Interview: Filmmaker Amartya Bhattacharyya, Capital I

Team Gaysi got in touch with the very talented film-maker Amartya Bhattacharyya for a little chat on his soon-to-be-screened film “Capital I” in Mumbai.

Team Gaysi got in touch with the very talented film-maker Amartya Bhattacharyya for a little chat on his soon-to-be-screened film “Capital I” in Mumbai. Details on the film’s screening can be found here.

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Q. Tell us a bit about yourself & your film journey so far.

I am, like most individuals of my generation, a reservoir of unutilized energy. The only thing that I try to do is to channelize that energy into creativity. As for my films, they are mostly crude extractions of my self, and my suppressed desires.

I started making films from 2012 with a short film named ‘Boba Mukhosh’ which is a schizophrenic patient’s hallucination. The entire film is poetry. I believe in poetic expressions and surreal forms of art. Acceptance of such films was initially difficult but over the last few years, the films are now gradually getting recognized. Apart from winning the national award and 7 international awards, my films have found its place in over 35 international film festivals mainly in Europe and America.

Q. From the trailer your film “Capital I” comes across as a film not for the faint-hearted. Would you agree?

Yes I would. Not just because of the subject matter, but also the treatment. It is a bold film in every aspect and demands open minded viewership. The film not only unveils some unfulfilled sexual desires in alternate forms, but also questions the conditioning of our minds and the society. Therefore, ‘Capital I’ is definitely not a film for the faint-hearted. It requires the viewers to have a strong and open heart, a liberal mind, an intellectual understanding and an erect spine.

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Q. Since the film deals with same-sex relationship, was any research work done or its mostly based on personal experience?

The film is neither based on research, nor personal experience. I would say it’s a personal interpretation of sexual identity and desires. I debunk the idea of masculinity and femininity when it comes to attainment of sexual pleasure. I see it as the pleasure of being dominant as often perceived by men, and the pleasure of being submissive as often perceived by women. In my film, a boyfriend being submissive fails to sexually satisfy his girlfriend because she wanted to be the submissive partner herself. Her dominance in the relationship kept her in the dominating seat and deprived her of the submissive pleasure she was craving for. She then realized that she needed a dominant alter-ego to satisfy her, and thus emerged the need for a hallucinatory lesbian partner. It’s an attempt to search the origin, instead of superficial glorification.

Q. Keeping the film’s complicated screen-play in mind, it would be interesting to know what process did you adopt in finalising the star-cast?

I don’t value the stars unless they value the ground. And a grounded star is an oxymoron. This film is very different from industry films. I auditioned a couple of regular actors and understood that it’s not their cup of tea. They are already moulded into a particular stereotype and it’s very difficult to break that. I am very particular about certain aspects of my characters. I have therefore hand-picked non-actors from colleges and groomed them for the roles. I wanted Susant Misra, one of the producers and a critically acclaimed director himself, to play the role of a professor. I am grateful that he obliged.

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Q. What hurdles according to you are Odia films facing with respect to funding & exposure?

Funding and exposure are two major problems for sure. Let me take them separately. Funding has always been a major problem for me or my films. But for some insensible commercial films, funding is always ready, even if they make huge losses. I am completely isolated from the industry and therefore I don’t know much about the sources of funding, but I have seen that in Odisha, as also true in Bollywood, a bad film will easily get funded. But if one aspires to do something sensible and path-breaking, it’s quite a struggle! I’m therefore obliged and grateful to the likes of Susant Misra and Swastik Choudhury who have come forward to support and fund such an avant-garde film.

Regarding exposure, it is high time that Odia films make a mark at the national and international circuit more frequently. There had been brilliant filmmakers from Odisha, but unfortunately their influences remained in closed circuits. The general people and the industry badly need exposure. They need to see the world, the world of cinema. Even from a social standpoint, I find a lot of conservative thoughts being forcibly imposed without reason. A state which proudly boasts of the sculptures of the Konark temple, as they obviously should, must not be so conservative in their thoughts and beliefs. I was said that a film like ‘Capital I’ is against the Odia culture. People who accused me did so without even watching the film. They can’t believe that one can portray homosexuality in Odia cinema. But let me tell you that I have personally had experiences where people have approached me thinking that I’m a gay, which I am not. It has not happened once, but thrice in the capital city Bhubaneswar. Therefore, you see, a city where there are homosexuals around us, disapproves of homosexuality been shown on screen. I think this is ridiculously hypocritical and it’s only because of the conservative mind set and lack of exposure. But with ‘Capital I’ a lot has changed. I am sure a lot will change in the coming days. Odisha has a very rich cultural and artistic history, but the contemporary works are mostly not up to the mark and has remained confined mostly within the region. However, with gradual exposure, I’m sure we will see a lot of Odia films knocking the doors at the international circuit and making its presence felt. Odia cinema must get the respect they deserve. I know many people are inhibited to watch ‘Capital I’ because they have very wrong notions about Odia films. I can say to them with conviction – just come and watch ‘Capital I’, it will grind your prejudices and throw them in the dustbin!

Q. What project are you working on at the moment?

My next Odia film ‘Khyanikaa – The Lost Idea’ is ready and is expected to be released soon. I’m now starting another film, this time in Kolkata. In between making Odia films, I desperately want to capture the charm of Kolkata which is fading out very fast. Kolkata is a city very close to my heart and I don’t want to miss the chance to capture the charm of such a heritage city. After the film in Kolkata, I’ll plan for another Odia film. Whether it will be a queer film or not, is yet to be decided. But surely, it will push the conventions.

About the author

MJ

Now 30, 100% shudh desi lesbian. Likes living large, and on the edge. Dislikes stagnation, fence sitting and hypocrites. Lives in a bubble of joy, with occasional lapses into drama queendom. Currently nursing a massive crush on actress Chitrangada Singh (kind of eerie, her resemblance to the late Smita Patil, don’t you think?). Aspires to build a fully functional support system for the Gaysi community in India. And most importantly, top the ‘Hottest eligible desi-lezzie’ list one bright sunny day.