Monday, April 25, 2011

Vinod Lahoti: Taking India to Cannes

Vinod Lahoti

Managing Director of Kolkata-based Vandana Trading Company,
Indian co-producer of Vimuktthi Jayasundara’s Chhatrak

Vinod Lahoti has the distinction of co-producing the one film in Cannes that brings India and the Bengali language officially to the coveted canvas of the festival this year. He makes this grand entry with just his second film: Chhatrak (Mushrooms), directed by the award-winning Singhalese director Vimuktthi Jayasundara. Lahoti made his debut as a film producer with the Bengali film, Kagojer Bou (The Paper Wife), released in 2010.

Vinod Lahoti talks to Uma da Cunha on his singular entry into Cannes:

How did you come to meet Vimuktthi, who is Sri Lankan by birth and upbringing, and now lives in Paris?
My close friend Bappaditya Bandopadhyay, the director of my first feature film Kagojer Bou, introduced me to Vimuktthi who he knew well. I was impressed with Vimuktthi’s passion for Bengali cinema and how much he admired the work of Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak. When Vimuktthi dropped in on the sets of my shoot, he talked to Bappaditya about the film (Chhatrak) that he had in mind and whether I would help him make this film. That set the ball rolling …

What was it that drew you into his project? Vimuktthi is known to be a filmmaker who is committed to his specific ideas, space and theme. He is an auteur directo -- not normally favoured by India’s film financiers. Yet you chose to fund him.
I respect the bold, courageous views and thoughts that Vimuktthi has expressed in his earlier films. That is what motivated me to partner with him in his next project. He scripted "Mushrooms" during his visit to Kolkata in August 2010. I was thrilled with the content and quality of his script and gave him a go-ahead straightaway. My company extended every support to the film’s shoot and production. The locations were in Kolkata and Bolpur.

What products does your company normally deal with? When and why did you get drawn into cinema?
The Vandana Trading Company is co-owned by me. The company is basically involved in international trading in the area of defense equipment and spares, and also, the export of machinery used in the making of Tea. I always had a passion to be in film production and develop something worthwhile that would appear on the big screen. My dear friend, film director Bappaditya Bandopadhyay encouraged me. This is what led me in March 2010 to turn to film production. I then launched my first film as producer, Kagojer Bou, with Bandopadhyay as the director. The film has done really well in its theatrical release.

What was your role as co-producer?
Chhatrak is totally financed by Vandana Trading Company. Our three French co-producers, Les Films de l'├ętranger, Bear Called Dog and Wallpaper Productions, are partnering with us on the marketing and festival support – a valuable input for the film.

You have made an international entry with just your second film - an excellent start. What are the returns you expect in Cannes?
God has blessed me by giving my film this immense opportunity. I feel sure that Cannes will be the launch pad that will take us forward.

What is next in your film agenda?
A quality film that stands for the brand name “FROM INDIA.”