#Kolkata: Ramkamal Mukherjee. The journey began with journalism. Then he focused on making pictures. ‘Kekwalk’ and ‘Season Greetings’, the director told stories of slightly different tastes, different thoughts. He is an expatriate in terms of work. But it was in Calcutta that he grew up. After making pictures in foreign language, I wanted to tell stories in my mother tongue, Bengali. But if you want to tell a story in Bengali, the story has to be absolutely authentic. Let the weaving of the story have the natural character of Bengal. That’s where the thinking started.
Ramkamal grew up in North Kolkata. There is a lot of nostalgia in his mind. From there the ‘rickshaw puller’ was born. ‘Riksawala’ has recently been released on a streaming platform. Award winning films at various film festivals at home and abroad.
The inspiration for this film is Ramkamal’s childhood. In his words, ‘I saw the hand drawn rickshaw very closely. Going to school, coming back from school, going around with my mother, I used to travel more by hand rickshaw. I have seen their life very closely. A rickshaw puller was hired to facilitate the journey. He used to go to the country. He used to come back and tell the story of the country. Chatur used to drink sherbet, Chatu used to eat macha. In the afternoon he would sit under the tree and eat bread and curry. I have never forgotten all this. When I thought of making Bengali films, it seemed that their story had not come out in that way till now. They live in Calcutta. But not Bengali. So maybe they didn’t get a place in any story like that. That is the origin of ‘Riksawala’.
Ramkamal in Bengali film
The casting of this film has been done by auditioning. But Ramkamal could not find a suitable actor to play the role. The ones you were getting in Kolkata were basically models. Although he matched in terms of appearance, he could not act. On the other hand, those who are able to act, their appearance does not match. The director was sitting in absolute hope. Ramkamal finally met Abinash at a party. Seeing him, the director thinks that the character of ‘Riksawala’ will suit this boy well.
But Mumbai actors don’t want to do much in Bengali films. Abinash showed enough curiosity in that place. He came to Calcutta and did a workshop. He pulls the rickshaw barefoot. So the director wants to give a lot of credit to Abinash for this film.
The life of a rickshaw puller is strained in his life. Ramkamal said, ‘I wanted to tell a story that would touch people’s hearts. Which will speak to people like you and me. ‘Riksawala’ means three aspects of Manoj’s life. Equation with her lover. The equation with Baudi and her family, the ups and downs of life. I have tried to highlight the complexities of the life of the rickshaw puller as well as his lover, Baudi.
The life of a rickshaw puller is strained …
“The thing that really fascinates me is that these rickshaw pullers live in Kolkata but they don’t exist that way. How much do we know about the lives of these people. We have tried to highlight this neglect.”
Rickshaw pullers have already received several awards. But not the prize, in fact Ramkamal works in the intoxication of making pictures. He dreams of making ‘good pictures’. The shooting of ‘Riksawala’ has been done from all the real locations. Although the whole team has to get a lot of speed for him. All in all, the director is happy that the film was made in the midst of hardships.