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In Conversation with Bornila Chatterjee on Her Directorial Debut ‘The Hungry’

Posted on the 10 January 2018 by Themoviean

The writer and director of the Indian revenge drama 'The Hungry' throws light on the struggles of female directors in Indian.

In this interview, Chatterjee chats with us and tells us about dealing with sexism, her love for storytelling and the importance of catering movies on online streaming platforms. She's been more than vocal about feminism and what we need to get from the concept. "Strong, weak, happy, sad, funny, tragic, genre, art-house, I don't care. More women on screen, please!" she sighs. They say behind every successful man is a woman. But the truth is, behind and inside every successful human being is a feminine sensibility. Here's to toast to that, and Bornila. Excerpts:

Our composer once jokingly referred to the film as an amoral tale, which I thought was a funny and apt way to describe it.

Q. Why did you choose 'The Lamentable Tragedy of Titus Andronicus', the first tragedy of Shakespeare?
A. Back in 2015, Film London and Cinestaan partnered up to fund one Indian adaptation of a Shakespeare play to celebrate his 400th anniversary. When Tanaji Dasgupta and I heard of the competition, we decided to apply and set out to find a play to adapt. We pretty quickly settled on Titus because it was just so insane (and yet, weirdly relevant) and most people have never even heard of it. For us, that is what was so liberating. Because of its relative obscurity, we felt free to play with the story and the characters in a way that we probably could not have if we were dealing with, say, 'The Tempest'.
Die-hard fans of Titus Andronicus might be disappointed because the original premise is hardly apparent in our film. From the start, we knew that we wanted to take Shakespeare's evil queen Tamora and turn her into our somewhat sympathetic heroine Tulsi. So in our version, she is a single mother and a bride-to-be who is out to avenge the murder of her eldest son.

In Conversation with Bornila Chatterjee on her directorial debut ‘The Hungry’

Q. What made you want to make The Hungry?
A. At the Film London/Cinestaan workshop in London, Tanaji and I were paired with Kurban Kassam, our UK producer who would go onto writing the screenplay with us too. As the three of us began revising our screenplay for the final pitch session, we realized that we wanted to write something that highlighted the futility of violence because that futility - for us - lies at the heart of the original play. Our composer once jokingly referred to the film as an amoral tale, which I thought was a funny and apt way to describe it.

When Tanaji and I first met Naseeruddin Shah, he asked us why we wanted to make Titus Andronicus because he didn't think it was a very good play. We gave him our reasons and left our script with him asking him to read it when he had the chance.

Q. What film festivals did 'The Hungry' do rounds of?
A. TIFF, BFI London, Rome, MAMI, DIFF (Dharamsala International Film Festival) and the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival on January 14 which okay, isn't a film festival, but this is the first - and probably the last - screening of the film in our hometown (Tanaji and I both grew up here) so we are really pumped about it.

In Conversation with Bornila Chatterjee on her directorial debut ‘The Hungry’

A. When Tanaji and I first met him, he asked us why we wanted to make Titus Andronicus because he didn't think it was a very good play. We gave him our reasons and left our script with him asking him to read it when he had the chance. A couple hours later he messaged Tanaji saying he had read the script and that he wanted to work on it with us.

Being a woman in this country is not easy. Being a filmmaker - regardless of gender - is not easy either. There are the trials of being a woman and they are separate from the trials of being a filmmaker.

In Conversation with Bornila Chatterjee on her directorial debut ‘The Hungry’

The sheer volume of audiences that I've seen film festivals draw here strikes me as incredible. In which case, apart from film festivals, what is not there is the access, and access is out of the audience's control. I would love if we had niche theatres such as Film Forum or Angelika Film Center which bring foreign films and independent films to New York.

With VOD I get to control the environment in which I watch content and I love that. More importantly, I have 24/7 access to a whole bunch of content that I would never have the chance to see otherwise.

In Conversation with Bornila Chatterjee on her directorial debut ‘The Hungry’

A. I love Lynne Ramsay's work. I remember reading the screenplay for The Ratcatcher when I was in Class 9 or Class 10. This was way before I even thought about making movies. I was in the library at the British Council in Calcutta and the book cover was so arresting I pulled it out and read it in one sitting. It was the first screenplay I ever read. I just loved the writing. Years later, I watched the film in college and was blown away by it, as well as by her shorts and her other films. So if I only get to pick one director, it is her.
I love love. I love movies about relationships. I don't care about plot or scale or genre. A really good movie about two people and the conflict between them gets me every time. The simpler the story the better. I just watched Dina at MAMI last year and it just killed me. What an awesome movie.

I would say that studying in the film school that I did, in the time in my life that I did, in the city that I did have all very strongly contributed to the way I watch films and the way I make films. But I do not think that having a film school degree is any sort of requirement for being able to make a wonderful movie.

Perhaps. Corruption has a way of bleeding into different aspects of life so even if I don't set out to make a film about corruption per se, I guess there is a good chance that I might touch upon it in some way, shape or form. A.
Hopefully, something set in Calcutta. I've never shot in my hometown and I am really itching to. Growing up here made me fall in love with performance and art and movies and I really want to create something here.

In Conversation with Bornila Chatterjee on her directorial debut ‘The Hungry’ In Conversation with Bornila Chatterjee on her directorial debut ‘The Hungry’ In Conversation with Bornila Chatterjee on her directorial debut ‘The Hungry’

Watch: Trailer of The Hungry
Read: Director's Profile


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