Mrinal Deka is a young filmmaker from Assam who has been gradually climbing up the ladder in the field of filmmaking- especially direction and editing.
After having worked as an assistant director both in Assam and Mumbai under different talented directors, Mrinal Deka made his debut as a director with the Assamese short film Mongoh Dohar Gundh.
Mongoh Dohar Gundh has been applauded by critics and cinemagoers alike and one can watch the short film at MX Player.
In conversation with Partha Prawal, the young filmmaker spoke at length about his works, journey and plans for the future.
Partha: How was the filmmaker in you born?
Mrinal: Frankly speaking, my life has been like a film since the beginning. I have lived a real-life film since my childhood. I used to play the drums when I was in Class XI and I enjoyed it very much. I have been a musician for about 4 years, playing for different bands and singers. It was during this time when I used to imagine what if my life was filmed as a full-length feature film.
Moreover, I also liked to note down incidents from my life as stories, although I consider myself a poor writer. I told one of my friends that I wanted to make a film about one such incident. He then suggested that I should do a filmmaking course after my graduation and it was he who introduced me to the phrase “filmmaking”. This way I became attracted to filmmaking.
Partha: What has been your training like?
Mrinal: The friend who advised me to take up a filmmaking course, also told me about various institutes where I can learn the course of my choice and this way I learned about the places like Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), National School of Drama (NSD), Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute (SRFTI), and Regional Government Film And Television Institute (RGFTI).
However, I did the procedures as to how could I get admission to any of these institutes. When I was working as a drummer, I asked one of the vocalists and he told me that I should go to Mumbai and try things out. But going to Mumbai to study a course on film direction would be a burden for my family. He also suggested I should do a course on miscommunication from Cotton College. And as per his advice and suggestion, I took the entrance test and I was selected to Dr Bhupen Hazarika Centre for Mass Communication & Journalism (BCMJ).
During my second semester at BCMJ, I learned the basics of editing, camera work, scripting etc. This was my first training. Apart from this, I also started accompanying a friend to marriages and weddings where I learned a lot about camera handling and framing of shots. My family, however, was unaware of the fact that I was also working as a part-time wedding photographer and earning a few hundred rupees for myself. This way, I trained myself.
Partha: Tell me about your short film Mongoh Dohar Gundh?
Mrinal: As a student of BCMJ, I had made two student-level short films. One film Compassion won the Best Short Film Award at Communica- a media festival organised by the Department of Communication and Journalism, Gauhati University. The second film also won the award for Best Short Film at Prag Cine Awards.
After these films decided to take a break as I was afraid to continue making short films. For the next three years, I worked as an Assistant Director for some films and also worked on a few documentaries as well. During this period, I was mostly based in Mumbai.
Gradually, an urge to make films and create an identity of my own began to grow within me as people always recognise you by your original works. An idea began to take form in my mind and I asked Manas Sagra, who himself is a talented director, to write a script.
He discussed a script with me which he had written at a young age. The story was even published in a magazine. He, however, was quick to tell me that the script may not be suitable for a short film.
After coming back to Guwahati, while I was working on some project here, I decided to make a short film on the same script and thus Mongoh Dohar Gundh came into the existence.
I did not compromise on any aspect of the short film- right from the story-boarding, locations and production. I did not compromise on anything. But yes, if there are some mistakes and flaws in the final product, then the fault is mine. It took about two years to start the actual shooting of the film. In a nutshell, Mongoh Dohar Gundh is a project is of around 3-4 years. It took another one year for the release, which had to be pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I have sent the film to various competitions and it has received several nominations and a few awards as well.
Partha: What was the experience like to work with a relatively new and young team?
Mrinal: There were both experienced and new people in my team. Even I am a new filmmaker and this is technically my debut film as a filmmaker.
Ibson Lal Baruah has provided the background score, Bipul Das was the DOP, Debajit Gayan designed and mixed the sound, Manas Sagra wrote the script of the short film and Pranami Bora portrayed the lead character and all of them are big names in their respective fields. They have guided me and tried to bring out my vision the way I wanted it to be.
Among the new ones, apart from me, location sound assistant Manas Spondon and assistant directors Nupur and Satyajit are also new. Child artists- Aadvik and Aadriti- were also new but they acted professionally.
Overall it was a great experience working with both the young and the experienced people.
Partha: What are the takeaways from this film?
Mrinal: I tried keeping a realistic approach in terms of acting and camera. I have tried to engage the viewers through sound by taking longer shots and let the sound play its part.
I have also tried to engage the viewers through the cinematography, for instance, showing the 11-month-old child’s acting or the mother’s love towards her child. Also, I tried keeping the film presentable in terms of lighting and set.
Partha: How much does it cost to make a short film?
Mrinal: It depends on a lot of things. For instance, the script may demand less or more investment. It may depend on the maker or the making of the film. It may also depend on the degree of perfection the filmmaker expects from the film.
I invested my savings and borrowed a little from my mother. I also did the editing and also directed the film, which saved me some amount.
Partha: If a director edits his/her film, does it eases the pressure in bringing out the final product?
Mrinal: Yes, it does help if the director has some sense of editing. You don’t have to take redundant shots. For example, shooting 25 minutes or more for a 15-minute-long film will add to the costs. Knowing editing helps in all the stages of production and I say this because it has helped me.
Partha: Do you have any project(s) in the pipeline?
Mrinal: Yes, although the pandemic is giving me a really hard time, I am associated with several projects that are in the pre-production stage. There are web series, full-length cinema, tv-series and short-film. Only time will tell what happens.
Partha: Do you want to direct a full-length film?
Mrinal: Filmmaking is an art and every filmmaker wishes to make a full-length feature film someday and I am no different. I am already working on a plot for a feature film. If the pandemic gives way to the earlier times and movie theatres open, I will try to make a feature film.
Partha: One thing that you would like to share with budding filmmakers like yourself?
Mrinal: I believe that filmmaking is a heavily responsible and communicative medium and no filmmaker should take this for granted. There are some filmmakers who make movies with shallow content to get more views. This harms the sentiments and dedication of a serious filmmaker.
A filmmaker should pay attention to the content and create excellent material for the healthy growth of the Assamese film industry. Such content may get fewer views but when a dozen people will tell you how good your effort has been, you will feel good about yourself. We should do good work and people should not laugh at us. This is what I would tell the budding filmmakers.
Partha Prawal (Goswami) is a Guwahati-based journalist who loves to write about entertainment, sports, and social and civic issues among others. He is also a published author.