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Victor Mukherjee: “Lakadbaggha is my ode to believing in good”

This interview was first published in Cine Blitz by the same author.

VICTOR MUKHERJEE’s feature directorial debut Lakadbaggha will be released in cinemas on January 13. The action-thriller is about an animal lover vigilante and stars Ridhi Dogra and Anshuman Jha in lead roles. In a candid conversation with CINE BLITZ, the director opened up about Lakadbaggha’s journey, why he wanted to make the film, his influences, his upcoming films, and much more.

This is your first feature film release. So, what’s going on in your mind?

A little nervousness and apprehension about how people will take this, but also excitement because we want the film to come out and people to see what we have created.

How did Lakadbaggha come to life?

The first thing that Anshuman Jha and I discussed was the first scene of the film where Anshuman’s character Arjun Bakshi is running away from four people, and he says that he doesn’t want to fight because he is saving a puppy. But they still engage and a fight begins. So, while we were traveling from the east of Arunachal Pradesh to the west, on the road, we discussed this scene and that stayed in our minds. So, when we came back, we narrated the scene to our writer Alok Sharma and then we started to build the whole thing.

Why did you think that it was important to make this film?

There were two reasons.

First reason: You often read about cruelty against animals. The world has become more woke now. After the pandemic, people have become kinder. But cruelty against animals still happens. So, we just want some space for creatures that don’t have a voice. That’s the reason why I made the film and that’s the reason why I would like people to see the film. One person can make a difference. It’s just one act of kindness.

Second reason: In our films, we have always grown up with the world of a hero. And the hero has to be out of the world for the audience. But in the world that I have grown up in, a small town in Bengal, I’ve grown up reading graphic novels such as Tintin and Asterix, where common people are heroes. So, it’s just to show that an ordinary boy like Anshuman can still be a hero. We just wanted to tell a story of an ordinary person in an extraordinary way.

What creative need in you did Lakadbaggha satisfy?

I don’t know anything else other than telling stories. This is a story that all of us wanted to tell. The film talks about animal love which is dear to my heart and I got to talk about it through Lakadbaggha. In my house in Kolkata, we have a lot of dogs, cats, and stray animals. I support a few animal charities in Mumbai.

I don’t believe in God. But I believe in good. Through their art, artists want to convey what they believe in. So, I want to convey that do something good. In everything that I do in life, I will try to say something that I believe in. So, Lakadbaggha is my ode to believing in good.

What has Lakadbaggha given you and/or taken away from you?

Lakadbaggha has taken away mediocrity from me. At some point in life, we get comfortable with getting big things, working with big teams, and everything that we get. I have directed shows and series before. So, I was used to abundance. Lakadbaggha gave me things just enough. It’s not a very big-budget film. It’s not a small-budget film either. It’s just enough of what the film required. Lakadbaggha taught me how to use the given resources to the optimum level and still make the best out of them. It got me out of my mediocrity, and it was the first step toward making myself better.

What the film gave me was the crew. I would like to work with them again – the stylist, assistant director, music director, and cinematographer (DP). Our DP Jean-Marc Selva is a 59-year-old man but he had more energy than me. We shot the film handheld. Going around the streets of Kolkata with steady cam and rigs was a task for a 59-year-old French man who doesn’t understand English. But he did it with a smile on his face.

Even the sound recordist Abhishek Nayyar. He made a busy Kolkata Street stop just with his voice so that we could use sync sound. So, it was a group of passionate people who came together. All of us came out of our comfort zone to make this film. This whole experience has given me strength and taught me that all we need is intent to make a film and everything else will fall into place.

After debuting with an action-thriller, what other genres do you want to explore?

The other film that I have already completed is a sci-fi romance. It’s like Christopher Nolan meets romance. My next film is a tragedy. As a genre, I love tragedy a lot. My favorite films are the ones with tragic endings. I write a lot. There’s another film which is from my childhood. I used to play cricket professionally. So, that film is my ode to cricket.

Which films and filmmakers have had an influence on you?

Edgar Wright, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, and of course Satyajit Ray because I am grown up with that. Also, I make sure that I watch anything that Sriram Raghavan makes. Super Deluxe and Kantara also made a lot of impact on me. But Edgar Wright because of his storytelling style which is sort of comic book-like. And Tarantino for just being brutal about what he feels.

Adding to these influences, hypothetically, which filmmaker would you like to cast someday in your film?

Kenneth Branagh. He’s an actor-director. I know many people did not like Tenet, but I loved him in it. I cried when I watched Belfast (2021). I would love to cast him.

From the Indian film industry, I would like to cast Rishab Shetty. There’s something in that guy. I would like to see how he’s reacting to the camera when he’s not directing. I loved his Kirik Party (2016). So, I directed a chat show called Famously Filmfare which featured 60 different actors from across India. I met a lot of people on that show. During the research, I watched a lot of vernacular films, but Kirik Party stayed with me. So, when I interviewed Rakshit Shetty who made Charlie 777, even he was talking about Rishab. Then I realized that this guy (Rishab) must be something.

Lastly, tell me why should people watch Lakadbaggha?

If you are someone who wants to make a difference in your life and someone else’s life as well, please give this film a shot. I’m sure you will come out of the film a different person.


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