FILMMAKER AND DIRECTOR: RAJA MUKERJI
Interview by Shailik Bhaumik
Image (above) Director and Filmmaker, Raja Mukerji
Cult Critic’s Shailik Bhaumik had an opportunity to get a brief interview with Raja Ram Mukerji, this month’s Calcutta International Cult Film Festival best short film entry. Here’s what Indian filmmaker and director Raja Mukerji had to say about his life, his philosophy and his intense love of filmmaking and the arts. Raja talks about following his calling into the movie industry and the influence of his father Ram, a famous filmmaker and director in his own right.
SHAILIK: Raja, first of all let me congratulate you on your recent award at CICFF for the film “Everything is Fine”. The film is mainly based on the emotional attachment of the mother/daughter relationship. Why did this particular subject matter attract you?
RAJA: it’s very real and relatable. And it exists not only in our society, but also globally.
SHAILIK: In “Everything is Fine” you have given emphasis to the collectivism of Indian family, which is the opposite of individualism as, a sense of harmony, interdependence and concern for others. Where and how do you think this ideology adheres to the Indian patriarchal society?
RAJA: Could you reframe this question?
SHAILIK: It has been observed that, in respect to the patriarchal ideology, Indian women have to compromise most aspects of their lives, including career choices, mate selection, and marriage. But why is this family integrity, family loyalty, and family unity so important in traditional, eastern societies?
RAJA: it is indeed a vital part of our lives. It’s been there and followed from ages since our ancestors… the culture and the unity among each other is a treasure which we keep intact through each other, and we follow it religiously. Our culture is rich with offerings and we have to share them with others.
SHAILIK: Could you please tell us about your Journey in the film industry and about your previous works?
RAJA: My father Ram Mukerji is a director, he has directed films like Hum Hindustani, Ek Bar Mooskurado, so I have films inside me, and I assisted my dad in some of his Bengali films. I started my career as a fashion stylist for Rani Mukerji and did fifteen films as her costume designer. I choreographed fashion shows in Mumbai; I worked in different production companies, and then started directing television series for Doordarshan, Sahara one and shot some tv commercials. I also directed a Bengali film titled Bidhataar Lekha; commercially released in 2007. After that I again directed serials for Ekta Kapoor Balaji telefilms titled Bade Acche Lagte Hain and Pavitra Rishta, then I joined Yashraj Films Pvt Ltd and executed films in the production division as a senior executive of production.
SHAILIK: What are the challenges working and surviving in Bollywood today?
RAJA: Challenges are everywhere in whichever field you are working in. Bollywood too has a lot of challenges, competition and rivalry. But I believe that if one is honest, hardworking; passionate and disciplined, nothing can stop him or her in achieving their goals in life.
SHAILIK: What do you think will be the impact of Everything is Fine on Indian audiences who are much too comfortable with watching Masala Movies (Spice Movies) of Bollywood?
RAJA: Everything is Fine is an emotional drama between mother and daughter and people today see different films in different ways. They make up their minds as to what they want to feel while watching a film. My subject is very relatable. I think all viewers would connect to it, because it’s not fantasy – its real.
SHAILIK: What is the trend of current Indian movies? Does it seem to be moving in any particular direction?
RAJA: No, not necessarily. I feel it’s more about how you are presenting your film to the audience; it’s about how you are telling your story. Any genre is welcome provided it’s presented well. If you can touch the heart of the audience through any subject, you are a winner and a trend setter.
SHAILIK: Story telling (Narrative) or spectacles (Song, dance & action) which one is important to you?
RAJA: Storytelling of course. Through your story and your songs, actions emerge.
SHAILIK: Why audience will wait to watch the films of Raja?
RAJA: Because raja will always make movies which will touch the hearts of people through his work.
SHAILIK: And my last question: How difficult is it to say “everything is fine” to your parents when you know nothing is fine and nothing will ever be fine again?
RAJA: It is very difficult… really this has been happening everywhere with most of the people. They don’t want to admit the truth or stress out their elders; mostly their parents as they fear they may cause more tension and their health may suffer. It has happened to me a lot of times in my life, where I have gone through mental stress and agony after doing this, so I understand the pain people go through in life. They don’t want their parents to be a part of it, later realising at times that even that has bad results, and sometimes you just have to get over it. Thank you Shailik, it was a pleasure.
Raja Mukerji on the set of “Everything is Fine”
Shailik Bhaumik is an award-winning filmmaker and entrepreneur. Known for his feature film “Dasein”, Shailik is the founder and Chairman of Human Lab Corporation, a Multinational Film Company whose mission it is to help Independent Filmmakers survive and thrive in this highly competitive industry. Shailik oversees worldwide operations including production, distribution, and marketing for HLC’s live-action films, as well as films released under the HLC banner.