Director Suman Ganguli Interview

Director Suman Ganguli is all set to release his debut film, Blue Mountains, starring Ranvir Shorey, Gracy Singh, Rajpal Yadav, Yatharth Ratnum among others. The film, having won accolades at various national & international film festivals, is all set to release on 7th April, 2017. The film is based on the life of a classical singer, a musical entertainer, it focuses on the importance of parenting styles across the globe.

Excerpts from an interview with the Director Suma Ganguli….

What triggered the idea of making a film around reality TV?

Reality Shows have taken TV by storm and have also provided a necessary platform to discover and tap hidden talents around the country which would have been lost over time or would have been otherwise left unnoticed. It’s an amazing thing how a viewer gets his/her sentiments attached to a particular participant and are heartbroken at their unpredictable elimination. The idea came across one fine evening when watching one such singing reality show where I thought if that elimination can shake a viewer so much then what trauma must that child have undergone at the nation wide defeat he had to face. So that’s when I started research about the participants who had lost and their story and felt that it’s the need of the hour to educate parents and teachers to not just inculcate the drive to win but also to inculcate an emotional fortitude in case they don’t.

How important was it to base the story around a young kid rather than an adult?

Adults have better coping mechanisms to deal with losses or failures, even if we’re talking about reality shows. I particularly chose a child because a child’s psychology is way more complex than an adult’s, especially at teenage. My protagonist is hence, a teenager at the brink of youth and who has only been made to see the bright side of winning but it hadn’t been hoped that there can be something else in store for him and it’s for the parents too, to realise what values they need to cultivate childhood onwards.

How did you cast your protagonist, the young boy? What were you looking for while casting this character?

I was looking for a boy whose looks fit into the age group I had visualised I.e. Adolescence. We had been searching for our protagonist for a long time and when we came across Yatharth and asked him to perform a few lines, he read like he was reading a newspaper. And then he was asked to sing and when he did, he gave us goosebumps and then we learnt that he too had been a runner up of SaReGaMaPa lil champs 2009 and he had a first hand experience of losing at the crux of winning. Also I had wanted someone who could sing in the film too, since my protagonist would need to as he’s an aspiring singer and needed to perform numerous times in the reality show. It’s then that I had finally found Som and sought to give Yatharth acting workshops rigorously for over six months along with other kids in the film.

What role does music play in the film, what brief composers which included the Late Aadesh Shrivastava?

Since BLUE MOUNTAINS is a film based on a singing reality show, it revolves around music as competition, inspiration and as therapy too. A lot of detail has been paid to the mood of a song at its juncture in the film. My brief to all the music directors was different for each song had a different mood, Bheeni Bheeni Bhor is a unique fusion of Rock and classical music, and Kaarey Badra has been sung by 2 different singer to compliment the 2 different phases of Gracy Singh (Som’s mother). When I went to Aadesh Ji, he had asked me the situation to get to know the mood of the songs he had to compose, but I insisted on narrating the story to him as the story flows and moves ahead with these songs and the songs are a part of the narrative themselves, such is their importance. The songs Aadesh ji had intelligently given to the film were Vote do- where the accent of the song was a blend of Himachali and Punjabi folk and Shanno, which was to be performed by an NRI participant of the show has a desi flavour with a dash of videshi tadka. All of the efforts of Monty ji, Sundeep-Surya and late Shri Aadesh ji have given BLUE MOUNTAINS, a soul of spirited music which the film revolves around.

Was it a conscious decision to first send the movie to festivals and then have a theatrical release?

Well we wanted to see how the audience responded to the film especially the ones that we had made the film about, the youth, and at the first screening where 204 films from across the world were in the running for the Golden Elephant award at the 19th International Children’s Film Festival, 2015, the jury comprised of the adolescents of same age group our film aimed at inspiring. And although BLUE MOUNTAINS was in the running amongst many other brilliantly made films, it still won that Award for the BEST FEATURE FILM IN ASIA which created much buzz and we thought that it was a positive sign and we took it to a few more festivals and at each it won quite a few other national and international awards. So although not consciously but that first win encouraged us to take it to other places and see how the audiences would respond which by God’s Grace has been good.

You’ve directed and also written, “BLUE MOUNTAINS”, what was your inspiration behind its story?

I was once watching a singing reality show with my family and all of us had a favourite but with talent abound, things took a different turn and all of us were heart broken. I couldn’t even begin to imagine how the child eliminated would be feeling. Then I started researching about such cases where kids and adults alike feel so pressurised under the sudden media exposure that they even attempted to end their lives as even their losing a competition is public and found that even some of those who won have had unpredictable experiences post their wins. That’s when I thought of writing “Blue Mountains”.

What’s the story of “Blue mountains”?

“Blue mountains” is about the journey of a hill town boy Som, who wants to pursue singing in a reality show and becomes a household name in just a few weeks. It traces the steps he took to reach that instant stardom to his struggle in life after an unfortunate turn of events in the show.

Why the title “BLUE MOUNTAINS”?

As is also shown in the trailer, the male lead Som, says, that he aspires to reach the blue Mountains which appear a stone’s throw away but actually are very far. Blue symbolises the unattainable, the ocean the sky and success too, and mountains as we aspire to reach the top of any field/career we choose. Also the actual colour of the mountains isn’t blue, so it highlights the changing colours of life from the “distance” one looks at it.

As is visible in the trailer you have shot the film in Shimla when it was laden with snow, how did you manage the hard weather and your shooting?

I’ve shot in Shimla both in Summer and winter, and yes it was pretty challenging to work in winters. It was difficult for the actors too we have an assortment of hilarious situations where the snow played havoc. We had shot on a lake which was fluid in summers and frozen in winters all of which would be seen in the movie but I am grateful that my cast and crew were cooperative and being a sport in such adverse weather conditions.

Why did you choose to debut with a content driven film rather than a typical love story probable of better chances of commercial success?

I feel that there’s a lot of scope of subjects to make a film and making a masala film which are already bountiful I wanted to differ and since the audiences are smart they give good responses to well knit stories and content driven films, so it’s not that only a masala film or a love story will work but even a well made film with a well thought over subject can be commercially viable too, whether or not it has masala.

“BLUE MOUNTAINS” has won quite a few awards, Can you tell us about them?

Yes, it’s a great feeling and we had wanted to screen it in various film festivals across the country and just wanted to see the response but yes the awards were a Cherry on top of the cake. Amongst the others for Best Director, Best Editor, Best Supporting actor, the most prestigious was the Golden Elephant Award, which declared “BLUE MOUNTAINS” as the Best Feature Film in Asia at the ICFFI 2015, and that too by a jury comprising of youth for whom I have made the film.

Why did you choose to couple Ranvir Shorey and Gracy Singh together for you film?

Both Gracy Singh and Ranvir Shorey are brilliant performers and institutions of acting in themselves. They had never been seen onscreen together and their chemistry had never been tapped. Despite that, the onscreen performances and chemistry that sprang up was brilliant and both of them were very comfortable working with each other as is evident as Gracy and Ranvir playing parents brought tears to many an eye at each screening. Both being veterans, had an understanding of situations which made it easier for all of us to shoot.

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