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From father to son, Bangla cinema is in safe hands of the Jalans

13 February, 2021 17:19:54
From father to son, Bangla cinema is in safe hands of the Jalans

Gaurang Jalan keeps a very low-profile, not at all like the hardcore producers we are familiar with in Tollywood. One reason could be that he is otherwise engaged in a flourishing family business running through two generations. However, one other thing that also spans two generations is cinema, as does a commitment to it. Gaurang’s father R.A. Jalan, who produced several award-winning films by Tapan Sinha such as Safed Haathi, Aaj Ka Robin Hood, Harmonium and Anokha Moti, has been his main inspiration, along with Sinha himself, a long-time family friend and mentor.

Gaurang Jalan

But Gaurang, whose production company Gaurang Films is named after him, is gradually coming into his own as a producer, his newest venture being Avijatrik, directed by Subhrojit Mitra, which is already winning accolades across the world map. Here are excerpts from our interview, during which he spoke both about his current film, and his plans or the future:

What drove you to produce films which carry a lot of risk and demand a lot of funding?

We have a rich legacy in film-making and have been fortunate to produce content-driven cinema. This is our humble way of giving back to society.  Filmmaking is risky, but we are marrying our strengths with like-minded producers (Bhandarkar Entertainment) to create meaningful and quality content. Our earlier films participated in more than 22 International film festivals and were widely appreciated

Avijatrik

Which is the first film you produced?

The first film that I took up was Teen Murti, which my father began but could not complete, because Tapan Sinha passed away before he could complete the film. My father asked me to complete it, and we requested Raja Sen to direct. Teen Murti is about three old men who find meaning in their lives through their tea stall and resist wrongdoings in their neighbourhood. It was a wonderful experience working with stalwarts in the Bengali film industry. 

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the film was selected and screened at the 51st International Film Festival of India in Goa and the 26th Kolkata International Film Festival. It has also been selected by the 38th Miami Film Festival (an Academy Award-qualifying festival) for a North American premiere in March 2021, and London International Film Festival for a UK premiere, which is to be held in mid-June.

And after Teen Murti?

Subhrajit Mitra

Avijatrik is my second full-length feature film. I have produced a few documentaries too, each with a social message woven in. These are Last Lines, a surreal one-take film about a man who represents any man caught in today’s extended moment of terror. Then came Flickering Angels, which was based on the true story of the children of prisoners who were caught while crossing the Indo-Bangladesh border illegally. The remarkable thing about the film is that one girl was really sent back to Bangladesh.  The Men Who Saved Kilapara explores the glorious chapter of chivalry during the Bangladesh War of Liberation in 1971.

Which is your favourite film and why?

Avijatrik is my favourite film so far; not only because it is the concluding portion of the Apu Trilogy but because this film has explored the beautiful tapestry of pure interpersonal relationships to recreate the magic of Apu  - an icon we all have grown up with.

Are you happy with the international and national recognition for Avijatrik? 

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the film was selected and screened at the 51st International Film Festival of India in Goa and the 26th Kolkata International Film Festival. It has also been selected by the 38th Miami Film Festival (an Academy Award-qualifying festival) for a North American premiere in March 2021, and London International Film Festival for a UK premiere, which is to be held in mid-June. It has also been recommended for the ‘Panorama’ section at the 24th Shanghai International Film Festival to be held in June, 2021.  

What made you agree to produce such an ambitious and big budget venture?

The enduring and endearing character of Apu is etched in the hearts of not only Bengalis at home and among the diaspora, but also among Indians across the globe. Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy comprises three of the most celebrated and awarded films ever made in India. When I realized that the concluding portion of the novel Aparajito had not yet been filmed, my adrenaline shot up and I sat down to examine the project objectively after the young director Subrajit Mitra approached me in 2016. Later, I met the family of late Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay for their consent, and they said yes.

Arjun Chakraborty and Ayushman Mukherjee in Avijatrik

What happened then?

As it was a classic period piece set in the 1940s, we had to do a lot of research to ensure that the texture, spirit and ethos of the book and the trilogy were not compromised. We also wanted to bring back the same look and feel by shooting the film in black and white to retain the grain and cinematic experience. The background score by Pandit Ravi Shankar played a very important role in the trilogy, and we have tried to bring back and use the same instruments to create a magical musical experience. Pandit Bickram Ghosh has done a remarkable job. Anoushka Shankar has played the title track (the first time for any film) as a tribute to her late father.

Why do you say that the film, though belonging to the 1940s, has contemporary relevance in 2020? 

This was the centenary year of Pandit Ravi Shankar, and 2021 is the centenary of Satyajit Ray.  The concluding portion of the trilogy is a tribute to both these masters. It is also a tribute to Soumitra Chatterjee, whose image is synonymous with Apu’s.  Arjun Chakrabarty has done a splendid job as Apu in Avijatrik. Such stories need to be retold, which is why I wanted to make Avijatrik in today’s times. Avijatrik is also about bringing back clean, wholesome entertainment which teaches us the simple joys of life and pushes us to reach out to greater fulfillment.

What is the next film project you are planning?

I have a dream to make Haathi Mere Saathi in animation form and also Harmonium in contemporary times.

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  • Gaurang Jalan

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