Kaushik Ganguly, who directed movies
like Arekti Premer Golpo and Laptop, is making a film on
the life of Subir Banerjee, the child artist who played the
role of Apu in Satyajit Ray's 1955 classic Pather Panchali.
Ganguly says he was intrigued when he came to know about
Subir, now 69 years old and completely disconnected from the
world of cinema.
"I have decided to make my film on Pather Panchali's Apu, the child actor Subir Banerjee. It was his only film and he has no memory of it. He became a clerk in one of the central government offices and took VRS. Now he is 69, pretty old and throughout his life everyone has called him Apu.
"He was very tiny when he played that character. He has no memory of it except Satyajit Ray giving him food or asking him to sit quietly. He has very faint memory of the film. What is interesting is that if you go through his life there are some five-six portions which are similar to Apu. He left Apu but Apu never left him," Ganguly told PTI.
Ganguly, who is presenting his "very original and very interesting" film "Sound" at the ongoing Dubai International film festival, says Subir's story came to him by coincidence. "My cinematographer used to give math tuitions when he was not working and there he met a man, one of his students' uncle. The student knew about his interest in cinema and told him, 'Sir, he is Apu'. My cinematographer realised that this guy had the same eyes, old but the same. He called me up and said, 'you know I have met Apu', and that's the beginning of my film," Ganguly says.
The director, who also dabbles in acting, says initially Subir was reluctant to meet him because "he is a very ordinary man, has nothing to do with cinema and wants to live a quiet life".
They developed an acquaintance and Ganguly decided to make a story on his life. "We plan to start in March-April. I think I will call it just Apu or Apu's Panchali (Apu's journey)," he adds. Ganguly's upcoming film Shobdo (Sound), which is having its world premiere at DIFF, deals with a Bengali Foley artiste, whose life is upside-down because he is so lost in creating ambiance sound in films that human voices stop making an impact on him.
Starring Victor Banerjee, Raima Sen, Churni Ganguly, Ritwik Chakraborty and Srijit Mukherjee, the film is slated to release in India by the end of March.
Ganguly's own experiences of playing a blind writer in his last film "Laptop" became the basis for this film's story, which he says is dedicated to unsung heroes of cinema and senior sound designer Anup Mukherjee.
"I play a blind writer in Laptop. So my sound engineer decided to enhance the ambiance sound in the blindman's room because they listen more keenly and are more aware of sound. By doing that we created a new world in the studio and I started listening to Foley sound more carefully," he says. According to the director, he has deliberately not used any background score or songs in the movie.
"Foley artists are the real brave hearts. There are millions of things happening in a scene and there is only one person making those sounds. For example, take Sholay, all the sound was done by one guy, who created Foley sound in a studio. They are behind the scenes and we don't know much about them. These artistes are also not paid well. In my film, the character is a LIC agent by day and works as a Foley artist in the night."
Talking about the obsessive element of the story, Ganguly says, "We all are obsessive people. The doctor in the film is obsessed about her patient and the senior doctor (Victor) is obsessed about himself and thinks he is the best...
"This obsession comes from me. I am so obsessed with films that I tend to forget about my family. They must feel very hurt because what they are asking for is really very small. It is the sheer obsession and I think it needs to be balanced."
When asked how Victor Banerjee came to be a part of the project, Ganguly says, "He liked the story and is promoting the film. This case was new to him."