Jayabrato Chatterjee has done it all from filmmaking to writing novels. Also, well-known columnist in The Statesman, The Telegraph and Times of India, he started his career as a filmmaker with Kehkashaa starring Victor Banerjee, Mallika Sarabhai and Girish Karnad in 1985. He is also the founder of the Inner Eye Communications Pvt. Ltd. in 2003.
His second film being after a span of 25 years since Kehkashaa, titled Lovesongs : Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow starring Om Puri, Jaya Bachchan, Mallika Sarabhai, Rajit Kapoor, Prithviraj Chaudhary and Deol Basu released last Friday, March 26. We bring you an interview with the director himself where he talks about his comeback in Bollywood.
Lovesongs: Yesterday, Today&Tomorrow sounds like an out and out romantic film. Throw some more light on the storyline?
Lovesongs: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow revolves around three generations and the intricate relationships they share. Jaya Bachchan plays the role of grandmother whose rigid nature compels her daughter to run away. It's the story about the inquisitiveness of a grandson to know about his mother through his grandmother who has mellowed down with time.
What does the title Love songs: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow suggest of the film?
The film deals with the three generations wherein 'Yesterday' symbolizes the love of Jayaji for Omji, 'Today' stands for the daughter who used to sing love songs in a famous night club on Park Street in Calcutta and lastly 'Tomorrow' for grandson's newly blossomed love with a young girl.
What are the respective characters of Om Puri and Jaya Bachchan in the film?
Omji plays Jayaji's love interest in the film. Unfortunately, due to religious constraints they are not allowed to marry. Omji is then forcefully dispatched to England where he marries Mallika Sarabhai who is an alcoholic. Years later, Omji comes down to meet Jayji; what then unfolds is what the Lovesongs: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow all about.
Are you satisfied with the way the film has shaped up?
See, I personally feel there is always scope for improvement in everything we do. Perfection is a gradual step but I have a tendency to always find loopholes in my work. However, Claran Stober who writes for New York Times saw the film and was all praises for it.
Who is your target audience?
My target audience is English speaking upper middle class in urban areas where multiplexes are available for them to go and witness a league-apart English film. My film caters to a niche audience.
How was it to direct the two veteran actors Om Puri and Jaya Bachchan?
Oh! It was an absolute delight to work with the master artists themselves. The epitomes of humility and thorough perfectionist, made me so comfortable during the shoot that never once did I feel that I am working with legendry Bollywood stars. I feel very privileged to work with people of such caliber who have no ego hassles. The way they would listen to me while narrating the scene would take me by surprise at times. Overall, it was a wonderful learning experience for me.
Why did you zero down on Prithviraj Chaudhary and Deol Basu for the roles of grandchildren? Could you throw some light on their respective characters?
Grandson played by Prithviraj Chaudhary is a very talented young man who had been a stage artist and Deol Basu also has a background of theatre from Calcutta. I chose Prithviraj and Deol both of them are smart and very talented. Their characters are based on the new generation of the society, who are aware about their surroundings, mature and more forward in times. They thought beyond the conservative beliefs and mindsets of most families in a society. And I must say, they have done a marvelous job, they never had inhibitions and preconditioned notion about their roles. All I had to do was just explain the outline of the scene and they would enact it with utmost perfection. I hope they do very well because they have lot of talent and their skill is impeccable.
This is your second feature since Kehkashaa, after which you had drifted completely towards documentary films. Why this sudden shift to feature films again?
The infrastructure of showing cinema has improved so vastly with the multiplexes coming in and the audience has also become more receptive to good cinema. Gone are those days when only 'Rikhshawalas' and 'Paanwalas' would watch movies in theatres while the urban population would prefer watching films at home on VCRs. So, I think it's the right time for making good cinema in India. Moreover, I chose to go back to films because it's completely a different medium to experiment, something I really enjoy doing.
Did you find it difficult to get back to the shooting techniques of a feature film after a long gap?
I think cinema has undergone a sea change since I had made Kehkashaa with Mallika Sarabhai, Kittu Gidwani, Victor Banerjee, 25 years ago, especially in terms of technology. However, I must say that my cinematographer Mr. Khaldhar has done a magnificent job, he is a young graduate from FTII. So, things went smoothly on that front. However, problems did arise in the initial days due to monsoons in Calcutta.
Apart from films, you have written novels as well. What is it that you enjoy more?
I like to climb different mountains so for me it's not the same peak (smiles). So, be it filmmaking, writing a novel or a making a documentary, for me all of them are different journeys. Every journey has its own moments of arrival.
Which is your favorite song and scene from the film?
Well, I have written all the songs except for the two ghazals and a song titled Ekla Chalo Re, which has been translated. However, my favorite is the theme song, which goes like 'Love is a sweet sad song… Love is a game with no rules'. Usha Uthup has done a marvelous job on some of the songs. As far as the scenes are concerned, my favorite scene is when Omji comes back to meet Jayaji and asks about her well-being and no sooner does she turns around that he says 'Hmm, thodi moti ho gayi ho'.
What are your expectations with the film?
It's as good as having an expectation with every child you give birth to. All you can do is wish them good luck. It's same kind of feeling as parents have for their children. Well, I believe in destiny, give your best shot, and leave the rest to God.
It is heard that you have a great rapport with Rajit Kapoor who has done a cameo in the film. Tell us about the experience?
Rajit Kapoor is one of my dearest friends and I am glad that he is a part of my film. I was so reluctant to offer him such a small role. Rajit plays a loud barrister who is also the father of Deol Basu's girlfriend for he is such a wonderful actor.
What is the USP of the film?
The eternal music and the terrific performances of all who have worked in this film is the USP.
Any memorable moments you would like to share with us.
Oh! I enjoyed every moment of the film. I was on the cloud 9 when Jayaji said she had put on three or four kilos because of eating unit food and would love to do another film in Bengal for it. However, the most beautiful moment was when she was to leave for Mumbai after the completion of the film she changed her mind and returned back requesting to stay longer with the crew and spend some more quality time with us.