Time travel has long been a concept explored and researched by scientists across the world but Indian filmmakers have paid scant attention to concept. That said, it comes as no surprise to discover that Atanu Ghosh has seen fit to make a full-length feature film on this aspect of science because he is forever trying to push the envelope of unusual and unique subjects. His last film, Ek Phali Rodh (A Slice of Sunshine) dealt with the unique human behaviour known as the “bystander effect”, which describes and details a socio-psychological phenomenon that refers to those who do refuse to help to a stranger in crisis. He takes his exploration a step further with a new film, Abby Sen, scheduled for theatrical release at the end of this month.
“I have been reading up on time travel and it has intrigued me enough to create a story around it and make a full-length feature film. The world&’s first science fiction, named Somnium (Latin for The Dream) was authored by Johannes Kepler in 1608 and it was published only in 1634 by his son, Ludwig. Somnium is the first ever novel that offers a detailed, imaginative and hypothetical description of how the earth will look when viewed from the moon, becoming the first serious scientific treatise on lunar astronomy. Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov referred to it as the first work of science fiction,” Ghosh explains.
Abby Sen is portrayed by Abir Chatterjee who takes a time leap into the past, from 2013 to 1980, with the help of a mysterious scientist (Chiranjeet) who offers it as a solution to his difficulty in coping with failure as a television producer in contemporary Kolkata. What happens when he travels back, especially to his family life comprised of wife Sromy (Arunima Ghosh) who loves him very much but gets extremely violent when angry? Has Abby&’s obsession with science fiction films and his inability to cope with failure offer the trigger for him to search for different pastures?
“I have also tried to offer a fresh glimpse into the notions of ‘success’ and ‘failure’ through Abby&’s journey into the past. But all this happens through his magical journey to a Calcutta of 1980 when the underground Metro was being built, when the city was called Calcutta and not Kolkata and where a different genre of films played in the theatres and are now considered ancient in the ambience of multiplex theatres with surround sound, digital projections and shoots, electronically produced music and so on. Actually, cinema also plays an important role in the film,” explains Ghosh. Flung between the two worlds of 1980 and 2013, both in his personal and professional life, Abby represents the predicament of a man struggling to survive the competition.
Abir Chatterjee says, “I was not a part of the Calcutta world in the time I travel to. But it happens to be very close to my heart because I feel related to the time through my parents who are in theatre and in films and also through the books I have read and the old films I have watched. It was a novel experience for me as an actor and as a person living and working in 2015, a time when everything seems to have changed — the underground being built at the time is now in action, running like the veins of the nervous system in a human body. I meet a friend in 1980 whom I do not recognise though he says I played football with him. I befriend a beautiful woman who is also a singer and we develop an emotional bonding. What happens when I get back to 2013? Do I return at all or remain grounded to 1980? Or is Abby sucked into an illusory world that takes him back and then makes him realise that it was all a dream? You must watch the film to find the answers to these questions.”
Says Ghosh, “Recreating the Calcutta of 1980 was one of the biggest challenges for me as director. My cinematographer, Madhu Shi, and my art director, Indranil Ghosh, who is a National Award-winner, shared the challenge. We did some recreation through CGI. It was extremely expensive but my subject did not leave an alternative.”
The other challenge was taken up by Sujoy Duttaray, who edited the film. Arunima Ghosh, an extremely versatile and gifted actress who is seen more on television than on the big screen for want of roles that can exploit her potential truly, says, “I am grateful to Atanuda for giving me this wonderful role of the wife of a man who is forever torn between his understanding of success and failure and burdened with his wife&’s sudden and violent bursts of anger. I have tried to put in my best but it is for the audience to be the final judge.”
Ghosh&’s films are also known for their low-key music and the use of rare Tagore numbers. “Joy Sarkar is my usual choice and it is no different this time,” says Atanu. Raima Sen, who plays Abby&’s love angle in 1980, looks beautiful with the typical 1980s look of a noted singer always adorned in graceful saris with flowers in her hair. “I am told that my character forms the core of this story on time travel,” says Raima.
Time travel is more an agency, a catalyst for the love story of Abby, who encounters three different women in his life in different stages and this makes the script all the more interesting.
Abby Sen marks the entry of time travel in Indian cinema.