The legendary American writer Ray Bradbury in his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 has quoted ‘everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there’. The Bengali diasporas that grew up in West Bengal during the twentieth century harbors similar feelings for the heritage Bengali magazine ‘Sandesh’, which was started by Upendrakishore Raychoudhury in 1913. It is a 100-year-old heritage magazine, which carried jewels of Bengali literature. Literary pieces combined with humour, fun and a lot of information from different parts of the world, the magazine influenced several generations of young Bengalis. Named after a sweet that children love, the entire collection of the world famous Feluda series created by the noted filmmaker Satyajit Ray was published in this magazine.
A young filmmaker from the city of Kolkata decided to tap on the cultural heritage of the Bengali community and to make a documentary titled ‘Sandesh 100’ on 24th of May, 2017 all to make an attempt to preserve the value of the history of the heritage Bengali magazine. The young director started his career as a still photographer under the kind guidance of Satyajit Ray’s son Sandip Ray and his grandsons Sourodeep Ray in 2014. His gradual inter-connection to the Ray family germinated towards an ideation for making a documentary about the literary magazine. And then began the arduous journey of gathering materials for shaping up the documentary. The pieces of information provided by the subsequent editors’ of the heritage magazine proved to be an efficacious medium of gathering which required guidance. Also, various writings and illustrations by eminent people from previous issues of the magazine proved to be constructive.
The entire crew consisted of first-timers in their respective departments. The documentary is interview based and serves as a nostalgic experience which narrates the journey that transposes the viewer into his childhood memories. The interviewees consisted of prominent Bengali writers such as Sanjib Chattopadhyay, Buddhadeb Guha, Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, Nabaneeta Dev Sen, accompanied by popular Bengali actors such as Chiranjeet Chakraborty, Saswata Chatterjee. According to the 18 year old filmmaker, ‘A documentary can’t be made without voice-over. This is not a feature film. From my point of view, a documentary is colorless without any voice-over.’ Thereby the dulcet voice of acclaimed Bengali actor Sabyasachi Chakrabarty has been used as a voice over to carry forward the narration of the film, which has an equal prominence and command over the Bengali and English language.
At present, the documentary is in the post-production stage and the filmmaker has no funds to carry forward his creative toil. No one in the cast and crew has been paid a single penny. Even the studios where the editing and recordings have taken place are yet to be paid. So, the director who at present is a first-year student of Bengali honors, studying at Ashutosh College, Kolkata has no other alternative but to depend on the crowd funding platform Wishberry to complete his film.
For starters, Wishberry believes in creating a community, a community that funds the project and also helps in spreading the word about it. Wishberry is a rewards-based crowdfunding platform, which means that funders do not get any monetary return (such as profits, equity etc.) for their funding to creative projects. They are asked for small amounts (such as Rs. 500, 5000, 10,000 etc.) in return for intangible rewards such as early bird or special access to the project they funded (invite to film premiers), limited edition merchandise, experience in the making of the project etc.