When death comes calling

When death comes calling

When death comes calling

Theatre director Rajaditya Banerjee lives in Finland but chose to make his directorial debut film Death Certificate, shot at rural locations, in eastern India. The film has been screened at many national and international festivals, and has garnered a huge response. Here are a few excerpts from an exclusive conversation with the young director:

What is 'Death Certificate' about?

It's about a young tribal woman whose world crashes around her when she learns that her husband is missing. She sets out with her father-in-law to search for him. However, her life turns upside down when she discovers that the picturesque village surrounded by mountains and forests has suddenly become a space filled with cruelty and inhumanity, and tries to come to terms with this reality.

Why did you give the name 'Death Certificate' to this film?

It is a tribute to my late brother, noted film-maker Bappaditya Bandopadhyay who passed away before I could complete the film, and my father (late) Debashish Bandopadhyay. It's based on a short story by him and this was the title he gave to the original story. I didn't want to change it.

You have chosen a dark story for your first film. Why?

The stories and novels my father wrote have never stopped fascinating me because they reflect a social reality which I have tried to portray on celluloid. However, having lived in Finland for many years and knowing that Nordic countries often produce dark films and plays, I chose my father's short story because to my mind, it is more real than dark.

The film is in an almost unheard of language...

Yes, it's the first art house film in Kurmali dialect (sub-titled in English), which is one of the many dialect variations of Bengali and spoken in some parts of Jharkhand. Death Certificate highlights the terrible condition of the morgues in India. The film also refers to the unique case of Dana Majhi, a tribal peasant of Odisha who had to carry the lifeless body of his wife along with his daughter because he was denied a mortuary van.

What took you so long to step into films?

I have been doing theatre for a long time. I have a degree in film-making from the Baltic Film and Media School, University of Tallinn, Estonia. But it was only after the sad and untimely demise of my older brother that I decided to make socially relevant films. Bappaditya lived and died for cinema and found his own voice and his unique cinematic language. I can make films my way and pay a tribute to an icon like him.

What made you cast yourself as the hero in this film?

I have been acting in the European Union, in Finland, and in the US for the last 15 years. With hundreds of stage performances, I felt it only natural for me to appear as the lead in my own film. But I have very little screen time in the film. This is not my debut as an actor. I have acted in three short films before this one: in Casual Friday in Finnish, Life (2014) in English, and The Lovers (2015), a silent film.

What statement are you making through this film?

I am raising a very pertinent question - we have globalised technology. When will we globalise humanity? As the search continues for life in other planets and we try to find an answer to the question whether we are alone in the universe, the misery and violation of human rights continue for the other half in this planet.

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