Though in the age of hyper-connectivity it’s almost impossible to imagine losing touch, time was when moving out of school or college would mean leaving friends behind, possibly forever, and reunions would be a much-awaited affair. Given the dramatic potential such reunions entail, it’s surprising that I am hard-pressed to think of one Hindi or Bengali film that has addressed this.
As such it is with some curiosity that one waits for Reunion. What adds to the interest quotient is that the film marks the debut of Murari Rakshit as director. “I was in college in the early 1990s and grew up in a district town of Bengal. I have seen hostel life and college politics at close quarters, witnessed leftist politics at its peak and its subsequent decay,” he says.
Reunion is set in Bengal among a group of college students in the 1990s who come together twenty-five years later. At present all of them are well settled in their professional and personal lives, except Rudra (Parambrata Chatterjee), who was involved in student politics and went missing in the middle of political violence. Meanwhile, his love interest during the college days, Monideepa (Raima Sen), is coping with an unhappy married life. How the friends reunite and go looking for their long-lost friend forms the crux of the story.
For a first-time film-maker, Murari Rakshit has managed to rope in a stellar cast. Apart from Raima and Parambrata, the film also stars that actor-for-all-seasons Sabyasachi Chakrabarty in a pivotal role. As supposed to Rudra’s value-based student leader, the film-maker describes Rudra’s mentor Manas Mukherjee (Sabyasachi) as the “antagonist”. Sabyasachi says, “My role of the politician has been framed as the antagonist, who does justice to his own ideas – he justifies his means by the ends.”
What is it that prompted such established names to trust a debutant? While the transition of idealistic politics to a lust for power and the possibilities offered by a twenty-five-year character graph appealed to Param, Raima says, “I liked the story as a whole and my character comes across as a woman of substance and values. Every film, every new character is a challenge for me.” Sabyasachi seconds that. “I usually do not choose my roles on the basis of screen-time or importance. I prefer to do so based on what I perceive of the director’s sincerity. The fate of a film does not always depend upon expertise in film-making. Every character has to be believable.”
The film had its share of problems, more so given that Rakshit produced it himself with his younger brother Subhajit. “I started planning it in 2013 but just couldn’t get it off the ground till 2018,” he says. From the way he describes it, Murphy’s Law seems to have been in full play right through. “I come from a completely non-film background with little technical or moviemaking knowledge and experience. And though the story attracted the leading stars, my lack of experience posed a challenge in managing so many dynamics – actors, the production team, the crew, the logistics.”
One of the challenges was the timespan the film covers, which entailed keeping in mind the changing landscape over twenty-five years, including the way the characters look. As Parambrata says, “I have tried to bring in nuances like a certain slowness and sluggishness in the latter part in contrast to the freshness of the first part, when he’s young and still a dreamer. But after twenty years he’s a lot more cynical, although still an optimist.”
If the response on social media is any indication, the film’s music is catching up big-time. “Music plays an important part in the movie. Today’s music is completely different from what it was in the 1990s, be it melody, lyrics or the whole arrangement,” says Rakshit. “Joy Sarkar worked really hard to capture the essence of the era’s music. It helped that he and I are of the same age group which helped us bond better. Also, singer-composer Nachiketa, a youth icon of the time, has an interesting cameo.”
Though Rakshit managed to assemble a good technical team, things often looked like they were falling apart. On the look-test day, the female lead didn’t turn up. She had taken on a ‘big’ project. However, the director signed Raima the same evening. Next, it was the DOP’s turn to back out, again because he had got a break with a big production house. The art director seemed to lose interest during pre-production, leaving the film-maker wringing his hands with the film ready to go on floor. Rakshit terminated her contract and brought in a new one. And once the shooting began, it was his chief AD who started playing truant. Finally, during post-production, the editor kept failing to deliver edits on time repeatedly. So he too was removed.
Even as the film readies for release, Rakshit’s trials are far from over as the firm handling the film’s PR and promotion has suddenly gone silent. However, with a release date of 7 December cast in stone, the director can now afford to philosophize. “The film was destined to happen and it’s ready! Parambrata helped a lot and we finished the shooting smoothly, though we overshot our budget. But that’s the cost of learning.”