For six years, Bangladeshi writer-cultural activist Masud Karim, with no filmmaking experience, chased his cross-border dream of making the first full-fledged documentary on Satyajit Ray’s favourite hero Soumitra Chattopadhyay before realising it.
"One day, I called Soumitrada but he flatly refused to meet me due to his busy schedule because of several events during the Puja time. Then came a long hiatus when I had to be content by watching his performance on the stage at Rabindra Sadan and Academy of Fine Arts in Kolkata," Karim said.
As he groped for a strategy to meet the actor, Karim decided to get Chattopadhyay’s interview towards the end of 2013 and managed to get one. The interview was published in several leading dailies of Bangladesh.
The strategy worked. "In April 2014, I again met Soumitra Chatterjee with the newspaper clippings of the interview and I felt he was happy to see his interview published in Bangladesh. Sensing his mood, I broached the subject of the documentary. Luckily, he immediately agreed."
"I have been chasing this dream across the border for six years and this is a dream come true for me," Karim said.
The documentary "Krishnakoli" had its premiere in Kolkata on April 28 and was screened at the Indian High Commission auditorium in Dhaka last week, drawing appreciation from the audiences.
Karim said that in the documentary, Chattopadhyay has shared many "previously unknown" aspects of his film and personal life, especially his early life in life in Krishnanagar in West Bengal, school life and marriage.
The hour-long film has director Mrinal Sen, Soumitra’s daughter Poulumi Chatterjee, cameraman Soumendu Roy and several friends of the the spian like Sudhir Chakraborty, yesteryears footballer P K Banerjee, Ananda Publisher’s Subir Mitra and Dey’s publishers Sudanshu Shekhor Dey talking about him.
Karim said "Krishnakoli" is the first full-fledged documentary on Chattopadhyay. The earlier ones were brief snatches of interview with the actor in particular contexts.
According to Karim, after the documentary’s premier in Kolkata, veteran director Gautam Ghosh said, "There are another three small documentaries on Soumitrada but ‘Krishnakoli’ is the full-fledged documentary film."
The shooting of the documentary was mainly done at the famous Laha Bari at College Street in Kolkata and among the outdoor locales were Krishnanagar in Nadia district of West Bengal, Koya village in Kusthia district of Bangladesh, where Chattopadhyay’s grandfather and his relative Bagha Jatin were born, and Dhaka, said Karim.
Asked if he ever felt nervous in his first effort at filmmaking on a personality like Chattopadhyay, he said "Before starting the shooting, Soumitrada clearly told me ‘today you are my director, so you must instruct me what I have to do or what I must do.’
"This showed the actor’s large heart and after that I become free with him and the whole day we passed not only shooting but gossiping sharing many jokes."
Karim said that generally for documentary film, the director only gathers information from different sources and finally just makes copy and paste. "But in my documentary film, more than 40 minutes cover the interview (with Soumitra Chatterjee) and the rest consists of video clips of Soumitrada’s films."
An added attraction of "Krishnakoli" is noted Lalon singer Farida Parveen’s voice to the title song.
According to Karim, Chattopadhyay was a little concerned how he public will receive the documentary "but after the screening, he told me that ‘I must say, thanks Masud Karim.’ My reply was "it is the symbol of my love for Soumitra Chatterjee".
And finally why the name "Krishnakoli" for the documentary Karim replied "the people who were born in Krishnanagar and then later settled in Kolkata are often called Krishnakoli. Soumitra Chattopadhyay is one such individual."