Bauddhayan Mukherji On 'The Violin Player', Self-Funding His Films & What He Learnt From His First Film!

By Arun Fulara. Posted on October 29, 2015

Bauddhayan Mukherji is back at MAMI with another film. His second in two years, The Violin Player, competes in the India Gold section this year. This section features some of the best work by fresh new voices from across India. His previous film Teenkahon, traveled widely to festivals across the globe including to IFFI, Virginia Film Festival, Madrid International Film Festival, SOHO International Film Festival, FilmColumbia, DC Independent Film Festival and won at festivals like the Seattle South Asian Film Festival and The Bridge Film Festival in Kosovo.

Bauddhayan is part of the new breed of filmmakers that is pushing the envelope in India. Refusing to be tied down by tags of regional identity, he identifies himself as world citizen who looks at experimenting with the film format, be it any language & genre. While his first film was in Bengali, this one is in Hindi. And while Teenkahon was the story of love, loss & everything that goes with it,  The Violin Player is, as its IMDB profile states,  the story of one day in the life of a Bollywood session violinist who finds expression in an unlikely place.

A prolific ad filmmaker, Bauddhayan has made many popular ads including the famous 'Bell Bajao' series of ads against domestic violence that won the Cannes Silver Lion Awards in 2010

Bauddhayan has spoken to Jamuura earlier about the struggles of an indie filmmaker and the challenges one faces in getting their films released. We caught up with him again and spoke with the director on his new film, the lessons he learnt from his first film, pros & cons of self funding and much more.

1. Teenkahon is still going to festivals and you are back already with The Violin Player. How has the journey been so far? Could you tell us through the journey/ transition from Teenkahon to The Violin Player?

I would hate to be a ‘prolific’ filmmaker. I can’t churn films endlessly and at a pace which might even put the most prolific ad filmmakers to shame. Teenkahon was shot in 2013. And at Little Lamb Films we had agreed that we would shoot a feature every two years more so because we were self funding them. We have kept our promise. The Violin Player was shot in 2015.

I will not really call it a transition... I would rather call it a progression: from Teenkahon to The Violin Player. These days when I look at both I keep asking – have I matured as a storyteller? Have I learnt to plug the ‘gaping’ holes which Teenkahon had? Do I see a filmmaker’s style emerging out of both? Since the answer to most of the questions would be a resounding yes, I would assume it has been a journey well traveled.

2. Coming to Violin Player, could you tell us what the film is about? The description and the trailer seem intriguing. Where did the idea come from? What are you trying to explore in this film?

The film is about one day in the life of a session violinist in Mumbai. How life had beaten the art out of him, reduced him to a non artist. Then one day the same life shows him the carrot. Well, art and the artist have always intrigued me. And there were questions in my mind - Won’t a true artist find ways to express himself? And the more the world tries to beat the art out of him, won’t he find ways to give birth to it? Won’t he look for some squalid corner that is least expected to nurture beauty and then bring his art to life? The Violin Player became my tool to find answers to these.

3. Are there themes that you are naturally attracted to? If so, could you talk a bit about what those are?

The world is such a fun place because of the shades of grey. Plain black and plain white can be extremely boring. I like the underlying darkness in human beings and not the apparent ones. I love to explore what goes on in the dark alley of the human mind. The twists and turns of this alley have always fascinated me.

4. You’ve also written the script. What was the writing process like? Is there a process that you’ve settled on now?

Not really. Each one is like dating a new woman. Each has her own way, would want you to serenade in a particular way. One trick/rule doesn’t necessarily work for the other. So, I would always go by the flow. Keeping the basic thumb rules in mind each script needs to be addressed differently. With time I think I am learning the craft but one can never say one has mastered it. I am still in the kindergarten.

5. Your first film was in Bengali, this one is in Hindi. The last one was shot in Bengal, this one in Mumbai. There are many others like you, who do not define themselves by region, language or boundaries. Do you see yourselves as an Indian filmmaker or Bengali filmmaker? Or is it unfair to bracket filmmakers like that? What is your take on that?

Absolutely. I might just make a Marathi film next or a Spanish one. And why not? I refuse to have a regional identity. I am a filmmaker and there’s no race caste creed of a filmmaker. Hence I would go a step ahead and refrain from calling myself a Bengali or an Indian filmmaker. I belong to world cinema, I have grown up on it and I would love to be a part of that.

6. Tell us something about the star cast? How was it working with Adil Hussain, Ritwick Chakraborty, Nayani Dixit and Sonam Stobgais?

Like Teenkahon, there are no stars in The Violin Player. The only star happens to be the screenplay. Might just sound clichéd but it was a dream cast for TVP. Adil, Ritwick, Nayani, Sonam came in to bring characters to life and what an absolutely stunning job each one of them have done. TVP was particularly hard for Ritwick since he is the Violin Player. He had to learn to play the violin which itself took two months.

7. You’ve self-funded both your films. There are pros & cons to that. What’s your thought behind going solo?

We have gone solo primarily because we thought no one else would share our vision. But now as we have started to interact with people and have found a lot of like mind people around us it might very well be that my next ones will not be self funded projects. In fact one of the biggish Hindi feature we have just finished writing for is being produced by someone else. As long as people share our vision I am open to collaborating. If not we will keep going solo. That is always an option.

8. What have you done differently this time compared to the last time? Things that you’ve learnt from Teenkahon that you used in The Violin Player?

I have learnt to be sure of my decisions and hence we have reduced wastage in the production process this time around in a big way. I must say that this was possibly the most impeccably planned shoot that I have ever attended. And we have done everything ourselves. I wrote the story and screenplay, Monalisa (my wife and the producer of Teenkahon and The Violin Player) did the costume and production design and wrote the Hindi dialogues, my entire AD team (Harish, Siddharth, Sushant, Abhinandan) was my in-house advertising team, casting happened in-house (Sambhav was the casting director), even the production was handled in-house (Kedhhar and Laxman).  TVP was more like a ‘cottage industry’ film!

9. Teenkahon created quite a buzz at film festivals. You are a pro this year from all the experience with Teenkahon. The Violin Player has already made a good beginning. How has the early response from festivals been? Ready for another round of world festival tour?

I so wish The Violin Player gets to travel the way Teenkahon did. But Teenkahon being our first film, we had also done historic blunders, entered wrong festivals, premiered in wrong ones. I hope not to repeat the same mistakes this time around. And yes, it has been a good beginning for The Violin Player... hope the momentum continues.

10. Two films in two years. Are you already working on your next film? How do you juggle between a full-time ad film career and filmmaking?

Yes, I am currently working on 2 more screenplays simultaneously. Me and my co writer Arpita Chatterjee have worked out this ingenious method in which we carry on writing even if the other person is busy. We are two proverbial parallel lines which often meet! J

As far as juggling two different filmmaking careers, I guess honesty is the key. I do not have some magic ‘switch on’ and ‘switch off’ buttons. But what I have is honesty about the work at hand. I love doing both and till such time I enjoy both equally I will have my hands on both the pies.

11. What about the theatrical release. When can we expect to see it in India?

Viacom18 had come forward to distribute Teenkahon nationally. Will have to wait for someone to come in and partner us for The Violin Player. It will possibly be fall next year when we look at a pan India release.


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