By Jagriti Roy (Blogger)
If you consider yourself to be a film buff then it is needless to mention that a good cinema from any era will fascinate you. Actually, I need to say that not only the movie itself but also the artists who are portraying the story will also hook you to watch more of their work. Bengali films have always marked their golden presence in Indian as well as International cinema. So, the artists of Bengali cinema have also made their mark irrespective of the time and age of the viewers. The charm, charisma and the enigma in their persona have made them more desirable.
Independent Filmmaker & Creative Entrepreneur Abhishek Ganguli forayed into sharing such untold stories about Silver Screen personalities through his initiative “Cinema for a Cause”.
“Cinema for a Cause” is the experimental film making wing of Abhishek’s regular creative management outfit “Learning System”. The tagline “Simple Cinema……. Touching Lives” is enough to convey the actual aim of the initiative.
A few years back, Abhishek created a film on legendary actress Ms. Lolita Chatterjee, who not only ruled the silver screen of both Tollywood and Bollywood film industry but also swayed many hearts in that contemporary time.
Today, we will do a tête-à-tête with Abhishek to know the stories behind the making of his landmark movie “Diva Lolita” which is based on the journey, work, life and experience of actress Lolita Chatterjee, who left her heavenly abode on 9th May 2018.
Watch “Diva Lolita” on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ha9YFtYehvY
Ø What is the first thing that urged you to make “Diva Lolita”?
Every day I used to go for a morning walk that I am my regular regime to the Rabindra Sarovar lakes, which is in south Kolkata. Every morning when I used to pass Desapriyo Park from Lansdowne, I used to see that on the second-floor balcony of a house, a stunning looking old woman used to stand alone gazing towards the sky. Every day she used to stand on that veranda and look outside around that time….
……. I used to wonder who she is but I never got an answer. One day, I was talking to the local people and they all said that she is a very famous actress Lolita Chaterjee who lives there. I could remember that I had seen one or two of her films during my childhood days. It was through my father-in-law Mr. Animesh Sen’s close friend Mr. Gautam Mukherjee that I could reach Lolita as Gautam was a very close friend of hers.
With his reference I and my other friend Actor Gautam Shankar we went to Lolita’s house and had a talk with her regarding creating a documentary on her. I asked her whether any films have been made on her or not and she said no.
Firstly, she was much intrigued about why I was interested to do a film on her as she was quite dejected about the way Tollygunge film Industry had cast her aside not utilizing her full potential. I told her about my passion to work on artists who have kind of blurred from the memory of the audience to bring them back into the gaze of the present generation…Lolita was a Diva in her own right and represented the golden era of the Bengali Film Industry. As a Filmmaker, I thought it was my creative responsibility to share her story and that’s how it all happened.
Ø While interviewing actress Lolita Chatterjee, which aspect did you find in her that remained unexplored to the audience?
Lolita has always remained as a mystery woman. Even while shooting there was one melancholic side of her persona that her eyes revealed but she never divulged it,A woman who was extremely beautiful, erudite and enlightened though mostly unsung and misunderstood by the society during those times. She was much ahead of those times…maybe today’s generation could have identified more with her modernity... The entire film was shot in a day and as it was a zero budget project. It was an interview styled shooting and amidst the interview, slices and images of her life came in…….. that’s how we had conceptualized the flow.
The film ends with an eighty-year-old Lolita, gazing endlessly towards one of her own young portraits hanging on the wall. Maybe she was reminiscing her glorious past …. May be she was trying to find out what more life had in store for her or she was trying to get an answer as to why the society and the film industry failed to use the fantastic potential she had as an actress and a singer. So, we have left the film in a questioning note and we wanted the audience to interpret with their own perception.
Diva Lolita was the heartthrob of millions….we wanted to have this heartbeat felt by each one who watched the Documentary...
What/who was your inspiration to make this kind of film?
I always thought of bringing out people who are in darkness……who once were shining stars... And that is how “Diva Lolita” came about….Exploring the Dazzling Sensation Lolita was and she vanishes into the oblivion.
Ø How do you think your work is going to reach out to the new age filmmakers?
Very unfortunately, nowadays new age filmmakers either create something that goes above our heads being extremely layered & intellectual or they make films which are run of the mill and start to end commercial just to have the box office ringing. My style is more dealing with real people and I hardly take actors.
In case Diva Lolita…… Lolita Chatterjee is Lolita., I wouldn’t take someone else to impersonate Lolita and play as Lolita on screen.
Most of my films are like docu-features where they tell stories with small fictional flavor yet still they retain the inherent characters of a documentary as all the facts are real. The stylisation of “Diva Lolita” was also the same... Apart from that, the “Cinema for a Cause” tagline mentions “Simple Cinema……. Touching Lives”. If I can touch the lives of the audience and make them relate to the subject, I would consider the entire work of “Diva Lolita” successful.
Ø If you ever got a chance to work with her what kind of role you would offer her?
If I ever had to cast Lolita in a fictional film, as she was extremely versatile so she could fit into many powerful roles. The only physical disadvantage I would say was her stunning looks and powerful screen persona which would not fit into typical Bengali Roles.
She was 5’9” and extremely glamorous so de-glamorized roles could be difficult for her to be portrayed visually. So, if I had to cast her I would make her the central character of the film. Someone who was extremely stunning and strong, modern and much ahead of her times.
Ø Do you think “Diva Lolita” is going to inspire Gen Y film audience to know more about the golden age artists?
The renaissance or the golden age of Bengali films were during the ’60s, 70’s and early the ’80s. In that time a lot of good directors and scripts were the selling points of the Bengali film industry. That originality is hardly seen today,
My next documentary “Timeless Tunes” is on Sudhin Dasgupta, a versatile composer, lyricist of the Golden Era of Bengali Films.
“Little Flower”. another of my film portrays the life of the Queen of Park Street, the Cabaret Dancer Ms. Shefali,.
All these creations are my tributes to the golden era of Bengali films because at that time Bengali film was really worth watching and talking about... All my initiatives under “Cinema for a Cause” aspire to showcase the golden era of Bengali films and the originality & creative brilliance they showcased.
Ø Do you think knowing about the lives of veteran artists are equally important while watching their works?
Knowing more about the artists whose lives are shrouded by mystery becomes interesting Film Subjects... For me, Lolita and Shefali, both the ladies were misunderstood …misrepresented….and sort of ostracized from the society ….they have been survivors of neglect….I thought their stories must be told.
The sex appeal, the attractive persona, ahead of times attitude are the reasons behind that.
Can we expect more such monumental films from “Cinema for a Cause” in the future?
“Timeless Tunes” on the life of versatile Musical genius Sudhin Dasgupta is coming up very soon….just keep following our Virtual Creative Space for Updates.