Bhargav Saikia became a known name in the film industry when he produced the much talked-about Kaafiron Ki Namaaz. Then he proved himself once again with his directorial debut, Awakenings. So, it is no surprise that movie lovers are eagerly waiting for his new film ‘The Black Cat’ which is based on a story of the same name written by Ruskin Bond.
Why did you decide to make a short film based on Ruskin Bond’s story?
After making my directorial debut with a short film in the horror genre called Awakenings, which did reasonably well in the film festival circuit, I was looking for a story which would challenge me further as a filmmaker. Also, I was keen to make a film in the fantasy genre which would appeal to both children and adults. That’s when I remembered Ruskin Bond’s The Black Cat which I had read when I was a student in boarding school. The story, which is only 4 pages long, revolves around Mr Bond, his newly acquired broomstick, a mysterious woman called Miss Bellows and a black cat. As soon as I re-read the story, I knew that cinematically it would push me to do things which I had never attempted before. I immediately got in touch with Mr Bond through one of his close friends. He generously agreed to meet me and gave me permission to adapt the story into a short film. Meeting Mr Bond was a dream come true and I will always be grateful to him for giving me this opportunity.
You have some very talented actors on board, tell us how you went about casting. Who is playing the lead role?
Tom Alter and Shernaz Patel are essaying the principal characters as Ruskin Bond and Miss Bellows respectively. Uday Chandra will be seen as Jaffer, an antique shop owner, in the supporting cast.
The nature of the characters and the film’s narrative were such that the casting had to be spot on. Tom Alter was a natural choice to essay Ruskin Bond’s character. His close friendship with the real Ruskin Bond has been a huge asset to the film, and his meticulously detailed and entertaining performance is one of the major highlights of The Black Cat.
Also, I had a blast filming all the scenes with Shernaz Patel. It is a stand-out performance and I am certain that the audience will be pleasantly surprised by her character, Miss Bellows.
How important is funding for a movie and is it possible to make a good movie without huge funds?
Filmmaking is an expensive art form and it is important to have the appropriate amount of funds in order to bring the directorial vision to life. Of course, it is possible to make a good film without a huge budget. A film’s budget must be dictated by its screenplay and the scope of the production. Making a film has become quite easy in this digital age, but making it reach out to audiences has become a difficult task as there is so much content available online and offline. Hence, it is equally important to invest in the film’s promotions, especially for independent productions, both feature and short length films.
As a filmmaker from Assam, what is your advice to young filmmakers from the region?
Take risks, get out of your comfort zone, surround yourself with like-minded creative individuals, read good literature, and do not wait for the right moment to take the plunge. Most importantly, keep abreast of the latest trends in filmmaking by watching films from different parts of the world and attending film festivals which showcase quality world cinema.
The Black Cat will be released online sometime between October and December.
As told to Meeta Borah