Tathagata Ghosh is a film enthusiast first. His penchant for storytelling led him to write and make movies. Followed by his film school degree from Vancouver, he went back to India to pursue his dream. “The Goldfish who swam out of the Fishbowl” is his latest venture. Team Blank Slate Chronicles got the opportunity to interview him and talk about his film and beyond.
What was the inspiration behind the film?
This has been a dream project. It came from reading a few articles and pieces of news from different magazines and newspapers. I was looking for stories around the border areas of India-Bangladesh and watching a few documentaries. And then, suddenly, I came across them. Mainly the characters who eventually became Balaram, Rosina and Professor Agarwal in my film. I also wanted to explore different elements of the psychological thriller/ crime drama genre. So “The Goldfish who swam out of the Fishbowl” is like a melting pot of all of that. Few months of research and then all these elements emerged in the script. It was a real experience indeed!
Tell us a little bit about the film
“The Goldfish who swam out of the Fishbowl” grew out of my keen interest in telling a story of a certain individual named Balaram Dutta. Balaram would stop at nothing to protect his family. He has a young sister whom he wants to see as a respected woman. But he has his vices. A complicated, yet extremely sympathetic character like him, is what drew me to tell his story. The film follows him on a journey that flips his life upside down. Balaram is an amalgamation of many characters I have been around. The film explores the theme of betrayal in a dark and disturbing socio-political setting.
What makes this project special?
I think the characters and the incidents that happen to them in the film. The script of the film grew out of that discomfort which I felt on seeing similar incidents around me. Though I pray, this never happens to anyone!
A Goldfish is unique in that it cannot survive when taken out of the fishbowl. It cannot survive in a pond or any other water body as a matter of fact. Many of us and of course all the characters in this film are just like that. Taken out of their comfort zone, they eventually die from within. The script went through a lot of development as we progressed. We spent almost 8 months working on the script before we actually shot it.
Tell us how you found your cast
Yes! Casting is probably the most crucial aspect of this film and the film really stands on the shoulders of the performers! And I can vouch that everyone is at the top of their game! Brilliant performances. I am saying this as a consumer of the art.
I always had the actors in mind while writing the script and I was lucky that I got to cast them eventually.
Soumya Majumdar, who plays Balaram Dutta, was an automatic choice for me, as he was involved from the nascent stages of the project. Soumya has been a long time partner-in-crime and he’s a very special performer. Per me, he is one of the finest in Kolkata, at the moment. Extremely hard-working and such an interesting face. A layered character like Balaram had to be in his safe hands.
The other two central characters in the film are Shataf Figar as Professor Govind Agarwal and Payel Rakshit as Rosina. I have known Shataf’s work for a while, but we had never interacted before. He’s a very well known face in Bengal and an extremely interesting and powerful actor. Currently, he’s doing one of the lead roles in Pradeep Sarkar’s next film with Kajol. I wrote him in the film. Then, hesitantly, I called him up. He was very kind to fit us into his schedule despite much bigger projects in hand. And let me tell you, he’s one of the best people I have ever worked with. From doing his homework to being a great person to be around on the sets, he has been a dream to work with. He brought an amazing energy on the sets and inspired all of us with his passion.
This was Payel’s first film. But when you see her, you’ll feel like she’s a pro at this. She’s as mature as she’s talented! I am also lucky to meet and work with actors like Bimal Giri and Sraman Chatterjee. The best part about this film is the friendships I have made with the actors and I believe this will go on beyond this film.
Tell us what you want the audience to know before the release
Don’t wait to show your love to your dear ones. Give them a hug right away. And always stand by them. You never know what could happen tomorrow. When we were making the film, we all sort of lived through the trauma the characters in the film face. I just can’t imagine something like that happening to anyone else! Sheer tragedy! Given what is happening in the world at the moment, the story of this film is extremely relevant and I hope people take back something worthwhile. The children need to be loved and cared for. They are extremely vulnerable without our love. Our film highlights that prominently. I hope the audience relates to this film when it releases online worldwide on 2nd May.
Which film festivals are covering this film?
Quite a few. But the most amazing of all is the 20th Zanzibar International Film Festival. It has been a dream come true to get selected among so many films from so many filmmakers across the world. Thus, to have a film in the official competition in the shorts category and also represent my country there with this film has been a dream run for all of us!
Which directors inspire you?
Most definitely Satyajit Ray. He has been a childhood hero. Grew up with his films and books. I love Werner Herzog, whose outlook towards filmmaking and the world, in general, changed my life. His films have been a window to look at the Universe in a new light altogether. The philosophies, the truths, the honesty! I can go on forever about him. And, of course, Martin Scorsese, Alfred Hitchcock, Damien Chazelle, Steven Spielberg and David Fincher, who have been fierce inspirations to me.
What kind of films do you want to make?
The stories that I believe in and the ones I want to tell. No matter what anyone says, I will always work hard to make them happen. I might be wrong. But then I will learn from my own mistakes. And that will help me grow. At the moment I am deeply invested in genre films. Thrillers/ Crime dramas/ Horror/ Psychological thrillers/ Suspense dramas. These are my strengths I believe and I am going to explore that in greater details in the coming days. Genre films disturb you and make you feel unsettled as audiences. I love that!
I hope I get better with each film. I hope to make a difference in the lives of people around me. Just like Herzog does with his films. Or Ray did with his!
Talk to us about the struggle of making films
It’s exhausting, really. Till now, I have always been my own producer. I have done odd jobs, found all sorts of ways to save money to make my films happen. If I decide to tell a story, it just makes me restless. It doesn’t let me be in peace till I make it happen. The characters push me and give me sleepless nights.
I do love producing as a matter of fact. And I find it unbearable to wait for someone to pick up my script and give me funds. If I make it with my own money, I am not answerable to anyone. Even if I fail, it will be my failing. Fail fast and fail better, that’s my mantra. I know I have made mistakes. But that has made me stronger as a person. I will look at it as an optimist.
I am blessed to have a team that has always stood by me through thick and thin. This is a teamwork. Each and everyone in my crew is phenomenal! Be it my DP Rajdeep or my editor Anubhav, they are all like family to me. That makes the work easier.
The actors sometimes pushed the trolley if someone was not there and my AD Arnab also acted as an Executive Producer several times. I am one lucky guy, as I said earlier. This is a true labor of love. Having said that, I can’t wait for newer collaborations in the future. It is only through new collaborations that you discover yourself as a storyteller more.
What’s on the horizon?
I am working on a bunch of scripts and doing research on a few subjects. So let’s see what comes up. I am excited and will talk about them in due time.
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