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Interview with Shomshukla Das, Director of Picnic

Still from Shomshulka Das' "Picnic"Shomshukla Das is an independent film director out of India who has been doing all she can to leave her mark on the film industry. With Picnic, she focused on bringing Shesher Kobita (The Last Poem) to life on the big screen while building on a portfolio that’s gathering some international acclaim along with it. During my interview with her, I was able to ask her about her career, her desire to be a filmmaker and a whole lot more.

Movie Picture Show: What made you want to take on the task of turning Shesher Kobita (The Last Poem) into a feature film?

Shomshukla Das: I was planning to write a romantic story and realized it is very difficult to write an intelligent romantic story.
 Thus being a Bengali and having read Rabindranath Tagore’s Shesher Kobita (The Last Poem), million times from childhood to adulthood, being the greatest romantic classic of all times, I decided to pick up this universal romantic story into today’s version of my story Picnic.
 Nothing can be better.

MPS: What or who was behind your desire to be a filmmaker?

Shomshukla: For any intelligent, driven Indian, it is always a dream to be Satyajit Roy, to be a filmmaker like him.

MPS: Can you talk about your theatrical background before you began making movies?

Shomshukla: My journey with theater started in 1995, when I began my journey by watching European experimental plays in Mumbai. Thus all these years the learning must have been seeping into my system unknowingly. 
Thus when I decided to move from my pop music career in India to something much more meaningful, I started initially by writing English poems and slowly it amalgamated in forming my theater company, Kali theater in 2006, November in Mumbai. My theater group allowed me to perform one of my plays to the world-famous Edinburgh fringe festival in 2011, We Draupadi’s and Sitas with 14 shows and 3 UK press reviews, raving about our performance.

MPS: Can you talk about what it’s like being a female film director and the experiences that have come with that?

Shomshukla: Being an independent and getting international recognition as a female film director, I think, these kind of recognition any female film director would be aiming for. 
I went to the Cannes Film Festival with my body of work, in 2 years, 2 completed feature films, nominated globally, the people associated to the film world appreciated me, thus the feeling is wonderful, productive and to add happy too.

MPS: The story in this film has a lot of different layers to it. What was your favorite aspect of the story?

Shomshukla: Picnic is an adaptation of Tagore’s  Shesher Kobita (The Last Poem) , in it I wanted to retain the basic essence of Tagore, that is his highlight points, that life is a spiritual journey and love is eternal.
 As I did the original screen play, so I wanted to keep my style of expression as well, that is subtle humor and romanticism in daily life. More so, my dialogue usually contains psycho analysis, go deep inside human psyche.
 Most important aspect I wanted to retain is sophistication in language, thought and expressions.

MPS: You’ve worked with Shahana Chatterjee before with Sandcastle. Can you talk about your relationship with her?

Shomshukla: With Shahana Chatterjee I have a wonderful work and personal relationship, because I always believe, the team should be able to understand me and me too, as, until one doesn’t build a feeling of trust, transparency, and honesty, one cannot work.

MPS: Did you feel any pressure making this film after you experienced the critical success of Sandcastle?

Shomshukla: As is an independent film director, I cannot create and imagine pressure around me.
 Picnic is a culmination of the successful creative work of Sandcastle, which happened naturally.

MPS: How did all of your previous experience help you when making the transition into film?

Shomshukla: I started my career as a pop singer and in that career I had to act in music videos.
 When the music video directors, used to create story around a song and create a video, I observed their journey.
 Thus I used to wonder why not one day I shoot feature film.

MPS: What’s the best advice you can give to people who aspire to one day write and/or direct movies?

Shomshukla: Be focused, believe in one, and just do it. 
That is all I can say.

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