As an independent filmmaker defied norms of an ailing industry, regional cinema in Bengal received a refreshing and opportune film in the form of Bilu Rakkhosh; Indrasis Acharya’s debut feature asked the uncomfortable questions with poise but vehemently held back the answers.
Revolving around the titular character, Bilu, a regular IT-sector executive, the film delved into the consciousness of the present society that is rapidly falling prey to urbanisation and alienation of various types. A tainted house in North Kolkata, a couple fighting to break the norms of nuclear families and trying to accommodate happiness in the less-private but a more sincere lifestyle, a diminishing dream and an astonishingly whimsical Bilu makes the film unlike most of the other Bengali films released in the recent times.
It was raining with a purpose in Kolkata last evening; as if this was the litmus test for the team that defeated the demon within them.
Independent films are conceived as small films in India. There is a generic idea that these films are meant to be watched on YouTube or maybe downloaded when available on torrent websites. Indrasis Acharya in a candid conversation with MIG was rather presumptuous of the audience in Bengal. “Money speaks when you want to release a film and get prime times in our modern day model of film distribution and we definitely lack that,” Acharya said. “However, we made the film with a lot of love and hard work and I believe the story was very relevant in the present time,” a reminiscing Acharya added.
Finding the right audience
In an earlier conversation with one of the producers of the film, Anirban Maity, the issue of identification of the audience came to the forefront. Maity, a seasoned editor and an ardent film buff said, “In India, we do not have a pre-production drill to identify our audience. It makes a huge impact on the film’s future. Every film has its audience and though Bilu is made for all, it still needs that push from the intellectual audience to help it reach the larger audience.”
When asked about his plans to release the film in other districts of the state and maybe a national release, Acharya looked sceptical. “I am yet to perceive the response from my city’s audience. Who doesn’t want his film to go to bigger circles, let’s see,” a hopeful director smiled.
Travelling to festivals – does it help?
“You know, in India film and its business is a perception,” Acharya was candid and blunt. “If the film had a different name as a director, someone people know, the perception or the buzz would have been different, and now it is apprehensive,” he added.
Bilu as a film travelled to quite a few international film festivals like his short films. Some of the rave reviews have given the confidence to release the film in theatres although there were budgetary issues along with bureaucratic obstacles regularly faced by unconventional works.
One among many, the New York Indian Film Festival writes, “Bilu, A demon inside, is a movie with raw realism. It is a wakeup call for the life style that many of us may be stuck in. Things that we enjoy doing and yet in running the rat race bury them deep inside and then struggle to find the meaning to our existence. Kudos to the actors that bring that emotion on the screen.”
Who is the demon?
There is an alternate way to express emotions especially through art and that has always transcended the box-office numbers. The film expects to reach out to the urban mass as well as those living on the outskirts of the cities longing for a so-called white-collared life. The demon within the protagonist Bilu is a story of you and me; every scene seems to be coming out from a book that is relatable but not read or ignored. The demon within us that seldom gets a chance to pronounce its whims is perhaps the alter ego of each one of us planning to call it a day but suppressing the urge in an illusion that drifts away every passing night when you skipped a call from your mother.
When asked about his opinion about the film after the premiere in a prestigious single screen theatre in south Kolkata, veteran actor Barun Chanda had a distinctive smirk in his eyes. “Have you watched Bergman’s Autumn Sonata, I was completely hooked to the film,” he said.
By then, the downpour that took the city by surprise and almost clogged the passage for the homeward executives was slowly restoring itself as the audience came out from the theatre with a bewildered amazement. Still trying to figure out, whether the demon within them is already high!