Bidisha Chowdhury owns BeautifulCircle Productions and is the director of the upcoming film Adaline; here is a link to the company’s website:
Q: What made you interested in filmmaking?
A: When I was young, I lived in Kolkata, India. I was always mesmerized by films but there weren’t any kids’ movies playing at the theatres like we have today. The films were all geared towards adults so instead I used to read tons of story books even hiding from my parents to do so. When I read books as a child I used to imagine stories in film format in my mind to amuse myself.
From all the books I read I had a lot of ideas for stories but there was no creative outlet for them. Decades later after moving to the US I started writing my stories in script format. Then when I finally found an opportunity I started getting involved with the film making process through working on numerous short films.
Starting from 2006, I worked on several sets doing different jobs and this is where I got my start. Then I decided to make my own short films and I wrote and directed two of my own 30 minute shorts in 2010 and one short in 2012. Still at that stage, never ever thinking that one day I could ever make my own full length feature film.
Q: What is Adaline about?
A: It’s about a young struggling artist Daniela who inherits an old house from a distant aunt who she never knew existed. Daniela moves into her Aunt’s house in San Andreas and she eventually meets some of the locals. Life seems perfect.
While staying in her house, Daniela has a series of bizarre dreams. She also finds a 100 year old diary of a young woman, Adaline, who used to live in the same house with her father and two sisters during the early 1900’s. Adaline also left some cryptic prophecies hidden away in the attic.
Later Daniela finds out more about Adaline in that she had special powers and could supposedly see into the future. Her premonitions used to come true and the local people called her the village witch of San Andreas. Did Adaline see something really terrifying in Daniela’s future? Is that the reason why she is trying to reach Daniela through the dreams, diary and written prophecies?
Q: What inspired you to write it?
A: Story and believable characters are important to me. I’ve read many stories since I was a child and I’ve always liked stories based on a different time period. After doing a lot of research and thinking, I based my story on three sisters, their relationships with each other and how they all died at a young age. I used that as a starting point for the rest of my story where I extended it further by making the youngest of the three sisters have psychic abilities where she could see into the future. I used this as the core theme where this psychic sister from 100 years ago foresaw an impending doom for a modern day girl who recently moved into the very same house where the three sisters used to live.
My inspiration for believable characters comes from certain interesting people I’ve met along the way. For example, when I was growing up in India there was an older lady who was our neighbor. She was nice but very curious about other people’s business. So I wanted to incorporate personality trait into Becky’s character where I made Becky into a small town nosey lady.
A while back I met a younger guy who was very nice and sweet. He was slightly mentally challenged and talked in a very unique way. Then years later I met another guy who used to work in a shop I often went to. His mannerism, his body language and his clothes caught my eye. The color combination of his clothes didn’t match and the style of clothing was not contemporary but he didn’t realize it. So when I was writing the script I combined these two people into one and that’s how my Marvin’s character got started.
Q: Why do you think dreams are such a popular theme in literature and film?
A: From the oldest literary styles to contemporary literature and films, dreams have always fascinated writers, readers and the audience. I guess it’s because our life is two-fold where sleep has its own magical world where dreams have no boundaries.
In this film Daniela is haunted by dreams. However, those dreams do actually add to the plot in the story. The tormented, sad soul of Adaline is still present in the house that Daniela recently moved into but Daniela is not able to see or feel Adaline’s presence. Only the audience is able to see Adaline’s spirit. So the dreams in this movie are really a communication channel where Adaline, from her spirit world, is trying to reach out to Daniela in her current day mortal world to try to warn Daniela about an impending doom.
Q: What makes Daniela a compelling heroine?
A: Without giving away who the antagonist is there are actually several hero’s/heroine’s in this movie but the safest one I can talk about is Adaline, the girl from 100 years ago. Adaline was a young woman, who lived with her two sisters and drunk father.
Adaline had to endure the torment of her father and the local people from her village who all thought she was a witch simply because she had visions of the future. She was physically abused by her father and during all this time she had visions of terrible things happening to a girl 100 years in the future (Daniela). Adaline took all the torment dealt out to her from everyone and still tried to help Daniela by leaving her messages throughout her house and by other means.
Q: What is your creative process?
A: During the script writing process I visualize in my mind as to how each scene should play out in detail including the intensity level of the acting as well as the naturalness and flow in the acting and many more variables. So I try to guide my actors to execute on my vision but I also allow them to have the freedom to improvise to see if we can capture something special.
Above all, the actors need to come across very naturally and free flowing and not get stressed over memorizing every word in the script as I don’t want them to look mechanical.
Q: What inspired you to start your own production company?
A: The company was set up to produce films which have a strong story because basically we are story tellers. BeautifulCircle Productions has a powerful team comprising many talented individuals that complement one another. Film production is always team work.
We want our films to appeal to audiences of all ages and demographic as our central philosophy is simply to have a great story.
Q: What kind of day jobs have you had and how do they affect your filmmaking?
A: I manage rental properties where I can manage my own time and so I can accommodate my filmmaking efforts.
Q: What are some lessons you learned when making your first short film?
A: An important lesson I learnt is to have the “right” team with you. The right team does not necessarily mean that everyone needs to be super experienced in their field. Of course for the technical positions you need to have a lot of experience and know what you’re doing but sometimes some very experienced people come with a lot of baggage such as having the wrong attitude or they may be inflexible or just plain hard to work with.
You specifically asked me about my “short” film experience. As a form, the short narrative film is audacious. It does not bow down to a feature because of the brevity in short films. Its succinctness is its power. During the making of my three short films I learnt how to utilize my limited resources and make something cool out of almost nothing.
Making short films helped me save time and money when making Adaline. It provided me with the experience and confidence to make bigger movies with greater efficiency. Making short films was good practice for my feature film. I learned a lot doing them.
Q: What is your opinion of Mallika Sherawat statements about women in film in India?
A: Indian women have always faced many challenges in the film industry and the cultural differences between the east and west creates constraints on what is acceptable for that time. As time passes things do change. The first Indian films had men playing the female acting roles starting as far back as 1913. That eventually changed with women playing the lead female roles. The first female Indian director was Fatma Begun who directed her first film in 1926. Can you imagine the extreme challenges these women must have faced. My total respect goes out to them.
So whatever challenges women in film face today the trailblazers of the past have broken down many barriers but there are still more changes that will undoubtedly happen. Because of India’s culture (which one must respect), the majority of Indians are currently not used to seeing their lead actresses cross certain boundaries of romance and passion. This is the reason the majority of Indian filmmakers are staying within these boundaries. That may change in the future, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)