Greetings to Ram Kamal Mukherjee for his film ‘Season’s Greetings’

By Manju Mittal

Ram Kamal Mukherjee, a well known film maker, writer, Journalist & critic of Bollywood who has established himself as a director through his two films multiple award winning short film ”˜Cakewalk’ which saw the comeback of Indian actress Esha Deol and his recently released ”˜Season’s Greetings’ on Zee5. Ram hails from Kolkata and currently living in Mumbai. He was also a former editor at Stardust India, assistant editor at Mumbai Mirror and The Times of India. With years in the Industry rubbing shoulders with Bollywood favourites, Ram now leads his expertise and manages Assorted Motion Pictures.
I did telephonic interview with Ram Kamal Mukherjee when he talks about his passion for films and his experience of making his recent film ”˜Season’s Greetings’. He also shared his personal journey and views about Indian cinema as we touched on many other aspects of his busy life.

First of all, Congratulations on both your films ”˜Cakewalk’ and ”˜Seasons greetings’ that received lot of recognitions, what a great achievement, how do you feel?

I feel incredibly honoured that my both the films received lot of recognitions. I think god has been kind I am thrilled that we have managed to take both the films to a level that would inspire others and this is a great pride for all of us to bring these films to people globally. I am glad ”˜Season’s Greetings’ is getting appreciated by all; this film celebrates love beyond gender.

Tell us about the story of the film ”˜Seasons Greetings’, and also your decision releasing the film on Zee5 during COVID-19 crises?

The story is based on a mother and daughter relationship, set in Kolkata, West Bengal, India. The 45 minute short film is woven around a story of relationship. While Celina Jaitley plays the role of daughter, veteran actor Lillette Dubey plays the role of her mother Suchitra Mukherjee and the transgender actor Shree Ghatak plays the role of Chapala the house help and also featuring the newcomer young Azhar Khan in the film.
This is a film that underlines that love comes in many hues and does not discriminate between caste, colour, race, religion, gender or anything. As this terrible pandemic has proven to us, we are all the same under the skin of our so called differences, equally vulnerable, equally strong, now hopefully also equally capable of putting ourselves in another’s shoes. I am also grateful to the legend Mr Amitabh Bachchan for being so gracious, he spoke so beautifully about the film in his video message.
I personally feel that this was the right time to release ”˜Season’s Greetings’ on Zee5 because people are always waiting for new content. This lockdown is uncertain and we don’t even know when things will become normal. Though we had planned a red carpet premiere in Mumbai and Kolkata, city tours across India with the cast, all had to cancelled, but eventually the release of the film matters. As the lockdown has been extended in India, and is also likely to be extended till May end, I am glad that we released it on April 15, and the film has become the most watched short film on Zee5.

The film is dedicated to Rituporna Ghosh, also tell us about the music in the film.

Yes, the film is dedicated to the late National award winning director and cultural icon, Rituparno Ghosh, this is a different kind of homage to any director, mostly when we pay tribute, we tend to make a biopic or remake classics. But I thought of giving him tribute through multiple ways. Suchitra Bhattacharya was Rituda’s favourite author, veteran Tagore vocalist Suchitra Mitra acted in his film Dahan, so I decided to name Lillette Dubey’s character Suchitra, Celina’s character Romita was Rituparna Sengupta’s name in Dahan, which was a popular novel written by Suchitra Bhattacharya. The house where they stay is called Utsab, which was yet another film by Ritu da. Tagore music and Maithili language is yet another aspect which Rituparno had often used in his films.
The film which has music by Shailendra Sayanti marks the debut of Kumar Sanu’s son Jaan Kumar Sanu as playback singer. Two other tracks are rendered soulfully in the short film by Sayani Palit and Sarbani Mukherjee.

Ram, you have not only directed the film but you have written the story as well, share your journey with us.

It’s been a great exciting journey. I guess it was a natural progression for me after producing a finite series for Zee TV in India. I always wanted to tell a story but never had the courage to tell it via a visual medium, I needed preparation. I started with my first fiction book ”˜Long Island Iced Tea’ and then made a 156 episode series ”˜Bin Kuch Kahe’ with filmmaker Rajshree Ojha. After that, I wanted to produce a feature film in Hindi, but for some reason, that film remained unfinished due to financial issues. Just after that I decided that I will make my own film, and tell the story that’s how I started my filmmaking journey.

How was working with Celina Jaitley and Lillette Dubey? What was the casting process for ”˜Seasons greetings’?

Well, when it comes to casting, every director has a wish list. I was looking for someone strong to play the role of Suchitra. I had approached Revathy first, but she was travelling and shooting for a film in the South. Then I approached Shefali Shah and then Manisha Koirala, but both were busy and couldn’t accommodate. That’s when I met Lillette Dubey, I have been a huge admirer of her screen and stage work. I was sure she would be the perfect to cast in for Suchitra’s character.
Celina has obviously worked in many films before when I approached her I knew she was the one. I met her in Dubai and when I narrated her the story of ”˜Season’s Greetings’, she was emotional when she read the script and spoke at length about Romita. She came from Dubai and worked like a team. I was so happy Celina came on board and made it a memorable journey.
Both are gifted actresses, they are easily embraceable. Azhar Khan I knew his background and casting him in the role was the right choice. I needed someone who is raw and yet romantic. I was very fortunate to have the best cast & crew. It was a great experience working with Celina, Lillette and Azhar Khan. We have brilliant performances by the entire cast.

As a film maker any comment on Bollywood cinema?

As a film maker I can not say much but yes as an audience I would say Indian film cinema has the capability to make good films for the global audience. I strongly feel films like ”˜Piku’, ”˜Panga’, Deepika Padukone’s production venture ”˜Chhapaak’ and ”˜Raazi’ have raised the bar. These kinds of films are more appreciated by their content and style. The Indian audience has evolved over the years, I think lot of has to do with the audience, they are ready for that I don’t think it really matters anymore who is in the movie. There was another film ”˜Andhadhun’ which with actor Ayushmann Khurana that did wonders at the box office. I personally enjoyed watching Varun Dhawan in ”˜Sui Dhaaga’, this simple with unusual concept film did very well at the box office.

What new projects do you have in hands now?

I am currently working on a Bengali concept. I am all set to make debut in Bengali film ”˜Rikshawala’. Since I made my foray into direction, people from Kolkata have been constantly asking me to make a Bengali film finally I wrote a story based on the rickshaw pullers. This particular hand pulley ricks are only seen in Kolkata, especially in certain pockets, their story has always intrigued me. I am also working on my first full length feature film Bindoni Dasi, a biopic on Bengal’s famous theatre actress. I am very excited about these upcoming projects of mine.

And a few last words for our readers in Australia?

Australia is a unique beautiful country, visiting Australia has always been my dream for a very long time, definitely will be coming sometime soon. I just want to say I am thankful to all who have watched my films. And to all at down under my film ”˜Season’s Greetings’ has been released recently on Zee5 and I would request everyone to watch it.

It was great interviewing Ram Kamal. The film produced under the banner of Assorted Motion Pictures and SS1 Entertainments is a tribute to the legendary filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh. It is a must watch film. We wish Ram Kamal the best for his film that carries a message relevant to today about relationships and the complexities thus involved.

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