Writer and director Bornila Chatterjee’s second feature film The Hungry starring Tisca Chopra and Naseeruddin Shah will be screened at the 13th Habitat Film Festival in Delhi on May 18. The movie had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September last.
An alumna of the New York University Tisch School of the Arts, Chatterjee’s debut film Let’s Be Out, The Sun Is Shining premiered at the 2012 New York Indian Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award. Reminiscing her journey, she says, “I keep thinking of all the encounters that happened and turned into collaborations that led to The Hungry.”
The process began in 2015 when Cinestaan and Film London decided to fund one micro-budget Indian adaptation of a Shakespeare play to celebrate 400 years of the Bard. But there was going to be a workshop in London where six selected screenplays—three each from India and the UK—were to be invited and to make the cut, Chatterjee and her writing partner Tanaji Dasgupta zeroed in on Shakespeare’s revenge thriller Titus Andronicus. “We reckoned that choosing a play that others might overlook could increase our chances of being selected,” says Chatterjee. And she was right.
At the workshop, the duo was paired with Kurban Kassam, a London-based producer. “The three of us began to revise the script. Our workshop mentors encouraged us to move away from the original plot and from the idea of ‘recreating’ the play as an Indian film. We did away with most of Shakespeare’s characters and streamlined the original plot into a story that was filmable within the confines of the limited resources,” she says.
The duo focused on turning Shakespeare’s villain Tamora, a queen whose oldest son is murdered before her eyes, into their heroine, and his hero Titus into their heroine’s nemesis.
After the script was greenlit, the next big task was to get together the right team. “Some really splendid people came together to make this movie, and I learned from all of them,” she says. Shah, Chopra and Neeraj Kabi were the duo’s first choices for three central characters. “Jayant Kripalani had directed Dasgupta and me in the first play we did together, so we thought it would be nice if he could act in our first movie,” she says on casting Kriplani as the corrupt politician Poddar in The Hungry.
Overwhelmed at the response, the young filmmaker who is working on a couple of different ideas including a love story among three misfits set in Kolkata, says, “It feels great. It does not set up any expectations though. I hope that the film affects people watching it. Even a strong, negative reaction is something to learn from. On the other hand, if they enjoy it, then that’s the icing on the cake. I just want people to see it. That’s why we made it, right? To be seen.”