Piyali (Rupa Ganguly), who had discovered some rather unpalatable truths about the underhand dealings going on in her laboratory in the name of clinical trials on unsuspecting patients involving genetic manipulation, dies under mysterious circumstances. Roopa (Rituparna Sengupta), her sister who lives in Kolkata and works in a MNC, has to fly to the US to perform the final rituals. But to her shock, she discovers that her sister did not die of natural causes or as the result of any accident but was murdered in cold blood. As she begins to investigate, she learns that her sister had recorded her findings in a CD that can be accessed only through a password that died with her. While in the US, she interacts with the other characters in the film – American, NRI Indians and even some Black people. The CD is not to be found. The password is also lost...
Contemporary Bengali cinema is conspicuous for its lack of suspense thrillers. No one has tried to fathom the reason why. In this ambience of straightforward masala films and off-mainstream cinema, Raj Basu brings a ray of hope with his new film, Piyalir Password. The film is a murder mystery-turned-suspense thriller shot totally in the US. Produced under the banner of Guiding Star Films, Piyalir Password is Raj Basu's second full-length feature film, this time in Bengali and shot completely in Maryland, Rockville near Washington D.C.
Raj Basu, a graduate of the Hollywood Film School, left his hometown in Kolkata in 1981 to study at the University of Maryland and stayed on in the US. He is a computer science professional. His debut into films was with the feature film Wings of Hope, more the result of an enduring emotional passion than a need for work. “The concept behind Wings of Hope was to give Asian immigrants in the US an insight into their individual culture – the good as well as the misunderstood.” Raj Basu familiarized himself with the moving image with two independent works for television. In 1998 he directed Dwando, a suspense thriller and Aghaat, a Bengali tele-series.
“In Wings of Hope, I tried to portray the diasporic restiveness Indian youth in the US faced in the 1990s. The change in their attitudes towards life, love, relationships, parents, themselves, the constant conflict between the older generation of Indian immigrants who insist that their children stick to Indian morals, while the children believe that born and bred in the US, they are too Americanized to stick to Indian morals – these were the facets of life I wished to bring out. Drugs, pre-marital sex, and abortion – these may be PG-rated in America. But these issues are a real problem for the first-generation Indian-American. The challenge for the characters in Wings of Hope becomes a movement from confusion to clarity. This is a story of redemption,” explains Raj. The NRI label seems to help young professionals who suddenly decide to turn to filmmaking. Basu cannot be accused of toying with films because he took care to do a course in film before he ventured in television serials and then graduated to filmmaking. “My film is an expression of the conflict of values first and second generation Indian-Americans face. I was not really aware that homebred Indians too, have the same problems. Some parts in the film are experiences picked from my own life as a young man trying to cope with values in America. If it looks like any Hindi film, it was definitely not by design and I shall try to be original with my next film,” he sums up, closing further discussion about Wings of Hope.
Coming back to Piyalir Password, "The Indian cast has established actors like Sabyasachi Chakrabarty and Koushik Sen. Though I do not intend the film to be a musical, I am trying explore music as a metaphor and music as an exploration into the psyche of the characters for this film. So, I came down to Kolkata to close the deal with Bickram Ghosh who is doing the musical score for the film,” says Basu.
“Noted singers Lopamudra Mitra and Swagatalakshmi Dasgupta are lending their voices to the songs of the film and I am going to use all kinds of music from Rock to Bangla Band to fusion, to Tagore songs, alternative rock, operatic flavours, Jazz Blues, Western music and more of string sections than keyboard. Raj is very erudite about the music he wants and it is more conceptual music than the music that goes in a musical film. We plan to release a stand-alone CD of the music track along with the film’s release in November. I am impressed with Raj’s focus on music for a suspense thriller,” says Bickram Ghosh who is also doing the background music for the film.
“I have been strongly influenced by the world of Alfred Hitchcock and Alan Parker and The Untouchables (1987) has been a personal favourite. Bibek Banerjee has done the cinematography for the film and I have written the story and the screenplay,” observes Basu. “This is perhaps the first Bengali film to have been shot entirely in the US,” he adds.
From the 14-minute raw footage of the film that we got to see, an interesting revelation was Basu’s subtle way of touching other social issues such as domestic violence. Piyali was the victim of domestic violence and was separated from her husband. Divorce, child custody, the vacillating nature of Piyali’s friend and colleague (Sabyasachi) and the character played by Koushik Sen extending all support to Roopa (Rituparna) in her search for her sister’s killers touch upon emotions like friendship, fellow-feeling and so on. “I have tried to bring up important problems of life of NRIs living in the US in a very unobtrusive way so that the film reaches the heart and does not stop at being a mere murder mystery,” says Basu. Sam Neogi is the production designer for the film. Koushik Sen and Rupa Ganguly have been given completely new looks in the film thanks to the professionalism of Neelima who did the make-up. Koushik looks macho for the first time in this film.
“We hope to finish the music and the post-production work to time the film’s release in November this year,” sums up Basu.