Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The Dibakar Banerjee files

The new issue of The Caravan has my profile/interview/general-reflections piece on director Dibakar Banerjee. The first thing – quite possibly the only thing – you will notice about the story is that it is Very Long. (The first draft was more than one-fifth the size of the Jaane bhi do Yaaro book.) But it could have been even longer, and at some point in the not-too-near future I may put up an extended/modified version here (or the full transcripts of conversations spread over many days). Meanwhile, here’s the Caravan link again.

Update: I hereby excuse myself from responsibility for any insane grammatical errors in the piece (I just noticed one, in the single excerpt I've read, and there must be more). Pity, but such oversights often happen with pieces of this length, involving a long-drawn-out process of revisions and overenthusiastic/hurried proofing. (It happened with the Jaane bhi do Yaaro book, where the Harper Collins desk blithely introduced errors into the copy at the last possible stage.)


  1. A great read..!! His very intention of reinventing himself with his every piece of work makes him so different and superior from his contemporaries..

  2. Brilliant jai - it's a very well researched piece. And you sure are very honest to present dibakar the very way you saw him. The part on him being a little too serious about his creative arc, the part about him cutting his sentence midway and improving it perhaps will never be written about any director, I guess. It gave me an entirely different perspective on the image I had. I thought he would be more like a guy, who takes himself casually.

  3. Fantastic piece.
    Have been a regular reader of your blog for quite some time now. Couldn't resist myself from congratulating you on this wonderful post. Being a fan of Banerjee's films myself, it was just fascinating to learn so much more about his personality and the workings of his brilliant mind. Especially loved the little paradoxes in his thought process and the apprehensions of his parents.
    Thank you and waiting impatiently for the original/enlarged version.

  4. Great write-up Jai. I have enjoyed Banerjee's films, especially Khosla ka Ghosla and Shanghai and it was good to get a peek into his mind.

    The photographs are rather evocative - are they clicked by you?

    And yes, cheers to 2013!

  5. I thought he would be more like a guy, who takes himself casually.

    Pessimist Fool: but he does often take himself casually too, and I tried to capture some of that in the piece. With something of this word-length, one has to make an effort to catch the many sides and moods of a person (and in the process acknowledge the limits of your own perception as a writer), rather than reduce him to clear-cut descriptions like "He takes himself too seriously" or "He is very casual."

  6. Manreet, Anunay, Mukesh: thanks. Mukesh: yes, I am clinging quite possessively to the material I have - more than 40,000 words spread over around five files - and hope to use some of it elsewhere.

  7. The photographs are rather evocative - are they clicked by you?

    Manreet: oh no! Would love to take responsibility for them, but I'm not anywhere close to being a professional photographer.

  8. Was waiting for my always-late copy of Caravan to read the piece, desperately keeping at bay the urge to read it online. It arrived this morning.

    Good work, Jai.

  9. “No. What I mean is that when you see the films you will know me. That’s different from an autobiography, which is a conscious presentation of oneself. Knowing the person is more complex.”

    I would like to believe he has achieved it. I'd have a hard time accepting Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! so minimally 'as the sum total of the accidents of production' - as he puts it.

  10. Brilliant piece, Jai. There is something about the quiet growth and success of Dibakar Banarjee, unlike the brash, clamorous cult of Kashyap, who find an excuse to talk about their indie aspirations and their struggles at every instant and are too in your face. Maybe that's a bit unfair to Kashyap, as your article suggests his struggles were far greater but you have captured that difference very well here.

    Now to rewatch Oye Lucky Lucky Oye, his best work for me!

  11. A lot about Dibakar Banerjee arouses curiosity. While this article was a nice read on his cinema, there is far little exploration of his persona. The writer ventured there briefly with frequent references to his parents, but I wonder why other people were not interviewed. Why not his wife, too? It would have been marvelous to hear from people who worked with him. How do Boman and Paresh Rawal talk about their experiences of working with him? What does Abhay Deol have to say? I thought the stress on the parents was a little overdone. Also, given the current public debates in the country, I can't help but think back to the casting couch allegations against him. His body of work is really quite scarce. This could have been a nice opportunity to explore more about Dibakar the person and his process of filmmaking. Am hoping your unused material would have some answers to these questions :-)

  12. Jai, great stuff - reminded me of New Yorker profiles!

    I was interested to read your comparisons of Dibakar with Satyajit Ray. Ray was also an obsessive storyboarder & doodler. Both started in ad agencies. Both seem to be very immersed in music scores for their films. Both have made/are making movies with Byomkesh Bakshi.

    Also, as the previous poster wrote, it would have been good to hear from his wife.