Bengali director Suman Mukhopadhyay’s upcoming film is set in Kashmir. Paradise in Flames is neither a direct commentary on stone pelting nor the ongoing struggle for autonomy, but a movie about the psychological effects of living with constant conflict, the director said.
“The moment you say Kashmir, a plethora of images come to your mind,” Mukhopadhyay said. “Be it the paradoxes of the political climate or the situation that is precarious, we are dealing with a very hot and difficult political situation. And the issue is always debatable. The film talks about the current generation who are facing this huge problem politically, socially, geographically and psychologically.”
Mukhopadhyay’s film was one of four recipients of a $25,000 grant for script development at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards in Brisbane in November. Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi’s acclaimed production A Salesman (2011) is among the recipients of the fund in the past. Robert Connolly’s Magic Beach from Australia, Guy Davidi’s Senseless from Israel and Vladimer Katcharava’s Nene from Georgia were the other projects on the list.
“In the Indian film industry, it is a non-existent practice in terms of asking for a development fund for an idea or for the treatment,” Mukhopadhyay said. “But it is prevalent in the European and the US subcontinents, where writers and directors spend their time on the basis on the fund. The content I am dealing with is very complex and difficult. You need to be very careful with the film.”
Mukhopadhyay made his directorial debut with Herbert (2005), which won him a National Film Award for the best Bengali film. His new production is based on Abhishek Majumdar’s 2013 play The Djinns of Eidgah. The story follows the life and struggles of a young girl and her footballer brother against a backdrop of never-ending conflict. “When I first read the play, I immediately got the cinematic hunch that I could make this as a film,” the director said. “It talks about the psychological damage on the children. My film is more about the inner battles and the psychosis they have been facing for generations. It is not a magnum opus on stone pelting or the military, but an internal story.”
Like Majumdar’s play, Paradise in Flames too will blend elements of magic realism through the figure of the djinn. “There are discussions about the dead coming back to earth and here, [in his film] they are coming back and narrating the story along with human beings,” Mukhopadhyay explained. “They are creating an allegory of the narrative at the same time, while we are talking about the contemporary relationship in Kashmir. We are also talking about the people who have died and have given their life for Kashmir. There we kind of passed the line of realism into the magic realism domain.”
Mukhopadhyay hopes to finish writing the screenplay by the end of 2018. “The Motion Picture Association and the Screenwriters Association worked together in tandem to put across all our documents and vision to the jury,” he said. “It was very important to push that envelope across to them. I am really grateful to them for doing this.”