikda, Srijit Mukherjee, Shiboprosad and Nandita are making a kind of cinema where the language is different today. They are not typically arty films because they are entertaining too. We do not just have action entertainers with loud acting. We used to get this kind of response long ago when our films used to be released in single-screens. With Drishtikone, after a long time, a film has worked so well at a single-screen theatre too. This is a good sign for us.

“In multiplexes, we have limitations, more so in the case of Bangla regional cinema, because we face competition from Hindi and English films. We do not get all the screens for Bangla cinema in Kolkata. Hindi and English films get huge returns in terms of the box office. Despite that, Drishtikone has done wonders. It marks a rare combination between commerce and content.

“Both cinema and the audience are evolving. The audience also wants to see something different. I think it is happening in Bombay also. A Hichki kind of film is based on a not-so-common kind of subject but people are still watching it.” 

Sengupta joins in, “As far as the film is concerned, I don’t really know how commercial it is because I think Drishtikone is a layered film. Art and commerce blend so well that people have started liking the film in a way that is making the film a commercial hit.”

Ganguly remarks, “There is a change in the face of commercial Bengali films. If you notice the regional film industries, their commercial cinema is changing its stance and language. The same is happening with Bengali cinema. We have had a very long heritage of storytelling with good substance. With time we started making films with dance and songs, reflecting other culture and Russian cinema. We started losing our own ground, our own self. The moment we began showing our own literature and culture, people started relating to the subject and those films started working well. Let me give an example of my previous film Bishorjon that did wonders at the box office. It had a flavour of Bengal. That is very important.  Our audience is not interested anymore in seeing films with tricky shots and technical excellence. They are interested in rich content and subjects that they can relate to.”

On audiences becoming more evolved

Explaining the change taking place in Bengali cinema, Ganguly says, “The audience is very much evolving. The films made by Shiboprosad Mukherjee are based on social issues. Srijit Mukherjee makes films that are changing the technical aspects of cinema. Everyone has a different style. I am mostly a storyteller. If you see my filmography, I make two kinds of films. Art house or festival films like Apur Panchali, Cinemawala and Chotoder Chobi. On the other hand, I made films like Khaad, Bishorjon, Bastu Shaap and Drishtikone. So, I am enjoying making both kinds of films – both box office and out of the box. As a filmmaker, when you see a housefull board outside the theatre, that joy is unparalleled.”

In the same light, Singh says, “In Kolkata, audiences accept films like this. They used to accept them earlier too. The Bengal market is very different. The audience is evolved enough to like such films such as these.”

Box office matters

After working for 35 years, the box-office still matters to Chatterjee. “It is very simple. When I used to do absolutely hardcore, mainstream cinema, they used to do really well box office-wise. I have a huge number of films that have celebrated golden and platinum jubilees. Though awards are very important and all of us want awards, my biggest award is when the audience accepts my films and watches them,” Chatterjee remarks.

Taking this argument forward, Sengupta says, “For me, the box office has always been an important criterion. I feel very obligated and obliged to my producers. A lot of money is riding on me which needs to be compensated. I always feel that obligation in my heart towards the producers who have given me so much responsibility to run this film. I also feel obligated that the producers should get back their due. I also feel that the commercial success of a film matters hugely. If a film does well commercially, it will give a boost to other producers to put in their money, the industry will expand, a lot more films will happen and their work will increase. It is important for a film to do well commercially.”

She adds that while critical acclaim makes her happy, commercial success is very important. “Commercial success holds the industry together and increases its recognition in a big way. I work towards commercial success by doing whatever I can, be it publicity, promotion. I leave no stone unturned. My effort should be recognised. If my efforts are recognised, I feel I have done it right.  I always try and put my efforts in all my films, so that I get decent feedback. That is how I have trained myself and that is my dedication to my craft.”

Ganguly says, “It is a very exciting phase for a filmmaker. The definitions of commercial and niche are vanishing and the lines are getting blurred every day. When we make a commercial film or a box office film, we need to glorify the content and need more ornamentation, we need to add background scores and more people are required. When we make a festival film, we don’t use so much of music and we opt for lesser ornamentation. For commercial films, you have the pressure of the box office. In serious films, you don’t have the pressure of entertaining the masses directly.

“I don’t want to fool the audiences with tricky shots, tricky edits and tricky music. I have to realise my own cinematic process. You can’t undo what you want to project or the way you narrate a story. So, box office is definitely important. In fact, it is the most important thing. If you don’t get box office success, you won’t be able to make other kinds of films. It is your responsibility as a filmmaker to have at least 1-2 films with a good box office reach. I am lucky that we could do that with Drishtikone.”  

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