Dali and Tagore inspires Indian filmmaker to Cannes

Aneek Chaudhuri’s ‘The Wife’s Letter’ raises the bar of independent cinema

After a brief yet enterprising run in some of the prestigious film festivals around the world, a Bengali film is set to make its presence felt at the Festival de Cannes (Le Marche du film) this year.

By Sudipto Roy

The Wife’s Letter (Streer Potro) was the official selection at Hamilton Film Festival and was showcased in British Council, American Film Market and Berlinale European Film Market before fetching the coveted laurel leaf of Cannes against its name. Aneek Chaudhuri, a Kolkata-based independent filmmaker, and a film research scholar get his due for the labour of his love for cinema and the undying love for abstract subjects.

The Wife’s letter is an adaptation of Salvador Dali’s art form blended in refinement with Rabindranath Tagore’s short story ‘The Wife’s Letter’.

“I was always an ardent fan of Salvador Dali and his abstract compositions, and I have worked on a couple of short films as well; however, the surreal complexity of Dali and the simple surrealism of Tagore inspired me to conceive the idea of this film,” Aneek said.

Letters abroad

An engineering college dropout who then pursued research in film studies, Aneek holds the authorship of five books and twelve research papers. He is one of the youngest research scholars in the world in film studies and was featured at Los Angeles community radio, British Council and INSPIRERY for his work on cinema.

In India, artists pursuing unconventional ventures are often subjected to a lot of hardships and Aneek was not different. During this brief yet interesting conversation with the director at his place in South Kolkata, he mentioned his gratitude for Adler and Associates Entertainment, a US-based film distribution and acquisition agency more than once. “I didn’t have the money to send my film to the American film market and I wrote a letter to them seeking help. Adler and Associates was one among the list and they liked my film. They proposed a contract and I was very unsure about how to go about it,” Aneek was breathless for a moment. “I don’t understand commerce in cinema. Cinema is a fine arts form to me! Although I believed that my film will reach somewhere, Cannes was certainly an unexpected feat for me. I am very thankful to Adler and Associates for taking my film to this level,” he added.

Mathematics, Dali and Tagore

The outline of the film, The Wife’s Letters revolves around a protagonist named X. He is a personified variable in Mathematics who is suffering from schizophrenia and hence, his personality is not constant and varies. In this story, a LEAF has been considered to be a constant and X must be equal to that LEAF in order to validate language. The film attempts to prove that Mathematics does not constitute emotions, sentiments and comprises of mere calculations; however, one’s life cannot be completely manipulated.

If you listen to this pitch as an Indian producer, quite certainly you would not fancy financing it. Will you? “I was sure that even my father would not give me money to do something like this,” Aneek said, “I produced it myself.”

“I was a brilliant student in Mathematics but I never understood the emotional implication of this subject on our real life. I understood science does have its application and emotional quotient, but I wonder how Mathematics can also play a role in this,” Aneek was describing his complex context and trying not to sound too compound.

The film was inspired by Dali’s surreal paintings and is based on the short story of Tagore with the same title. Providing a surreal simplicity keeping the essence of abstract emotions as an integral part of the film, the filmmaker is quite certain about his films niche audience and would like to stick to it unapologetically. It is quite certain that India is yet to have a space for films that delve into alternate genres and there is a huge dearth of support and encouragement from state or private bodies. However, international agencies such as Adler and Associates coming on board with Aneek and taking his project to this level definitely adds a new wing of hope for other artists planning to make something different.

When Aneek was asked whether Cannes will make a difference to his future projects, he said, “International recognition does make a difference, I will expect some doors to open when I am back. But, I will still prefer to work with international agencies to generate funds for my next projects but my films will essentially be Bengali. I want to take Bengali cinema to the global frontiers.”

Aneek’s film is selected to be a part of the Marche du film section of the Cannes Film Festival. The Cannes Marche du film is a worldwide film business hub that rolls out the opportunity of meeting industry professionals in terms of trading, exchanging and advancing a project. The event witnesses a congress of more than 12,000 industry big shots including 3,200 producers, 1,200 sales agents, 1,750 buyers and 800 festival organisers.

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