Vishal Chaliha is a director and screenwriter from Guwahati, India. Academically, Vishal is a BCom graduate from Guwahati Commerce College. Sijou is Vishal’s very first feature film. Before making Sijou he made a few documentaries like Sabdhan, 40 Years in The Wild etc.
Film Critic UTPAL DATTA had a long chat with him. Here is an edited selection of that conversation.
Overview of Sijou : Sijou tells the story of a monk who recalls his life which he had spent in his village and then as a slave. It is based on the feudal land tenure system which was prevalent near the India and Bhutan border till 1958 when it was abolished by the then king of Bhutan Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. It is produced by Preeyam Kherkatary Chaliha and Omprakash Kherkatary, Cinematography by Asutosh Kashyap, Music by Dhrubajyoti Patgiri, Sound Designing by Debajit Changmai and Bulganin Baruah. Jayanta Narzary, Kamleshwar Basumatary, Bijit Basumatary and Omprakash Kherkatary are the main cast. Bijit Basumatary who played the character of Sijou has won Best Child Actor at the 12th Washington DC South Asian Film Festival held in the month of January 2022.
Where do I see myself in the film: I am a firm believer that extreme form of nationalism has become the root cause of Wars, battles, brutality etc. As a whole, we have forgotten that nations, countries, continents don’t exist scientifically. It’s an Inter subjective reality that we humans have created and because of such creation, we have exploited ourselves. In the film Sijou, I have taken a stand for not going for an extreme form of Nationalism. We all should love our country but when we become so selfish, we forget that we are humans and that’s where the problems start to arise and that is where I see myself in the story. The entire thing which I have said is what I have tried to say throughout the film.
Problems Vishal faced: From the financial side, I was quite happy. Things happened most of the time according to my vision. About the creative challenges, when I was recruiting, I recruited most of the talents whom I know, with whom I share my ideas. They have an idea of my thought and vision. I recruited those people with whom I have a good understanding and that is very important when you make a film or create any piece of art which requires a team effort. If I have to cite the problem, then I would say it happened when our shoot was over. I was skeptical about whom to go for as the Sound Designer and Re-recording mixer of the film. Because I gave a lot of emphasis on the Sound. I wanted someone who can create that atmosphere through sound. Debangkar Borgohain, a well-known editor working in the Assamese film industry recommended Debajit Changmai. He asked me to send the film and he will let me know after watching it. I was waiting for his call and then it was all set to go. He was willing to do the Sound Designing of the film along with his team. I wanted to go for a wholesome cinematic experience and because of that, I tried to give importance to each and every department of the film.
Experiences in IFFI and BIFFES: IFFI and BIFFES both are good film festivals but somewhere I felt IFFI was much bigger because of its reception, audience etc. The reaction of the audience at IFFI was good. People loved our film. The reaction at BIFFES was excellent. The projectionist guy came out of that hole when our film got over. He just shouted and said that he loved our film a lot and people of different age groups loved our film. I never believed that there is anything called a target audience and I have got the proof at BIFFES where old people, young people loved, clapped, and blew whistles at the end.
PLAN to Take the Film: Festival circuits are really good. You get to learn, meet, know about the cinema in a very close encounter. Apart from that, we are planning to release the film all across Assam in other languages as well. We are planning to dub the film in Assamese or Hindi so that it reaches more people.
What made Vishal choose filmmaking: The answer is very simple, PASSION, a mad desire to tell a story. I am madly passionate about telling stories, about expressing myself, how I see the world, how I feel about human relations, how I see and understand things, all these I can express through cinema and that’s the most important reason behind choosing the art of making movies.
Utpal Datta is one of the leading Indian film critics. His latest book FILM APPRECIATION is being appreciated across the globe. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HB1CbcCjHmI&ab_channel=UtpalDatta
Keywords Sijou, Vishal P Chaliha, Bodo Film, IFFI, Utpal Datta, Film Appreciation,