Bauddhayan Mukherji’s widely appreciated feature debut Teenkahon was released in cinemas this year after being shown at several film festivals. Meanwhile, Mukherji, an advertising filmmaker, has already moved on to his next movie. The Violin Player was premiered at the Mumbai Film Festival in October and will be screened in the Competition section at the International Film Festival of Kerala (December 4-11). The movie follows a sessions musician (played by Ritwick Chakraborty) who works in the Hindi movie industry and lives an precarious existence in Mumbai. A chance encounter with a producer (Adil Husain) at a railway station sets him on a strange journey. In an interview, Mukherji spoke of the transition from making commercials to movies, and the themes explored by his latest movie.

How challenging was it to do become a filmmaker after having directed so many commercials?

I desired to become a filmmaker when I was just 11. That one 6’2 gentleman residing in Bishop Lefroy Road in Calcutta [Satyajit Ray] had such an impact on me that I decided to follow in his footsteps. Advertising happened because of him. So, commercials were actually “a means to an end” and after directing more than 300 of them I did realise that it was just a natural progression.

I won’t call it challenging but thankfully I was aware of the challenges which advertising filmmakers face when they switch gears. We overcut our films, we shoot edits, we do not hold on to shots, we animate performances — I can go on. I was aware of all of these. Throughout Teenkahon I used to constantly remind myself of these. By the time The Violin Player happened I had done the switch.


The Violin Player has the quality of a short story. How did it originate?

True, it was conceived as a short film. In 2014 we had taken Teenkahon to the Indian Panorama at the International Film Festival of India and by then I had already thought of the story of The Violin Player. But I wasn’t sure about the length. It was stuck somewhere between a ‘long’ short film and a ‘short’ feature film. Then I met Mohsen Makhmalbaf who was a guest of the festival and in a conversation with him he said his films stumble upon their lengths. Inspired, I let The Violin Player arrive at its own length! When we started shooting we did not know where we would end up as far as the length of the film is concerned. And yes, it has all the qualities of a short story in it... much in the genre of Teenkahon.

The central character keeps experiencing blackouts.

The violin player character is an escapist. Faced with a situation which makes him uncomfortable he switches off, he flees like many of us. The blackouts flow from his inability to handle life and take it head on.

What made you decide to cast Ritwick Chakraborty in the lead role?

We were editing Teenkahon in Kolkata when I had narrated the story of The Violin Player to my editor Arghyakamal Mitra. He was the one who suggested Ritwick’s name. Me and Mona (my wife, also the producer of both the films) latched onto it. We saw all his telefilms on YouTube. There is poetry on his face. I had also seen him previously in Kaushik Ganguly’s Shobdo. I had liked the effortlessness with which he behaves on screen. He comes across as an actor from the grass root unfazed by the schools of acting techniques and that’s precisely what I wanted out of my violin player.

Teenkahon was released a year after its release. What are the plans for The Violin Player?

The Violin Player will possibly go the Teenkahon way. For the next one year we would love to take it to film festivals all over the world, post which we would look at a theatrical release.