INTERVIEW

‘Rukh’ director Atanu Mukherjee: ‘You feel settled when you find someone so apt for the role’

Starring Adarsh Gourav, Manoj Bajpayee, Kumud Mishra and Smita Tambe, ‘Rukh’ is set to be released on October 27.

Eighteen-year-old Dhruv (Adarsh Gourav) returns home from boarding school after his father, Divakar (Manoj Bajpayee), dies in a car accident. Dhruv has to grapple with emotions that he has never felt before and discover details about his father that he was unaware of. Thus goes the story of Rukh, the directorial debut of Atanu Mukherjee. Co-starring Kumud Mishra and Smita Tambe, the film will be released on October 27.

Mukherjee, a graduate in editing from the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, came to Mumbai from Kolkata in 2009 and began assisting film editors Namrata Rao and Suresh Pai. In between, Mukherjee made a few documentaries and short films, including My House Is Not So Far (2010) produced by the Public Service Broadcasting Trust, and Stray Dogs (2013). He also edited feature films such as Amit Kumar’s Monsoon Shootout (2014) and Amitabha Singh’s Shortcut Safaari (2014). In an interview, Mukherjee spoke about his foray into filmmaking, his inspiration for Rukh and the process of bringing it from script to screen.

What motivated you to write ‘Rukh’?
Rukh is about this boy who is coming to terms with things and his reaction to his surroundings as he grows into an adult. I put myself in his position and thought of what would be my take on things around me. I could relate to the character strongly – particularly, how being a shielded, introverted guy, he was opening up to things he was not aware of before. Being able to relate to him really motivated me.

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Rukh.

How long did it take to write ‘Rukh’?
Initially, I took references from people and close friends who shared their experiences with me, which I then wove into my script. Putting in other people’s experiences of how they confronted various situations made it more realistic. It took me about a year to write Rukh.

Not many people get to turn their scripts into movies so quickly. How did ‘Rukh’ find a producer?
First of all, I am extremely lucky that I got to make this film and I am thankful to my producer, Mr Manish Mundhra. When one makes a film, the producer needs to be able to trust the person making the film. Mr Mundhra found my script when it was selected at the Drishyam Sundance Screenwriters’ Lab. He showed interest. Then we spoke, and a co-writer [Akash Mohimen] joined me, and slowly, it was decided that the film should be made.

Was it difficult to write a script in Hindi being a West Bengal native?
Not a problem for me. While writing a story, I am just thinking of the story. The situations and everything are universal, obviously. The rest is about the setting. Rukh is set in Mumbai and I am in Mumbai, so moulding situations, dialogue and scenes to the place is not the difficult. I also had a collaborator, dialogue writer Vasan Bala. He is also from Mumbai and he helped me a lot.

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Stray Dogs (2013) by Atanu Mukherjee.

How did you begin making films?
I grew up in Chittaranjan in Asansol. After graduation, I moved to Kolkata, where I did post graduation in Film Studies from Calcutta University. I was a film buff, and was always interested in films, but I did not know where and how I exactly I could contribute to filmmaking. In Kolkata, thanks to my friends and people I knew from the film industry, I became aware of film schools and the different branches of filmmaking. I was fascinated by editing.

After doing a small course in Chitrabani, I studied film editing at SRFTI. While I was there, I made short films and documentaries. The course ended in late 2008, and in February of 2009, I was in Mumbai assisting film editor Namrata Rao, my senior from SRFTI. I also assisted Suresh Pai. I began developing a feature film script.

Your hero is Adarsh Gourav, who was splendid as a rapist in ‘Mom’. How did you cast him?
After the initial draft was ready, I wanted to shoot a small scene as a treatment. I was looking for someone who could do justice to that. My casting director introduced me to Adarsh. While shooting it, I realised that he was the only guy who could do the role. Once we knew that the film is going to be made for sure, I called him and asked him to be a part of it. You really feel settled when you find someone so apt for the role.

Would you go back to Kolkata and make Bengali films?
Yes, I am thinking of making a Bengali film one day, for sure. Lots of good films are coming out of Bengal. It’s a very good time for making films across the country, actually. Change is happening in terms of storytelling. Good content is being appreciated. I look forward to be a part of it.

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