Samik Roychowdhury is an Indian independent filmmaker, who worked in the VFX Department of various Hollywood blockbusters. His tryst with filmmaking brought him back to his own country, where he began his diurnal struggles with Loner Lost (in) Sanity. He is currently busy with his upcoming film D-Major, which has already begun its international festival rounds. Samik spent two valuable hours with us, talking about his life and works via Facebook Messenger.
KMDB: Samik, welcome to Kolkata Movie Database
KMDB: It is an honour for to have you among us. We are really excited for D-Major. We loved the poster and the teaser.
Samik: Thanks a lot… Am glad…
KMDB: Thank you for connecting with us. So, let’s rewind a bit. Could you tell us about your relationship with Cinema? How did it all begin? How is the journey till date?
Samik: In my childhood, I always wondered how wonderfully a story is told through films. I used to imagine a story through visuals in my mind… Even when anyone told me a story, I used to imagine visuals. Later I was super excited about how they show talking animals, unreal creatures and unreal worlds or situations in films. Hence I studied Visual effects and worked in the VFX industry for 5 years. Then eventually I came into film making.
KMDB: That’s wonderful. We want to know more about your life and work in the VFX industry. We know that you worked in the VFX Department of some international blockbusters.
Samik: A journey of 5 years as VFX technical director started when all my friends waited for adding experience in their CV and I thought of applying at the Biggest VFX studio in India. I worked for 10 Hollywood features as a VFX TD. Night at the Museum 2, The Mummy 3, Alvin and the Chipmunks and Life of Pi are some of the blockbusters to name. I also worked as a VFX supervisor for Manoj Michigan’s 89, a Bengali film.
KMDB: That’s great. What was it like working in the aforementioned big banner productions? Was it like a dream come true?
Samik: Absolutely, I used to wonder how such huge pipeline works. I learnt a lot from these productions. Mostly, I learnt about team working. Moreover, we used to get the scripts of those films. I read all of those which were sent to our department. That’s when I first wrote my short film.
KMDB: Okay. Interesting. Was that D-Major?
Samik: D-Major is a feature length film. I have done 11 more short films prior to this. A couple of documentaries, and several ad and corporate films are also in my bag.
KMDB: Yes. We are aware. That’s what we were trying to figure out. So, what was that short? That was your first directorial right?
Samik: It was Loner Lost (in) Sanity, which got me several film fest official selections and awards. It was also selected for Toronto After Dark Film Festival. It was a dark film of a neglected housewife. It’s available online.
KMDB: What made you write a dark story of neglect as your first venture? Did any particular film or script inspire you?
Samik: A real life incident inspired me. A well dressed lady was murmuring alone on the streets of Hyderabad. I was wondering what her problems can be. My thoughts led me to the darker side of myself. I need to mention a weird thing here. Most of my films have a female protagonist.
KMDB: Okay. Tell us something about the other female protagonists of your films. Do they all have similar characteristic traits?
Samik: Not at all. I have encountered many shades, and I assume that I understand their psychology a bit. My Marathi short film Vanichi Vani had an adolescent girl who discovers the dark side of our society through her imaginary inanimate friends. In Yesterday, The protagonist misses her grandfather on Valentine’s Day, as he was the first boyfriend (childish connotation) she had. In D-Major, I’ve told a story about a journey of a desperate girl who wanted to learn guitar.
KMDB: Ah. Each character is totally different from the other. So, you won your first award with Loner Lost (in) sanity. The film also received accolades nationally and internationally. How much importance, do you think, do these awards and accolades have as far as enthusiasm and drive to work more is concerned?
Samik: They are important to me. They held my spirits high at a time when I was down and depressed. They are the reasons why I left my job and made D-Major.
KMDB: Could you explain the situation to us? We want people to know a bit more about your struggles and challenges you faced.
Samik: I left my job to make feature films, like thousands of aspiring film makers in this city do. I wrote 3 scripts of different genres, and struggled a lot to reach the producers. My dad always told me to be more patient. All the big and small producers I met were impressed by my short films, my achievements and my scripts, but no one had the courage to come forward to produce a film made by a newcomer. 3 years ago, at a short film award ceremony, I met Manoj Michigan. He was impressed by my work and encouraged me to do more. I told him that I wanted to work with him. After a few months, he gave me an opportunity to write dialogues and lyrics for his film 89. That was a break for me. I was still struggling to get a producer. I survived in this industry as I was writing, composing, editing and assisting. Suddenly, I signed a film based on a real story. The news came in the leading news papers too. But, for some uncertain reasons, that film never got to the floors. I was frustrated totally. My friends and family were by my side. One fine morning, I took a decision to make a film all by myself. I asked my theatre actor friends whether they would support me. I asked my editor friend, Sanglap, to edit my film but without any remunerations. All my friends came forward to support me because they believed in me and my script. I wrote a script that can be shot at places where we can shoot easily. I invested all my savings and FD’s to make the film and sold off my car to do the sound post. The film was half made when Shivanggi Chowdhury, a producer from Mumbai, watched that half-made copy and came forward to co-produce. She is a soul who is as passionate as me about film-making.
KMDB: A lot of struggle is giving way to D-Major. These words can act as inspirations for many. Did real life incidents witnessed by you drive you to write and direct D-Major? Or was it fully your conscience and imagination?
Samik: I had a band back in my school days. Senior musicians always told me that to understand music deeply one needs to indulge oneself into weed, drugs, and many kinds of intoxications. I never believed them. But I’ve seen many who took the wrong path and got deeply into drugs, and never succeeded in being a musician. This thought drove me, initially, to begin lettering the script, but eventually a lot from my life has come towards onto the scenes of this film. I myself am a composer, and music is my own domain. Thus I thought that it would be easy to make a film on music.
KMDB: Okay. So when are you planning to release this film?
Samik: After the festival rounds…
KMDB: The post production process is over?
Samik: Yes. All done and sent to the festival at San Francisco…
KMDB: That’s fantastic. You are gearing up for reviews then. How much does a review or criticism help in the development of a filmmaker? Do you cater more to the formal critiques, or are you more inclined towards the general audience review?
Samik: Any kind of review would help a filmmaker grow. But I guess we all have a way of telling a story, a way of painting a picture, a style of singing, which we should follow, no matter how bad the reviews are. We should stick to our path and just polish it to excellence. I’m inclined towards any film lover’s review.
KMDB: That’s an honest answer. Direct from the heart. What are you planning to offer us next after D-Major?
Samik: A psycho – thriller… A very different Indian film.
KMDB: Interesting. With a woman protagonist again?
Samik: I don’t want to reveal anything about this film. Let it be a surprise…
KMDB: Oh sure sure. We won’t ask about this film anymore. As an independent filmmaker, what would be your advice to other talented filmmakers who are trying to achieve something in the independent sector?
Samik: Never give up. That’s what I tell myself…
KMDB: Short and effective. This should be kept in mind. Thank you for being with us for this long. Before you go, could you give us some suggestions on the way we are trying to create a universal platform for independent films and theatres in India? How should we carry on with our plans and ideas?
Samik: I guess reaching out to more and more people should be the priority. You are already doing a great job. I appreciate your efforts and the support that you give independent filmmakers like us.
KMDB: Yes. We are reaching out more and more. We are working on that front. Thanks a lot Samik. We couldn’t have done anything without the support which you are providing us every single moment. We will come back to you soon with more discussions about D-Major. Thanks a lot again. Goodnight…
Samik: My best wishes to KMDB team. Good night
KMDB: Our best wishes to D-Major…
Interview conducted and Blog edited by Abhirup Sen (Editor-in-Chief, KMDB)