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The real element of 'Mandar' is its instinct: Anirban Bhattacharya

November 16, 2021 09:12 AM

Kolkata, The theatre stage is the courtyard for him. The silver screen is his bedroom. And OTT medium is like his drawing-room.

He tasted the ultimate success in all three mediums. Actor Anirban Bhattacharya is 'Mr Dependable' to any director. Anirban has been directing theatre for a long time, but this is the first time he directed a web series. 'Mandar' helmed by Anirban will start streaming on hoichoi from November 19. The web series is an adaptation of William Shakespeare's 'Macbeth'. The backdrop of the web series is Gailpur. Before the release of his first directorial, Anirban had a tête-à-tête with UNI. Here's the excerpt:

Q: Finally, Anirban Bhattacharya 'The Director'!

Anirban: I have donned the cap of a director several times but for the theatre. But yeah, this is the first time I am behind the camera. But I didn't think I would direct a film or a web series. At the initial phase, the thing was like we will write 'Mandar' and act as show-runner. As per this, Pratik (Dutta) and I were writing 'Mandar'. But, after reading the whole screenplay, Moni da (Mahendra Soni) said, "if you bring someone else to direct it then an aesthetical clash is inevitable. You should direct it". After that, I took over the project as director.

Q: Then everything happened as you expected?

Anirban: I started working with tremendous tension. Because I have no so-called directorial training or skill set. I think a director should know everything i.e. the camera, lens, shot angle, lighting, editing at least to some extent. Whereas, I went to the field with just the experience of watching films and seven years of acting span. Let's see, how the audience feels and reacts.

Q: Though as a question it's cliché, till, Why 'Macbeth'?

Anirban: The most popular text of William Shakespeare. Since I'm working on a commercial platform, that's also the reason. 'Macbeth' is also a very appealing text of Bard. All the anticipated elements are there already. Murder, bloodbath, sex, vengeance, violence, everything. It's perfect for a web series. Besides, I always craved to bring 'Macbeth' to the stage. There were numerous ideas also for various kinds of adaptations.

Q: 'Mandar' is a 2.25 hours web series. Could 'Mandar' have also come as a full-fledged film?

Anirban: That was the idea from the inception that, 'Mandar' will be a web series. We started writing the script like web series. Now it looks like it could have been a full-length feature film. Though, currently, a film over 2 hours is rare. But, when you will watch 'Mandar', you will understand that the script has been written, keeping the beginnings and closings of episodes in mind.

Q: 'Mandar' will depict a saga of an oppressed class instead of the Royal Family of 'Macbeth'? How challenging was it to retain 'Macbeth's feel even after this class difference?

Anirban: It is not very challenging in the case of Shakespearean drama. That is why Shakespeare is hugely adapted. The themes of Shakespearean drama can be brought into any backdrop. They can be brought under any environmental circumstances or time frame. An adaptation even shows Macbeth as a chef at a restaurant (Peter Moffat and Mark Brozel paired up for BBC One's ShakespeaRe-Told series). You can present 'Macbeth' with a departmental store backdrop or anywhere you want to. The real element of the play is not the king or the royal palace, but its instinct. Greed, envy, desire for power, desire for sex, desire for everything in the world. The same thing I'll say for 'Hamlet' or 'King Lear'.

Q: When we see a good adaptation, it comes to our mind from time to time. Has director Anirban Bhattacharya somehow has been influenced by Vishal Bhardwaj's 'Maqbool'?

Anirban: Although I didn't consciously have taken anything from 'Maqbool', but I believe there is something that is influenced. These influences cannot be avoided. Moreover, I like to be influenced by cult works and keep that in my work if the opportunity comes up. I don't think it's possible to do anything entirely new in the film. I think we should be influenced by cult works. The only task of our next generation may be to pay tribute to the great works that exist on earth. Quentin Tarantino once said, "I steal from every single movie ever made". That's it.

Q: So, you think something new is no longer possible in the film?

Anirban: In fact, the time we are living in is not the age of film but the age of content. YouTube videos are content, news is also content. The aristocracy of the film is on the verge of extinction. And it will not remain after 5 years.

Q: Background music is extremely crucial for such kinds of projects. Once, you also believed that theatrical sound projection and big screen completes and compliments the feel of a film. Your first directorial project also will suffer a similar crisis? People will watch it on mobile phones. Are you happy?

Anirban: No, no, in the case of 'Mandar' it is not a crisis. Our content is designed for mobile, television, desktop or laptop viewing. My problem still is that, when the sound is designed to be listened to in a movie theater at 5.1 surround system and you are listening to that with a stereophonic sound on mobile phones. That is certainly a compromise. Here the scenario is reversed. The sound of 'Mandar' is stereophonically designed, it will be a mess if you take it to the theatrical sound projection.

Q: Actor Anirban is very picky. What was the level of squeamishness of Anirban the director?

Anirban: I am very picky about everything. It is also increasing proportionally with my age. When so much thing goes out of control, people become pickier. I think, why do I have these mistakes in my work? But when one works, it can't be flawless. So if you are working, there will be mistakes too.

Q: A strong weapon of actor Anirban is 'pronunciation' and 'dialogue throwing' and those may have come from your prolonged theatre practice. Is that why you took a bunch of theatre actors in your first directorial?

Anirban: I haven't seen it that way. I needed some faces for the characters. If I got that from the mainstream industry, I could have cast them. As you see, Sohini Sarkar from the mainstream industry is playing the role of 'Laili' based on the character of Lady Macbeth. On the other hand, I got my desired face from the actors like Debasish, Doel, Shankar Debnath or Korok, so I brought them. Coincidentally, they are from the theatre background.

Q: Why didn't you play the 'Mandar' yourself?

Anirban: I did it on purpose. Whenever I went to play the lead role on stage while directing, it was a massacre. The acting was not good either, I stay under massive pressure. I didn't even think of doing the character I was doing here in 'Mandar', but I had to do it for some logistical reasons.

Q: Will director Anirban Bhattacharya will appear more often after 'Mandar'?

Anirban: I don't know, seriously. Let the 'Mandar' release first. Let people see. If any acceptance is made at all, if it can make a little impact on the audience psyche, then I'll think about the future of director Anirban Bhattacharya.

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