Aniruddha Barua is a magician with the camera, who had impressed us all with his maiden venture-the Majuli song by Nilotpal Bora in 2017.
This time he is back with Ratnadaah- a short film that has a simplicity satisfying both the artistic and the thematic demands of the narrative, marked by an individual voice and a disciplined style.
The film is based on a short story by the late Dr Bhabendra Nath Saikia.
The short movie portrays the dilemma of Sarat- a government official- who needs to collect an amount of 300 rupees by afternoon.
The twenty-five-minute long film has been adorned with performances by actors like Kopil Bora, Rimpi Das, and the veteran Bishnu Kharghoria amongst others.
The film had screenings at the International Film Festival of Shimla, and Jaipur International Film Festival, 2021.
In conversation with Dipankar Sarkar for The Story Mug, the talented filmmaker speaks more about his work and the film.
Dipankar: How did you enter the world of cinematography?
Aniruddha: I feel like it's an ongoing process since my childhood.
I remember, as a child, watching both my parents engage in creative pursuits. My father used to paint and do bonsai and my mother used to be a classical and Bihu dancer. I started painting with my father from an early age. And that interest in art from childhood eventually led me into studying Fine Arts.
I graduated in printmaking from Guwahati College of Art and Crafts. While studying Fine Arts I was introduced to world art.
I also got to learn about the nuances of art from various artists. Learning the concepts of light, colour, shadow, perspective and composition is an integral part of Fine Arts education. That helped me immensely when I first started my journey as a cinematographer.
The contribution of Fine Arts education has been significant in me being a cinematographer. While studying at Art College, our professor, and renowned artist Dilip Tamuli introduced us to varied forms of media to communicate art.
It was then that I realized that the camera or cinema is a powerful medium to express and connect to society. I guess that realization made me look in the direction of cinematography and become who I am now.
Dipankar: What led to the adaptation of this particular story of Dr Bhabendra Nath Saikia?
Aniruddha Barua: When I was at school, I had read many of Dr Bhabendra Nath Saikia's short stories among which Ratnadaah has been my favourite.
It's mostly because of Sarat's character who leads a simple middle-class life. I could relate that character to my father who used to work in a bank and had to run the household with a fixed monthly salary. So, sometimes at the end of the month, he had to make ends meet and that is a real struggle.
I guess that is something a majority of us can relate to even today. I think that's why I wanted to capture those words on paper into moving images.
Dipankar: What were the changes you made in your script during the adaptation?
Aniruddha Barua: I didn't want to change a lot while adapting to the screen because of my love for the story. All I changed was the time. I wanted to keep it a period drama but also kind of bring it to a more current time. So, I chose to forward the timeline by several years from the original timeline of the story.
Dipankar: Where was the shooting location of your film?
Aniruddha Barua: We shot Ratnadaah in two locations.
Sarat and Sumitra's part was shot in a Rabha village near Chandubi. For the office part we scouted various locations in Guwahati and at last found an old PWD office, which matched our requirements in Ulubari. We got really lucky with the office.
Dipankar: What was the experience like to work with popular Assamese cine stars?
Aniruddha Barua: It was an incredible experience. They portrayed the characters perfectly on screen and were so involved in the entire project. Especially,
Kopil daa has been immensely supportive. He gave us complete freedom to work with his look and went through numerous costume trials with much patience. I feel grateful that they agreed to be a part of Ratnadaah, to be honest.
Dipankar: How was your experience with Amrit Pritam?
Aniruddha Barua: I feel lucky to have worked with Amrit Pritam da. There's always something new to learn from him.
After we finished shooting for Ratnadaah, I spoke to Amrit Pritam da and he wanted to watch it. He asked me to come over to his studio.
He liked the film after watching it and agreed to work on it.
There are a lot of things I've learned from him in this project and I wish to work again with him in the future.
Dipankar: Tell us about the role of Himanshu Baishya in shaping the film?
Aniruddha Barua: I met Himanshu for the first time through a production house in Delhi called Blurb Productions. We did an advertisement shoot for Royal Enfield and that's how we became friends.
Even though I had many editor friends, I asked Himanshu to edit my short film because I wanted a good editor who knew the language as well. Himanshu felt like the perfect fit for it and he agreed right away. He understood what I needed and did just that.
Dipankar: How long did you take to complete the film-from scripting to colour correction?
Aniruddha Barua: The pre-production and production of Ratnadaah didn't take much time. However, the post-production took around two years.
The reason being that it's an independently produced film and a lot of the people involved in the project are my friends. They had helped me out without charging any fee. So, Ratnadaah was finished keeping in mind everyone's and other professional commitments.
Dipankar: What are your current plans with the short film?
Aniruddha Barua: As you are well aware, several festivals were cancelled or postponed last year due to the pandemic. So Ratnadaah, like many other films, had to go through that. We didn't want to put it up online so we waited, withdrew, and didn't send it to a lot of festivals. We are planning to send it to film festivals this year.
Dipankar: Tell us about Bapkon Films?
Aniruddha Barua: Bapukon Films is an Assam-based production house founded by me. Till now we have shot 2 short films and 4 music videos.
Our first short film Daybreak (2018) was written and directed by Puja Chakraborty and was selected at numerous film festivals.
We have recently put it up online.
And among music videos, Majuli by Nilotpal Bora and directed by me is worth mentioning. It was our very first production and gained immense popularity.
Dipankar: What are the future projects of Bapkon Films?
Aniruddha Barua: It is looking like a very busy year for Bapukon Films since we are planning to start work on two feature films. We are happy to be a part of Puja Chakraborty's first feature scheduled at the end of the year.
I am also working on the story of my first feature film, a children film. Hoping to shoot it sometime next year. We have a documentary and a food show by Chef Riddhi Barua currently in postproduction.
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