Through the Lens of a Lawyer – Interview with Rajdip Ray, Filmmaker & IPR Attorney
Sourya: How do you generally introduce yourself to people who don’t know you? A lawyer, a filmmaker, or both?
Sourya: Was Kolkata, with its rich heritage of art and theater, where you first discovered your passion for filmmaking? Or did your love for movies come at a later stage of your life?
Calcutta, of course, had a part to play. It’s a city with a soul. But it was more towards developing an intellectual and scientific temperament, and sense of culture overall, rather than film in particular.
And I did not want to be a commerce student. So arts. And law was one of the more prominent career options. That was also the time I had started reading John Grisham and had read each and every single book he had published till then. And no one writes courtroom dramas like Grisham. Since I was a debater and liked talking, one thing culminated into another, and before I knew it, I was writing law school entrance exams.
I did try studying media immediately after college, but that turned out to be an utter waste of time and money.
Sourya: Were you involved in theater/filmmaking etc even during your Law school days?
It got selected by Shamiana- Asia’s biggest short film club and was screened in Mumbai, Pune, and Kolkata, along with some Oscar nominated shorts. The Mumbai screening was at Eros Cinema in Churchgate. And it was really thrilling. The Bombay people really loved it. Especially when they found out about the budget in a post-screening QnA. In Bombay, 600 bucks will buy you one drink at a bar. Two, if they have happy hours.
That was the first time I watched a film I had made on the big screen. It was the most exciting thing to happen to a nineteen-year-old. Growing up, making your film and watching it in a cinema hall always seemed like a dream which seemed a bit too far-fetched. Like driving a Formula 1 car. Or playing cricket for India with Dada and Sachin. Every kid dreamt of it. But very few thought they might actually they get to live it.
That prompted me to go ahead and make my second film – Keu Eshe Bolechilo / Images – which was my first film to compete at national film festivals, and won a couple of awards while it was doing the rounds.
And once the film bug bites, it keeps itching forever. So I kept filming till the end of law school whenever I got the time. I had to give up on some prestigious internships which would have made my legal resume shinier, in order to keep filming. And given the opportunity, I’d do it again.
One particular incident stands out in my head. After shooting with Q till 3 am in the morning when we were wrapping up the shoot, Q pointed out that the sound recorder hadn’t been turned on. I was the one handling it. I had pressed the “Record” button, but it needed to be pressed twice in order to start recording. It was a rookie mistake, and I kept cursing myself thinking I had messed up the entire shoot. Thankfully, we had shot indoors at night with minimum ambient sound, so the camera sound was ultimately used. Since then, I keep checking multiple times whether both camera and sound are rolling before calling a shot.
|“Crash” which won at the Bangalore International Short
Rajdip Ray: Alt Ray Films is for my own directorial ventures, produced independently. So that’s four short films so far, and I want to venture into feature filmmaking soon. I think while telling a story, you need to touch a chord with your viewer. All the films I have loved have touched that chord within me- whether that’s Offside by Jafar Panahi, or Masaan by Neeraj Ghaywan. I’ve also tried making films on topics that bother me- lack of governmental attention to street children, increasing number of fatalities due to road rage. I hate being preachy. But if I can make people aware of realities through fiction, and make them think for 30 seconds after my film ends, I’d like to believe I’ve done decently.
Also, law school, and subsequently working at an IPR firm has given me a fair knowledge of copyrights, which is essential for any individual creating original content.
Sourya: There would be numerous people around us, who may be stuck in Law school despite having the passion for something else. Writers, actors, singers etc, stuck in classroom chasing good grades and a high paying job instead of chasing their dreams. Would you have any word of advice for such souls?
Rajdip Ray: I am terrible at any kind of advice. So instead I’ll leave you with a quote from a letter written by one of my favorite writers, Charles Bukowski.