Dibakar Banerjee’s directorial debut Khosla Ka Ghosla was released in 2006, two-and-a-half years after it was made. The story of a retired middle class man fighting to get his land back from a crooked property dealer was a hit, winning the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi and being remade in Tamil. Banerjee talks about how the waiting period helped him lose his arrogance.
Dibakar Banerjee: I lost my arrogance. Now I just act arrogant.
Anupama Chopra: Andar se, you’re very humble?
DB: Inside, I’m like putty. Those two-and-a-half years is when I lost my arrogance because I was realising that I was getting dark.
AC: Getting curdled?
DB: I was just becoming extremely depressed and negative. And then I had a chat with my wife and it was quite an interesting chat. From the next day onwards, I basically gave up on the film.
AC: Gave up on it?
DB: On releasing it. In a few days, I got a call from some producer who had seen it in one of those interminable distributor screenings. They’re the joke of the town. Every two months, people screen the film to another distributor. Everybody had seen the film.
AC: I’d seen it. I remember Jaideep (Sahni) had asked me to see it.
DB: We asked everybody to. We pretty much stopped people on the road and asked them to come and watch the film. In one of those many many screenings, a producer called up and said, ‘I have one crore. Let’s do a film.’ So I started getting one or two offers like that. Then I started opening up and I realised that Khosla…was my film school. Maybe it will never release. I’ll have to start all over again. But this experience is invaluable.
AC: You could see that?
DB: Gradually. I had stopped my ad films. I had taken the risk of stepping out of my advertising life. I was more or less subsisting on my wife’s earnings. These things are more or less papered over. But if I did not have my wife’s earnings at that point to not only survive but thrive on, living in an okay house and having an okay lifestyle, God knows what I would have done. I never had to struggle like many many other film professionals who have come to Bombay. It’s one of the most ruthless cities on people who come from the outside, for the first one year or so. The lifestyle is shit. When you live like that, when you live like a vermin in a small vermin hole somewhere and every morning you’re landing up at the set, trying to do something with the film, God knows what it does to your self esteem. You’ve come from a lovely, loving family with more rooms and more space and more privacy, and then you’re in this kabootar khana. God knows what it does to people’s psyche. But I was very lucky. I was sustained by my own little packet that I had earned by making ad films and then I was subsisting on my wife’s salary and I said, ‘This is too good.’ I’m in Bombay, my film’s being seen, I’m getting more offers. Let’s start with my first film all over again. The moment I thought like that, UTV got the film and they started talking about releasing, not releasing. The moment I got out of it, I’ve tried to hold on to that lesson, the moment something good happens, I step away from it and then let it flow.
AC: Don’t get too attached?
DB: Don’t get too attached.