Hemlocked All Over...

Srijit Mukherji19 Jun 2012

Director Srijit Mukherji is all set to deliver his third baby, Hemlock Society in theaters this weekend. However, a box-office hat-trick is not on his mind. He talks about his inspiration and the complex machinery and people who have toiled hard to make his dream a reality. As he stares at the impending release, he is already looking ahead…

In 2010, I stepped onto the big, bad world of Bengali Film Industry with stars in my eye and debut film. Come June 22nd, 2012, and I will be staring at the release of my third film, Hemlock Society. Time for introspection? Maybe. As I run around for the last minute corrections, revisions and monitoring, I feel nothing much has changed around here. Apart from maybe the willingness of the Bengali cinegoer to sample stories and storytelling beyond the normal and obvious. Which is probably the reason I feel Hemlock Society is well-timed.

Autograph. Nobel Chor. Gandu. Ranjana Ami Aar Ashbona. Chaplin. Baishe Srabon. Aami Aadu. Rang Milanti. Bedroom. Ichhe. Bhooter Bhobishyot. The thematic versatility of Bengali films and its increasing acceptance was an encouraging trend in 2010-12 as I took on the considerably virgin theme of assisted suicide and set a love story against it. A black humour and satire aficionado, I have again invested in a mixed genre – a rom-sat, as opposed to a rom-com (romantic comedy). “Hat-trick hobe?” My friendly, neighborhood journalist asks me. I try to explain that one doesn’t make babies thinking they will top the IIT/IIMs or will bring back a fat salary home. One does it to express oneself, to ensure parts and extensions and reflections of the self stay on even after the pyre would go quiet. And from the multiple looks of it, Hemlock Society has turned out to be my most emotional piece of work till date, if not, and as per many who have seen it, my best.

But I wasn’t supposed to make Hemlock Society. A name which I borrowed from an erstwhile US organization supporting Euthanasia, while researching for my 2009 play, Checkmate. I was well on my way to adapt 12 Angry Men in Bengali, when I met a person. A person whose philosophy about life, whose take on death deeply moved me. So much so, I took to throwing up a story where Param’s character, Ananda, would be modeled after the person. And it took me just eight days, the fastest amongst my endeavors, to cook up a story about this guy who runs a school where suicide workshops are conducted, and a patient/student who falls in love with the guy.

Once Shrikant Mohta fell in love with the script, a lot of challenges immediately followed. To transform the bubbly, chirpy, pulp mainstream diva Koel Mallick, into the subdued, restrained, manic depressive Meghna. To push Anupam Roy into re-inventing his sound beyond the instruments, voices and chords of his comfort zone. To challenge Parambrata to achieve a Sergei Bubkaesque feat post Baishe Srabon. To convince, in collusion with Soumik Haldar (DoP) and Soumyabrata Rakshit (chief AD), my Art director Ananda Adhya, that material constraints cannot hold back the human imagination. And then finally, Hemlock Society was born.

Counting, marking and stacking premiere passes give me a festive high. Probably my daughter’s wedding or my son’s 18th birthday. So I will now go back to that. And yes, after heartbreaks, moments of disillusionment, controversies, career highs, countless awards, brickbats, unprecedented acclaim, Box office successes, festival hopping, criticism, friends, foes and onlookers, I still find solace in Ulysses’ immortal quartet of aims – to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield...

Also read: Hemlock Society music review

Tags: Hemlock SocietySrijit MukherjiOpinionFilm MakingFeature

Srijit Mukherji is an Indian film maker, actor, writer and a former economist from the movie industry of West Bengal, Kolkata.

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