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Friday, October 30, 2020

Welcoming a new wave with the film ‘Seasons Greetings’

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When an acclaimed journalist turns into a filmmaker, the story he wants to tell has to be interesting. Director Ram Kamal Mukherjee, former editor-in-chief of Stardust touches on a mother daughter relationship based on a LGBTQ theme in his recent short film ‘Seasons Greetings’.

Set in Kolkata, this 45 minute film is about Romita (Celina Jaitly Haag) who decides to introduce her live-in partner Usmaan (Azhar Khan) to her mother Suchitra (Lillete Dubey) who stays in a bungalow with her maid Chapala (Shree Ghatak). On a September noon, they visit Suchitra, a lady who lives alone after being separated from her husband. The story unfolds as the climax reveals an unexpected turn.

Romita (Celina Jaitly Haag) and Suchitra (Lillete Dubey) and Ram Kamal Mukherjee
Romita (Celina Jaitly Haag) and Suchitra (Lillete Dubey) and Ram Kamal Mukherjee

The film also plays a tribute to late director Rituporna Ghosh. After viewing the film, we got talking to the director Ram Kamal Mukherjee to hear his side of the story as a filmmaker.

What made you make the transition from a journalist to a filmmaker?

I had achieved the pinnacle in my journalistic career after becoming the Editor-in-chief of Stardust. I then wrote a book and produced a serial for Zee TV. I also worked with Pritish Nandy communications for five years and worked on 11 films. From scripting, casting to pre-production, I worked in all departments which gave me a good insight in the process of making films. My first film ‘Cakewalk’ starred Esha Deol and she was the force behind encouraging and motivating me towards direction. The film broke records within the short film category and after all the critic appreciation I wanted to make a second film.

What inspired you to make a film that deals with the LGBTQ theme in a very subtle manner?

I didn’t sit down thinking I want to make a film on the LGBTQ theme. I wanted to make a film on a mother daughter relationship. It was an organic outcome of the script. In the past, we have seen that parents have always accepted a child the way they are – if they are gay, straight or a drug addict. Celina Jaitly is an outspoken, modern, liberal Hindu woman who is in a live-in relationship with her Muslim boyfriend. In comparison, her mother who is confined in her house and engrossed in her music and dance, is more liberal in her thoughts. While the mother is happy to accept her daughter as she is, the daughter is uncomfortable to accept the new change in her mother.

Is it true that you convinced actress Lillete Dubey in five minutes for the role of the mother?

I met her in Dubai and was desperately looking for an actor who can play the role of the mother. I saw her in a hotel in Dubai and asked if we can catch up for coffee. She said she has only five minutes as her car is coming. I did my best to explain the script to her which got her intrigued. We met afterwards and she loved the depiction of the character.

How does the title of the film ‘Seasons Greetings’ denote the story of the film?

‘Seasons’ means ‘Ritu’ in Hindi and the film is a tribute to director Rituporna Ghosh. The film starts on 5 September 2018 and ends on 6 September 2018. On 6 September 2018, section 377 was abolished in India and was a historic day for the LGBTQ community in India. The title denotes the new season and if we are ready to greet this new wave.

The film is also a tribute to Rabindranath Tagore via the music. Bengali films have always been ahead of times, is that why you based your film there?

Kolkata is the torch bearer of modern arts and culture. Be it the abolishment of Sati or widow re-marriage. The film carries various hues of the city’s art and culture. Kolkata gives a different texture to your films. I treated Kolkata as a cinematic language more than a city.

Though the film is only for 47 minutes, would you have explored the characters and storyline more if you had 2 hours to make this film?

I decided the length of this film based on the story. I did not want to drag the film. Attention of the audience has now dropped due to the short content available on OTT platforms.

Romita (Celina Jaitly Haag) and Suchitra (Lillete Dubey) and Ram Kamal Mukherjee on Seasons Greetings
Romita (Celina Jaitly Haag) and Suchitra (Lillete Dubey) and Ram Kamal Mukherjee on Seasons Greetings

What’s next on your plate after ‘Seasons Greetings’?

My next film is ‘Rickshawala’ which is a bilingual 50 minute film that pays a tribute to actors Balraj Sahni and Om Puri for his award winning role in the City of Joy. I would also like to take ‘Seasons Greetings’ around the world via international film festivals.

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