Lessons that young film makers can learn from Basu Chatterjee

Basu Chatterjee left us for heavenly abode on 4th June 2020 after a long and fulfilling life. For many young people, this name might not be very familiar but for those who followed Hindi cinema in the 70s and 80s, or those who are movie buffs, this would be a big loss. Alongside Hrishikesh Mukharjee and Basu Bhattacharya, Chatterjee was pivotal in making films that are termed as ” middle of the road cinema. ” i.e. The cinema which can neither be called mainstream and nor parallel cinema. The trio had perfected the formula of mixing good cinema with box numbers. Critics would argue that ultimately Chaterjee’s films didn’t do the numbers and the industry had forgotten him, but for a good part of two decades, he truly lived up to the reputation of being a ” director of his times.”
For young filmmakers, Basu’s life and career can be a source house of inspiration. 

1. The volume of work

In between 1972-80, Chatterjee had 19 releases, including Rajnigandha (1974), Choti si Baat (1976) and Khatta Meetha (1978). This might sound surreal for many filmmakers. It just got to show that you need to make the best use of your peak because you don’t know for how long you are going to get work or be acceptable in the industry. 

2. Education about films

No matter which profession you choose, having some education (even if not formal) about it goes a long way. Even for creative fields that demand a certain degree of imagination and rawness, education can only upgrade and polish your skills. Chatterjee worked as a cartoonist, a career he pursued for 15-16 years and only later he associated himself with the Film society Movement from where he learned about world cinema and the infinite scope of cinema. His curiosity arose and soon he was assisting Basu Chatterjee in Tessri Kasam (1966) and three years later directing his own film. 

3. Age is no bar

You might be in your late 20s or early 30s, and afraid to switch to an uncertain career. Basu was 39 when his first film Sara Akash released. From then he went on to make 42 Hindi films, apart from about a dozen Bengali films and TV shows. 

4. Stick to your strength

The 70s and 80s were a very unique time in Hindi cinema. At one end, you had these mainstream filmmakers producing formula films starring Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra. These movies generally had a lot of action. Drama, romance as well a comedy – a typical Bollywood film. On the other hand, you had the parallel cinema movement led by Shyam Benegal, Bimal Roy, Govind Nilhani, and so on. But Charlterjre worked on his stories and his style. He chose stories of the urban middle class and their everyday struggles. 

5. Capturing the times

Chatterjee was a filmmaker of his times, but his films seem relevant across generations as well. ” The films that portrays larger than life characters can entertain us for a while but they generally can’t educate us about the people and cultures at a time. All the great literature and cinema has the quality of telling us about the people and society of that time. Chatterjee told stories of ordinary people with extra ordinary story telling skills. Not only people, Chatejee also captures the heartbeats of the cities in which the film is shot. Choti si Baat is as much as. Story of Bombay as of Arun and Prabha.
 
6. Good films need not be successful

In an interview ON Rajya Sabha TV, Chatterjee says that his first Film Sara Akash has been most special to him even if it was not appreciated by the audiences as much as his other films. ” The success of the film is not about the money alone. Only the films made for the market are successful. Different people can like different things bout a film. Money can’t be the only yardstick ” he says. 

7. Diversity of characters 

Perera, Nancy, Tony, Boman, Batliwala, Daruwala, Arun, Prabha, Mr. Parekhthe characters in Chaterjee’s films were as diverse as India. There are very few mainstream filmmakers who have shown the everyday lives of minority groups through their cinema. This is the reason why Basu’s films have a personal feel. 

8. Passion 

The only thing that stops you from making films is only you. Basu Chatterjee kept making well over his 80s and felt as excited about any new subject on which he could films. 

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