Rewarding journey

Aniruddha Roy Choudhury talks to Shoma A. Chatterji about his
National Award-winning film Antaheen

AD filmmaker Aniruddha Roy Choudhury’s second film Antaheen (Bengali) has won the National Award for the Best Feature Film of the Year 2008. The film bagged awards in other sections also. Avik Mukhopadhyay won the award for Best Cinematography, Anindo Bannerjee and Chandril Bhattacharya won the award for the Best Lyrics and Shreya Ghoshal won the award for the Best Playback Singer.

What is Antaheen all about?

Antaheen means infinite. We lead different lives. But the struggles, the inner pain, the tensions in our lives are endless, infinite. This word, ‘infinite’ I believe, is woven into every layer of our lives. This is how the title of the film came up. It is basically a love story, a story of how relationships begin, evolve, break, reconstruct and deconstruct themselves along the journey of life. Today’s audience likes to see films rooted in reality. They wish to discover themselves and identify with the characters while watching the film. However, at the same time, a filmmaker cannot afford to forget the critical question of commercial success.

Did you expect this top award when the film was entered for the awards?

Aparna Sen and Sharmila Tagore in a still from Antaheen
Aparna Sen and Sharmila Tagore in a still from Antaheen

When you enter your film for any award, you always hope that you will win. But this was a complete surprise for me. I was hoping that the film would win some awards, but did not expect this great honour. I am more thrilled about the citation. It says that the film won the award "for the lyrical blend of technical devices in the right proportion to depict shifting human relationships in an urban scenario." It is very inspiring for a relatively new filmmaker like me.

Your first film Anuranan also won the National Award. But that was lower down in the award hierarchy. This is a big leap. Do you feel this will create a pressure on you to sustain the quality?

The pressure to do good work comes from within. I always strive to do better. I know I still have a long way to go to reach the excellence I desire to achieve. Awards and accolades give me the encouragement to strive for that. I would not wish to look at it as a build up of pressure to perform.

Since some of your creative and technical team have also won National Awards for the same film, what decided you to pick them over others in the industry to begin with?

The people in my technical team have been my colleagues for years. I have worked with them on numerous ad films, though this was my first feature film with them. They are the best in their respective fields, and I also share a great bond and understanding with them. This is very important for me and for the film. I was introduced to Shantanu Moitra through a common friend, and we instantly struck a chord. From then on, there was no looking back.`A0

Tell us a bit about the mind-blowing music track of Antaheen.

For the first time, music director Shantanu Moitra scored the music for a Bengali film. Anindo Bannerjee and Chandril Bhattacharjee have done the lyrics while Anindo also belted out one of the songs. The music of this film, both the background score as well as the six songs, are, as if, embedded into the film, an inseparable part of the entire film and do not have entities unto themselves. That is why I chose Chandrabindoo and Shantanu for the music and Shantanu made the best choice he could while picking his singing team. I feel really happy that Chandril, Anindo and Shreya Ghoshal also won the National Awards. Chandril and Anindo’s citation says that the award is for "its simple composition of verses to contribute meaningfully to the film."

Having been an ad man for many years, what edge do you think people from the ad world have over others who do not, when they venture into feature films such as yourself and Rituparno Ghosh?

As ad filmmakers, we are trained to tell a story effectively with brevity and focus. We also have an eye for detail. This is not to say that filmmakers, who do not have an ad film background lack in any way in this.

What, in your personal opinion, made Antaheen race to the top over many other competitors across the country and even within Bengali cinema?

I personally tried to say a story, which was close to my heart, with honesty and simplicity. But it is difficult for me to say what about the film struck a chord with the jury members. The award is a great honour and is a huge encouragement for me. But irrespective of the award, I have already been working on the scripts for a few films, and will start on the next one soon.