Debutant filmmaker Atanu Mukherjee reveals how easy it was to approach a seasoned actor like Manoj Bajpayee, his experience shooting ‘Rukh’ and his bucket list
Every burgeoning filmmaker in India wants to work with actors like Manoj Bajpayee and debutant director Atanu Mukherjee managed to do this on his first try. After gaining recognition from short films like ‘Gatekeeper’ and ‘Stray Dogs’, Atanu says it gave him the courage to tell stories as a filmmaker. His first feature film ‘Rukh’, is a story of an 18-year-old boy Dhruv (Adarsh Gourav) and his painful journey in search of truth which is hidden from him post the death of his father (Manoj Bajpayee) in a road accident. Excerpts from the interview:
How are you feeling about your debut movie, that too with Manoj Bajpayee?
It is defiantly very exciting for me as a first time filmmaker working with an actor like Manoj, Adarsh, Smita Tambe, and Kumud Mishra. I feel very privilege, that I could make my first film with such talented artiste.
How easy is it for a first time director to approach a senior actor like Manoj, for a role?
I am lucky that he agreed to play this role. I was not sure that he we would agree to work in a story like this, with a new director. I wanted to approach him once and see how he would react. But to my surprise it was so easy, that it was unbelievable that, this was actually happening. A friend of mine helped me get in touch with Manoj, and when I met him I showed him the treatment scene, followed by a narration. And later that day, he called us and gave us the go ahead. It was surreal for us.
Were you nervous while giving directions to a senior actor like Manoj?
Obviously, the first time I was sceptical on how he would react. But luckily, before that we had a workshop, with the script. So that helped us understand each other. It also helped us create a comfort among the actors, and the whole crew. So, when we actually we started shooting so we didn’t have any barrier.
Did you ever go for help to Manoj, since he has so many years of expertise?
His trust on me, was very overwhelming and it makes you feel very responsible. I had to be very sure that what I told him was right and yes, there were couple of improvisations that he suggested that really helped the scene.
Did you ever think about a backup if Manoj had said no to the film?
As he was my first choice, I knew that there was a good chance of him refusing the role. So, there was other actors who I had in mind like Manav Kaul and Irrfan Khan. But I am happy that he agreed, I didn’t have to look for anyone else.
As a small budget film, did you face any difficulties while shooting?
We knew that with our budget, we would have to face a lot of setbacks. But Manish Mundra (founder of Drishyam films) supported the whole film, and we managed make a good film, in this limited budget. Tho jitna limitations hona chaiye tha utna hua nahi. But we did have to cut down on the number of days we were shooting, and we couldn’t get some technical stuffs.
Was it to get a producer for your first film?
It is very difficult as a first time filmmaker to be out in the market, and to find someone who be interested. That is why I shot a treatment scene, so that the person who I am trying to pitch, will understand how capable I am as a director. Also, it gave us a bit of clarity on the type of film we are trying to make. The first person I approached was Manish, as he had seen one of my short films ‘Gatekeeper’ before, and showed an interest in working with me. So, once he saw the scene and read the script he was convince to back the film.
Are films like ‘Rukh’ you want to continue making, which are considered parallel films, or do you eventually want to move towards mainstream cinema?
I can’t segregate films into categories. I want to do films that can do commercially very well, but still have very good content. But the primary thing should be, relatability to the story. As a filmmaker, if I can’t relate to the story then, I won’t be able to portray on the screen. I want to be motivated to do the film, and there is nothing better that the audience appreciating your stories. I am waiting for that moment.
Which was the last film that you really connected with?
I really like ‘Court’. There are films like ‘Massan’ and ‘Newton’ that I liked.
I am working on some scripts, but they are on the back burner as I am focusing entirely on this film. Once ‘Rukh’ is release I will get back to them. Hopefully, if it suits Manoj, would love to collaborate with him again.
Apart from Manoj, any other actors you have on your bucket list?
More than the name, it depends on what kind of stories that you have, and what actor can do justice to it. I really want to work with Irrfan Khan and Nasserudin Shah. But I am more curious to work with someone who I have not seen in a certain role, but can do wonders to it. It is also challenging for a director, to have a fresh perspective to an actor.