Is Aagunpakhi a film on Maoist guerillas?
I wrote the script of Aagunpakhi (The Rise of the Phoenix) while I was shooting for documentaries. This was much before Mon Amour: Shesher Kobita Revisited was penned. But mine isn’t a Maoist film per se. The film addresses an age-old issue of class struggle. Even after so many years of independence, the problem still persists. And every time there is such a clash, the root seems to be the same issue of unequal distribution of wealth. The stand might be justified, the means of protest might not. Deprived of education and even social standing, People’s War Group members end up protesting in ways that might not be very civilized. The Maoists, with their bows and arrows, might surprise us but if we truly introspect, we might find that their protest after years of deprivation is something that the civilized society had asked for.
Did you interact with any real Maoist activist while writing the script?I wrote the script of Aagunpakhi while I was shooting for documentaries in Midnapore, Bankura, Purulia and various places in the North East. I was shocked to see the deplorable living conditions of the poor just two kilometres away from the Midnapore township. My plot is based on my experiences while shooting those documentaries. The incidents and characters are real though the names have been changed.
But why was the shooting such a hush-hush affair from the beginning?
Publicity is an important part though it should be done in moderation. My first and foremost priority was to complete the film peacefully at one go. This is a jungle film and I had to consider the safety of my entire unit. Canning for 32 days at a stretch in the remotest places with a 130-member team that includes a cast of Rituparna Sengupta, Sabyasachi Chakraborty, Shantilal Mukherjee, Kharaj Mukherjee, Rajesh Sharma, Anindya, Sagnik, Shrreya Pande and Ankita Chakraborty is no mean feat. We had also sought police protection. Next year, we are planning to remake Aagunpakhi with a national starcast
Does your film take a stand?
No. The film’s narration is from a neutral perspective and I’ve presented both sides of the conflict.
Considering that the Centre has banned the Maoists, is there a possibility of your film hitting rough weather with the Censor Board?
Mine isn’t a film on the Maoist movement. I don’t anticipate any problem and I’m ready to face any controversy. A politically unbiased Central Board of Film Certification should clear the film without cuts.
Does the recent Lalgarh unrest mean any reshoots?
No. My script remains the same.
How difficult was it to convince Sabyasachi Chakraborty considering that one knows of his Leftist leanings?
The first thing that he told me after hearing the script was that there is a dire need for such films in Bengal. Later on, actor Sagnik told me that he had even postponed his dates for a Sunny Deol film just to be a part of this venture! I sincerely consider this as a great gesture on his part.