Why everyone should watch this documentary on Chandannagar's grandest festival — Jagadhatri Puja

The producer of SAMAYITA (The Healer) explains to us why this docu-feature is not just a mere day-to-day documentation of Chandannagar's Jagadhatri Puja celebrations
Samayita Poster (Pic: Pushpen Saha)
Samayita Poster (Pic: Pushpen Saha)

'Maa' (Mother) is the incarnation of God’s affection. A philosopher once said that God created mothers because he was unable to reach everywhere. In today's age where women empowerment is the talk of the town, this documentary revolves around a similar theme and is seeking the answer to an extremely pertinent question — 'Are women really being empowered now or were they already more powerful as they have the unique power of giving birth?' SAMAYITA (The Healer), a docu-feature — as the makers would like to call it — is a story around a mother's journey as a daughter herself then becoming a caregiver to her own daughter, and the never-ending cycle that women go through. "Women are holding up the entire universal order in different aspects of everyday life — at home, on the road, at the workplace and more. Thus, the word 'Maa' plays a significant role in the entire theme of this documentary," says Pushpen Saha (29), the documentary's producer.

When asked what inspired the 29-year-old to get on board with the project, he says, "I have a film background as my family has been film exhibitors for three generations now. I always had the opportunity to watch a lot of movies that others couldn't. I still remember watching my first movie at the theatre with my mother — it was Baby's Day Out. However, during my MPhil days at Calcutta University, my mentor Professor Chinmoy Guha, inspired me. With his guidance, I learnt that films can have so many layers to them. He also gave me exposure to the world of international filmmaking. Also, literature, theatre and cinema being a major part of our syllabus helped too."

The team behind the making of the documentary

The documentary is an initiative by The Hugli River of Cultures Pilot Project, whose focus is the five former trading posts and garrison settlements up the Hugli river from the megacity of Kolkata — from Bandel to Barrackpore. Together they form a uniquely rich heritage corridor which is only now sporadically becoming the focus of national and individual international heritage initiatives. The hour-long docu-feature is made in association with IIT Kharagpur, University of Liverpool, ICHR and Arts and Humanities Research Council to promote the rich heritage. 

As a producer, Pushpen planned and coordinated various aspects of film production, such as selecting the script as well as coordinating the writing, directing and editing. Directed by Pinaki De, it has a storyline, a narrative of its own shown chronologically through the history of Jagadhatri Puja that is celebrated with grandeur every year in Chandannagar.

The story revolves around a chronological evolution of the puja keeping in mind the culture and the place where it's taking place. We are trying it to give it an international flavour to make it relatable to everyone across countries. This is not just a documentation of a puja parikrama (the plan or the ritual of visiting places or pandals during puja), this is more of a story from beginning to end, in order, revolving around the history, traditions and decorations, told through a well-knit story

Pushpen Saha, Producer

Dr Antara Mukherjee, the Lead Honorary Researcher of this project, who is coordinating with the local people, gave Pushpen the opportunity to be a part of this. Shooting began last year during Jagadhatri Puja and spanned from October 20 to November 20. It will be released in five chapters or episodes in the coming winter, during Jagadhatri Puja, which begins on November 3 this year, or just after it ends. The teaser was launched on January 20 this year at IICR Kolkata and received a positive response. The project's post-production is still going on.

Pushpen, who claims to be an aspiring actor, says that he wants to work in feature films and produce movies in the future. "I want to educate myself on the craft of filmmaking, enrich myself with more knowledge and experience," he adds. The 29-year-old's first docu stint was in 2015 when he worked with the same team to adapt Kunal Basu's novel Kalkatta into a documentary. He has been a part of Nandikar's (a famous theatre group in Kolkata) acting workshops for 6-10 months and has also worked with other well-known groups like the Hypocrites and Fourth Bell in the theatre circuit. Pushpen did his MA and MPhil from Calcutta University and was then an English lecturer at the Shri Shikshayatan PG College in Kolkata. Currently, he's joined an administrative post at the West Bengal University of Teachers' Training, Education Planning and Administration.

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