It doesn't really matter to me whether the actor I choose for my films is a star or not," filmmaker Buddhadeb Dasgupta said recently, taking a deep sip of black tea in a coffee shop in Toronto.
"What is important to me is that the actors bring my characters alive in a sensitive way."
His newest film, the enchanting but tragic Swapner Din (Chased By Dreams), starring Prosenjit Chatterjee, Rimii and Raima Sen, was a major attraction at the 29th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival.
"Prosenjit is the biggest actor in Bengali films," Dasgupta continued. "But he has been asking me for many years for a role in my film. However, till I wrote the story of Swapner Din, I could not visualise him in my films."
Prosenjit plays a troubled government employee, Paresh, with a little secret that we get to know in the middle of the movie.
"Each person in the film has a dream and a sort of destination. I wanted actors who can make these characters and their conflicts real," Dasgupta said.
Two years ago his Mondo Mayer Upakhyan (Naughty Girl) was one of the most acclaimed films at Toronto. The film could be released in North America by the end of this year.
Chased By Dreamsis scheduled to be released in India during the Durga Pooja holidays. The Museum of Modern Art in New York, which has slated a festival of major directors from across the world, plans to show the film in December.
"The only problem I had because of the stars in Swapner Din was the huge number of people who turned out to see the shooting," Dasgupta smiles. But he is not complaining, he quickly added, though several times the shooting had to be delayed by couple of hours. "To many people, it must have been one of the most exciting days in their lives."
The movie is produced by Jhamu Sughand, whose hits include Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. He was also the executive producer on Deepa Mehta's critically acclaimed Earth 1947.
"He is a remarkable producer," Dasgupta, who produced his first four films, including Dooratwa in 1978, says. "He had admired many of my films, and like any good producer with a strong esthetic sense, he let me make my own film."
Though Swapner Din has tragic incidents at its end, there is also a sort of happy ending when Paresh enters into a dream-like world.
While the exquisite performances by the lead characters bring a great amount of charm, Dasgupta's smooth narration is also aided by a lingering but unobtrusive score by his brother, Biswadeb Dasgupta, and Venu's fluid camerawork that captures the grim and lush realities of rural Bengal.
"When one has a good script and a very good team of technicians including the cinematographer, editor (Rabinranjan Maitra) and a composer who understands instinctively what I want," Dasgupta says, "we have to make a very good film."