Aparajita Ghosh, an actor and director from West Bengal, has recently made a film titled 'Mystic Memoir.' The project is her second directorial venture, and stars a Bangladeshi journalist. In an exclusive interview with Dhaka Tribune Showtime's Faruque Ratul, Aparajita reveals how she turned to direction, and the inspiration behind 'Mystic Memoir'
Tell us briefly how your career as an actor began, and at what point you felt like making films yourself?
My career as a performer started quite unexpectedly. When I was at university, my classmates sent me for a radio audition, I got through, started working and enjoyed it as well. Very soon, I got the opportunity to work as a television host and eventually, acting in television and movies and so on. Initially, everything was fun, learning and earning pocket money. Ultimately, when it became my profession, I wasn't even aware.
Direction has always been in the back of my mind, so I always tried to observe everything minutely on the set, tried to understand from the director and technicians which is helping me a lot these days. But yes, I was not very sure when I would start directing. "Dance of Joy" happened when I felt that we needed to have a documentary on our very own dance form. "Mystic Memoir" happened when I realised that I needed to say something that is far beyond our words and actions.
Were you formally trained in acting and did you choose to be an actor from a young age?
I don’t have any formal training on acting. I'm trained in classical dance and all through my school, college, university life, I participated in various cultural activities and l think later on, they helped me in my performances. But more than that, I think I have learned with experience from my directors, senior actors, and from All India Radio.
I never wished to be an actor, not in my wildest dream. I wanted to be a scientist in fact. Even today, I get surprised at times that I am an actor by profession.
How is the environment in the film district of Kolkata? Are the people dedicated and helpful? Is the market saturated? What challenges did you face as an actor?
The Kolkata film industry is a very comfortable place to work. People are very talented and we have our Artists’ Forum, an association of actors, which is a great support for us.
About the market, we all know that it needs to be expanded. There should be more exchanges, collaboration and business between the Kolkata and Dhaka film industries for the benefit and growth of both the countries.
My personal challenge as an actor was l don’t belong to the city, so I had to adapt with Kolkata. And I am the first person from my family to work in this industry. So, it has been a struggle for existence and survival of the fittest.
Tell us about your first documentary film "Dance of Joy?" How did you feel when it won two awards at international festivals?
"Dance of Joy" is docu-feature on Tagore’s dance form, which we call Rabindra Nritya. This is as of now the first and only audio-visual documentation on the subject. It has got a documentary part and a feature part, like a story within a story format.
"Dance of Joy" has been highly appreciated by the media, critics and audiences in India, Bangladesh and Singapore. But yes, when it received the best musical film award at Kinodul festival in Russia, it was a real moment of pride. I felt it was my small gift to my country, to my culture and my wonderful team. And the second award which I received for creative excellence came as a big surprise and of course, as an inspiration to dedicate myself to more contributive work.
Tell us about the inspiration behind "Mystic Memoir?"
Inspiration behind "Mystic Memoir" is the city, Kolkata and people. You know, we perceive the virtual world as the real world. In it, I somehow started feeling we are disconnected with our city, nature and the people around. "Mystic Memoir" is a journey through our own city, a journey to churn our feelings and realise our mission as human beings.
You have said that you wrote the script while keeping Zulhaj Zubair in mind. What is it about him that led you to write a script on him? How did he perform as an actor?
No. It is the other way around. I wrote the script first. While thinking about actors, a few names scrolled in my mind that included Zubair, too. I had a long conversation with myself and my team and finally, we called up Zubair. He said yes. That’s how it started. About Zubair, he is smart, good-looking and an excellent television presenter. Though he is not an actor that way, I was confident that I could make him portray the character the way I wanted. And Zubair gave his 100 percent. We did a workshop with him and l guess that helped him adapting to the character, city and the team. Zubair is very unlike the character Jyoti. His body language, hair style, the way he speaks, nothing is similar to Jyoti. And that’s the fun. He is being presented in a completely different way and l think the audience will love him as Jyoti.
What challenges did you face as a director?
The only challenge was money, funding. Apart from that, I actually haven’t faced any problems yet. Basically, I have got a wonderful team. You can say it’s been possible to make the film because of each one of them. And I must thank Kolkata police and traffic police for protecting us all through. Yes, we are still struggling with funding.
Will you release the film on the silver screens of both India and Bangladesh? When is the expected release date?
Like every director, it is my dream that my first film will be released in both the countries. But to be very honest, distribution is a different ball game, so if anyone takes the responsibility of releasing (the movie), only then it can happen. Otherwise, my plan is to take it to various international film festivals.
Will you make more films?
I wish to make more films, but of course, balancing with my acting career.
Is there any chance of casting more Bangladeshi actors?
Yes, I probably will. I believe we should have more exchanges and collaboration. And Bangladesh has got many talented actors.
Will you continue to act or are you taking a break?
I have never taken a break. I am continuing with both acting and directing. My television shows are going on at regular pace and a few films are on the pipeline.
When will we see you acting in films again?
Four films (one Hindi, one English, two Bengali) are about to get released this year where you will find me in four different characters.
Will you act in Bangladeshi films?
Of course, I would love to act in Bangladeshi films.