Mission Majnu Director Shantanu Bagchi feels ecstatic about the Sidharth Malhotrastarrer, who rules Netflix’s top 10 movies in India. While some may think this is the film debut of the award-winning advertiser, his first film as a child artist was Satyajit Ray’s Sonar Kella. Speaking to Hindustan Times, Shantanu recalled his fond memories of Ray, which sparked his interest in filmmaking, and his last experience with Mission Majnu.
Several fans were hoping for a theatrical release of Mission Majnu and many repeated it on Twitter even after it landed on Netflix on Jan. 20. Shantanu reasoned their decision: “A lot of people say that, but in today’s day and age, the reach that Netflix can bring is absolutely amazing. For example, even though I knew it was released in 190 countries, I had my doubts that anyone other than Indians would watch it. I was thinking maybe people in India will watch it but I never thought it would rank 5th in UK or 6th in Canada in the best watch list.
Though the reception of the spy thriller came as a surprise to the director, many people compared the film to Alia Bhatt’s spy drama, Raazi. What does Shantanu think? He replied: “At the time of the trailer’s release, everyone was talking about the elements that should be in a spy story. First of all, I’ve never understood what it means to review a trailer. You can review a movie, but I haven’t gotten around to how to review a trailer yet. But people watch and do that, there must be a good reason for that.”
“By watching the trailer, you are commenting on a movie you haven’t seen. Maybe you should wait, watch the movie and then you might be in the right position to comment. But people say it’s the same, there’s a spy going to Pakistan, but that’s elements. If you watch the film, you will see that it is completely different. It is based on a true story that actually happened. In this story, the spy is an intelligent man who thinks laterally, he is not snooping for someone to find out. He’s trying to find something and it’s an interesting story about a spy with a clear mind, sticking to some sort of realistic situation, rather than many other spy movies you’ve seen. They are glorified, almost like superheroes. Sure, there are some action sequences (in Mission Majnu) that aren’t quite as realistic, but… I think they’ll add to the suspense. There are some people, even after looking at it, who say you know it’s just like Raazi. I have no answer for them.”
The movie is also missing Rashmika Mandana‘s voice. When Shantanu was asked about it, he revealed why they chose dubbing. “Rashmika tried it in one of the Hindi workshops, but it was a Pakistani dialect with some Urdu nuqta (the way of pronouncing and expressing the words). Those things didn’t happen because she was born and raised with a certain language. We dubbed the voice with someone who is good at it.”
But did Rashmika feel comfortable? “No actor is comfortable with you dubbing their voice. That’s a given. But we tried to dub the voice very close to their inflection. Shantanu added that about 10-15 voice actors were tested over multiple rounds to find the perfect match while focusing only on pronunciations.
Shantanu’s film was the first Hindi film shot by Rashmika, but her debut title went to Vikas Bahl’s Goodbye. But the director has no problem with it. “There are certain things in life that are beyond your control. If a movie’s release isn’t in your hand, I wouldn’t worry about it at all. I would be concerned about the role of the actor in my film. I wasn’t worried at all because I knew she did a great job. If the audience sees something good, they will record it, which they did. I never worried about what that other movie is and how people will react to it.
Shantanu spearheaded several popular advertisements and eventually navigated his way into movies. But was it an easy journey or was the stakes even higher than for a rookie? “When you do something new in your life, there is a lot at stake. It’s true for everyone. But one has to take the plunge and approach it with honesty, integrity, positivity and trying. I think advertisements are a great training ground.”
“Now you’ve come to a place where the size is big, the risk is bigger and you have to tell a different story. How to adapt it to entertain the audience is the real task. Chances are you’ll fail because you’ve never done it before. But if one is aware, one can try to reduce errors,’ he said from experience.
It was Satyajit’s 1969 hit film Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne that made Shantanu his fan. He shared, “Watched Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne with grandfather. I asked him who is Satyajit Ray. What role does he play? My grandfather told me that he is not in the movie, but everything happens on the screen thanks to him. I was intrigued by the idea that there was a guy for whom everything happens in the movie, but you can’t see him. Maybe that sparked my curiosity and interest (in movies).”