Most people go to temple; my Gods were at home-Aditya Bhattacharya
Basu Bhattacharya’s filmmaker son Aditya Bhattacharya is back from the ‘dead’ with a blood-speckled love letter to Mumbai
Anand Holla (MUMBAI MIRROR; October 14, 2012)
As a Carter Road kid, grandson of legendary filmmaker Bimal Roy and son of auteur Basu Bhattacharya, 24-year-old Aditya Bhattacharya couldn’t have cut a grittier debut than the critically acclaimed Raakh. The sleeper-cult film featured his two-film-old school buddy Aamir Khan.
But uncomfortable with the privilege destiny had landed him, Bhattacharya decided to do what few in his place would — he spat it out, and packed his bags for a self-imposed exile to Sicily.
Twenty three years after Raakh, the 47-year-old is back with a gangland offering titled BMW (Bombay’s Most Wanted), which will premiere this week at the 14th Mumbai Film Festival in the India Gold section. Set in the Mumbai underworld of the ’90s, the crime thriller starts off with a television journalist’s life going into a spin when she meets an informer and Salman Khan worshipper (Chandan Roy Sanyal), a bar dancer who he is in love with (Tannishtha Chatterjee), and a rogue cop who loves driving a BMW-3 Series (Jaaved Jaaferi).
Bhattacharya, who has made two Italian films, and whose only other Hindi film in two decades was the 2005 indie Dubai Return (starring Irrfan Khan), has surfaced intermittently as an actor in Black Friday and Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi. But with BMW, he seems to have designed his much-awaited comeback. Mirror tracked him down in a small town in Spain where he is writing his next script:
You are known for your reclusive ways. What have you been busy with since Raakh?
The chance to make movies —which is essentially telling stories using a lot of other people’s money — is a rare gift, and must be treated as such. I feel I need to earn the right to make a film. I need to have something that I want to desperately share with the world. So, while several people felt I should have concentrated on a ‘career’, I preferred to focus on learning about places and people I was curious about.
During the time I spent toiling over creating the perfect biryani at Italy’s oldest Indian restaurant in Trastevere, Rome, I was in fact, becoming a better filmmaker. I was able to understand things about Bombay and India that I may not have if I had hung around Seven Bungalows.
But why the decision to walk out on Bollywood?
I was barely 25, married to the lovely Sanjna Kapoor, and very much the toast of the town. I even had a kind of coterie around me, and that got scary. I told myself, you better get out of here unless you want to become another dysfunctional, dynastic debutante. And I did.
I did so that I could earn the right to make my next film; that took me seven years. From what I remember now, I walked away from seven big producers willing to back me, and settled in a small town in Sicily, where no one knew Bimal Roy, and definitely not me.
What memories do you have of being on a Basu Bhattacharya film set, or watching a Bimal Roy film?
Simply put, while most people need to go to a temple, my gods were at home.
Why did you choose Sicily?
The first friends I made there made me want to stay back. Far from the manic hustle of Mumbai nagari, and probably the perfect foil to Bollywood of the 1990s, I survived in Sicily by moonlighting in an assortment of jobs — photography, electronic news gathering work for a local TV station. The latter helped me discover my heroes — the famed anti-mafia judges, Falcone and Borsellino, both assassinated by the mob that very year in 1992. I also made music videos with a local rock band called Kunsertu.
How did the idea behind BMW occur to you?
It’s a journey into the dark heart of India’s most vibrant megalopolis and underworld mecca. BMW is my love-letter, speckled with blood, to my natal city.
Actress Sarita Choudhury plays Nivedita Nath, a New York-based journalist who returns to her native city to make a television special called, Bombay’s Most Wanted — Crime and the City. She chooses three subjects — a rogue cop, an informer, and the city’s most famous bar dancer. Dance bars are now illegal. The cop who was once the city’s most-loved hero is on the run, and the informer is inventing a new survival plan.
What about the underworld excites you enough to have made three films on it?
It’s the fringes of society that hold the truest revelations about us and the world we inhabit. The crime genre have always attracted filmmakers. I guess somewhere within, we identify with these maverick outsiders who live by their own rules.
Was it a challenge making a racy film in Bombay of the ’90s?
Raising the monies was, and protecting my ‘independence’. Also, convincing everybody that there was no real alternative to authenticity, that shooting in a central Mumbai chawl or a Wadala mosque had to be done.
The city in fact, is a central character in BMW, and has been beautifully captured by my hyper-talented director of photography, Lisa Rinzler, who has worked with Martin Scorsese and Wim Wenders, among others.
Will it see a commercial release?
I hope so. It seems that riskier films are increasingly getting larger releases, and meeting with success. I have always believed that the audience is ahead of the curve, and definitely way ahead of our film industry.
In the past, you have spoken about your aversion to Bollywood. What do you make of it now?
Bollywood is a tag that’s difficult to take seriously. It’s like being stuck with a bad nickname; like some Bengalis are — ‘Potol’. For anyone trying to make their mark by telling authentic stories, it’s the ‘Big Bad B’, but then again, it has some hugely talented professionals, and generates both, jobs and money.
We hear you are making an English film, a remake of Raakh set in LA of today, with Rana Daggubati.
Yes. It’s called A Momentary Lapse of Reason, and I’m currently parked in Spain, writing it in collaboration with my Italian co-writer and buddy, Enrico Vecchi. We are close to a fine first draft.
I have nurtured a longstanding fascination for LA, and its underbelly thanks to my guru, writer James Ellroy. I have often wanted to revisit Raakh and the innocence of making a first film.
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