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“There’s a detective in every member of the audience”

Director Arindam Sil has delivered his third consecutive detective hit with the Bengali film, Eagoler Chokh. With suspense films doing so well in the Bengali market, Sil talks to Soumita Sengupta about how Bengali literature supports cinema, his back-to-back hits and his next venture

Your film Eagoler Chokh is receiving some brilliant feedback.

(Laughs) Yes, and believe me, it is overrated! But I am grateful to God as he has been very kind to me. The accolades I am receiving have been overwhelming. Including this one, I have directed four films so far, and everyone says this is the best of the lot. In fact, many people on social media are placing Eagoler Chokh at par with Sonar Kella and Joi Baba Felunath. The response has been outstanding.

Eagoler Chokh is the sequel to Ebar Shabor, which was super successful. While making a sequel, was there any essence of the original that you wanted to retain?  

Once I decided to make Eagoler Chokh, I was very conscious about how I want to treat my story. I treated it like a thriller and I wanted to give it a human element so that the film didn’t remain about who has directed it and the central character. It also spoke about the city and social standards, the placement of various characters which brings up the various social issues scattered across a city. That was my basic idea when I was directing the first one.

Ebar Shabor is a story written by Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, a legendary writer in Bengali literature. After watching the film, Shirshenduda called me to compliment me and he said this is how literature supports cinema. He said my film was like the new edition of what he had written. After a few months, he called me back and said that since I enjoy this genre, he had another book and asked if I wanted to read it. I started reading the book and, half-way through, I told him he should not give the rights to anyone else. That’s how Eagoler Chokh happened. It was the legendary writer’s idea.

Even as I decided to make a sequel, I knew that worldwide sequels hardly work. If your first film works, people accept that essence from the sequel. So I was extra-careful as I wanted to make this film far more edgy, darker and more psychological. The sequel offers a totally different thriller than the first one and I believe that’s what has clicked with the audience.

Ebar ShaborHar Har Byomkesh, Eagoler Chokh… what is it about the detective genre that intrigues you so much? Also, do you think it’s a safe bet now, as the genre is doing rather well in Bangla?

My first film Aborto was a human drama, which spoke about relationships. All I keep in mind before making a film is that I don’t repeat myself in any of my films, and that my current film has to be better than my previous one. I am my biggest competitor. Ebar Shabor, Har Har Byomkesh and Eagoler Chokh have all been hits, which is very rare.

But it is sheer coincidence that all the stories I chose had the thrill element. Let me tell you why the audience loves the detective genre so much. First, it is present in our (Bengali) literature. Second, there is a detective in every member of the audience, especially Bengalis. I treat my films through the perspective of the audience, which is why the audience enjoys the film as much as they do probing it.

The detective is a metaphor that I use in my stories; the detective becomes my catalyst. But it’s the suspense that keeps the audience intrigued. I don’t look and analyse what genre is working. The Bengali audience is very shrewd; they will watch your film only if it is good. There is huge competition in the field, every week we have some brilliant films releasing and I am only talking about Bengali cinema. So to stay at par with audience expectations, I chose the best story. And it is sheer coincidence that I am attracted to suspense thrillers.

We’ve heard that your next film too is a detective story.

Yes, it is. I am shooting for my next film Byomkesh Porbo. Once again, it just happened that way. It was not a deliberate decision to choose a similar genre. We have a huge bank of stories in literature and we haven’t done justice to it. Byomkesh Porbo is derived from the Mahabharata. Lately, it’s content that’s working as it has in the past few years, when films have done brilliant business.

And after Byomkesh Porbo?

After this, I will start Madam O Mahashoy, once again Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay’s story.

You’re known for finishing your films in a stipulated time frame… 

(Cuts in) I give credit for that to my team, who are all very talented. I have also been lucky. I started my career as a child artiste and have been attracted to the technical aspect of filmmaking since then. By the time I grew up, I knew how it worked. And while I was working as an actor, I was the first executive producer in Kolkata, not only for Bengali films but also for Hindi films. So I believe all those experiences helped me understand every aspect of filmmaking. Now when I am directing one of my films, the script of my next film is already ready and my actors are briefed. I do a lot of pre-production so that once we start rolling, everything is already in place.

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