Thursday, July 18, 2024

Meet Subrat Kakati, the young man who directed Sri Raghupati (Exclusive interview)

Krishnakshee Sarma

Sri Raghupati, an Assamese film released in June 2023, has managed to bewitch audiences due to its story, direction and acting. With actor Ravi Sharma in the lead role, this cinematic gem, released in 2023, has soared to unexpected heights of commercial success, making it one of the most successful films in Assamese cinema. Join us in this conversation with the film’s visionary director, Subrat Kakoti, as we talk about his challenges and profound insights about the realm of cinema.

Sri Raghupati is like a milestone in Assamese cinema. What inspired you to make the film?

Sri Raghupati was quite a lengthy project. We commenced work on it in 2019, but then many obstacles like COVID, lockdown, and financial issues came up. And those made the journey of making Sri Raghupati much longer than we had expected. But as we know, without struggle, there is no success, and now the results are in front of us.

What inspired you to take up direction?

I think my inclination towards direction is hereditary in nature. Both my parents and my grandfather were involved in acting and drama, and I grew up watching them. I did my first play when I was in 4th grade in a children’s theatre. I started with drama, basically, on the stage of Golaghat Amateur Theatre Society. Then I started writing plays as well as directing them. In fact, I wished to be an actor during my childhood. But then, as I grew up, I realised that I enjoyed direction more.

You have mentioned that you dreamt of being an actor. Have you ever acted in any dramas or films?

Yes, I did act; I have been acting for a long time, and that is why I can understand the nuances of people who act in my films. I understand the psychology of actors before preparing them for their shots. And I can even tackle the problems that the actors have confronted me with.

What are the key differences between acting and direction?

Acting is like living the character one is playing on screen, but direction is much larger than that. The directors are like the supervisors. They need to know music, editing, acting, and, most importantly, manage it all together. Acting and directing are entirely different from one another. We can see that actors who play lead roles in movies do not frequently direct them, and Amir Khan’s direction of Darshil Safari’s lead role in Taare Zameen Par is a prime example of this.

Did you face any obstacles while shooting for Sri Raghupati?

Finding a producer for the movie was a tough task for us before we started shooting for the film. It was a big-budget movie, and as a new director, it was hard for me to convince the producers. I was 24 at the time, and Sri Raghupati was my first project. Many people warned Ravi Sharma as well, saying it was risky to let such a young guy handle such a big project. Some people even advised him to let me work but to show his name as the director. But I am grateful that he is such a nice and genuine person that he decided to let me keep my name as the director. He is indeed a great person.

You have acted on stage as well as in cinemas. What were the differences?

There are many. When I stepped into the world of cinema, I stopped working on stage entirely. That is because both of them are totally opposite of one another. Had I worked in both theatre and film simultaneously, there were chances that I would have overridden both of their impacts.

Your project, Bidurbhai, was popular among the Assamese audience. How does fame impact your life?

Bidurbhai was an experimental project, to be honest. We made it for fun. But it did bring about big changes in my life. People started to recognise my mettle as a director after Bidurbhai. That boosted my spirits to take up a big project like Sri Raghupati. Moreover, its team provided the most important support for me. The team is very special to me as it has been 10 years since we have been working together; we used to do dramas together before, and we also shifted to Guwahati together.

Do you think with the rise of OTT platforms, the interest in cinema halls has decreased?

The phone screen experience can never beat the experience of a movie hall. Just like people shop using various mobile apps, but that does not stop them from visiting malls. No shopping app can ever replace the mall experience. The same goes for the OTT and movie hall experiences as well. Bidurbhai can be enjoyed on the phone, but as for Sri Raghupati, we need to go to the movie hall to enjoy it fully. So, we need to ensure a fine balance between both.

Many people in the Assamese film industry complain about the issue of budget. How did it become possible for a new and young director like you to approach Ravi Sharma for a big-budget project like Sri Raghupati?

When we were writing this movie, the budget was roughly Rs 1 crore. But when we approached the first producer, he offered to increase the movie budget to 1.5 crore, and that is why we worked on the vision. After that, for some reason, he could not continue with us. That is when we approached Sailen Sharma Da, our producer, and he suggested increasing the budget to 2 crores, and I am really thankful to him for that. That is why sometimes I feel like whatever happens happens for good. The delay in commencing the film actually enabled us to produce a better project for the audience.

How did you approach and convince Ravi Sharma to play a role in Sri Raghupati?

I did not cast him; I would rather say that he chose me. At the national level, 2 crore is not that big of a budget. But in Assamese movies, it is. Had the audience demanded some extra time in Sri Raghupati, it would have cost us another 15-20 lacs, but we somehow managed to make it under 2 crores. I am hopeful that that the budget of Assamese movies will increase now. I am equally hopeful about the culture of Assam and the people who love it. We have a big market yet to be explored.

What are your plans for the future?

I am currently planning for my upcoming projects. We will continue Bidurbhai, and the audience has been demanding it for a long time as well.

You are an inspiration to young talents looking to join regional cinema. What will your message be to your fellow professionals?

Seeking passion is the most important thing. It is sad that nowadays young talents are being misled and thus they get involved in drinking, smoking, etc. It is totally wrong and baseless. The only thing that matters is following your passion and having self-confidence.

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