Bally is a suburban town just outside Kolkata where the 82 year old Bridge crosses the majestic Ganges.
Bridges all over the world have a history of visitations of men and women, victims of misfortune, with the resolve to end their lives. For some, fortunately, the attempt remains unsuccessful.
Our protagonists Santanu (Soumitra Chatterjee) and Tanima (Sandhya Mridul) end up being at the same place; at the bridge, at the same time; at dawn, and with the same intention; that is, to commit suicide.
Santanu, driven by the sheer impulse of saving Tanima momentarily forgoes his own suicidal thoughts and stops Tanima from jumping off the bridge. Both ravaged by extremely tragic circumstances are brought together by destiny and suddenly what seemed a dead end to both lives surfaces as a crossroad henceforth.
The director Amit Ranjan Biswas, a child psychiatrist by profession, is a firm believer that ‘recovery’ is not just about reducing ‘symptoms’. Instead, ‘healing’ needs to happen at various dimensions beyond the physical. It is the bonding between individuals, selfless offering of help, support and friendship that can bring about powerful healing across all levels. Through love and compassion we create a sense of belonging to each other which in turn infuses a greater sense of meaning, hope and optimism in our lives.
Amit’s inspiration of the story came from his direct experience of clinical work with young people and families to whom he is highly indebted. Psychiatrist and holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl’s life changing book Man’s Search for Meaning, like millions of others, deeply moved Amit in his life and directorial vision of Bridge.
The film was completed on a shoe string budget. All the main cast and crew worked on a fraction of their fees not only because they were inspired by the script but also because they believed that making this film was ‘essential’.
The producer and director tried unsuccessfully to raise funds for this film for five years. Eventually, they cashed in all their investments, savings and pension plans to fund this film.
Not long after the script is written, by a stroke
of luck Amit came across an extraordinary documentary at BFI London, called The Bridge, which revolves around the stories of the surprising number of suicide attempts and deaths that happen at Golden Gate Bridge, San Fransisco. This documentary became a powerful preparatory tool for the actors.
The film was mostly shot at a family home which was generously provided for free. The locals in the otherwise quiet town of Bally were extremely excited and participated in every way they could.
The cooperation from them was invaluable. Local youngsters who had no idea about film making became an integral part of the crew.
The idol of Kali that was created for the film was transformed from a mere diegetic prop part of the set design to a sacred entity that the locals worshipped.
The veteran actor Soumitra Chatterjee, now 80, worked way beyond his physical and mental capacity to make sure the shoot was completed on schedule and within the stipulated budget. Not only him, the entire team was completely in sync in such a way that to everyone, the film was not to be compromised at any cost.
The director lead a meeting with all the crew on day one where everyone in the team introduced themselves and was asked ‘why are you in film making and what do you love about cinema?’ Seventy five people talking about themselves, their passions, their beliefs failed to make a dent on the budget but the bonding and inspiration gained at the very start paid off a thousand-folds eventually.
There was also great individual partnership between Zoran, the director of photography and Amit, the director. Both met at BAFTA way before the funds were raised for Bridge and both said later that they knew then that Bridge would happen. It was not easy for Zoran, as the summer months approached. Not only him, even his equipment was getting exhausted half way through the shoot. However, with locally produced meals, the caterers and the tea boys kept him nourished and for the first time he India, in his stay he had a ‘bug-free tummy’ for five weeks!!!
Soumitra Chatterjee who worked extensively with the legendary film Director Satyajit Ray, in fact is the protagonist for the majority of his films, has worked with Amit in theatre and musical productions. In making Bridge their chemistry intensified. This collaboration was a delight to watch.
Arghyakamal Mitra is an award winning, widely respected editor in India. Being a friend to both Amit and Paramita (producer), from way before the film started, the mutual communication was very transparent and productive. He has not only edited the film, but guided them both throughout the pre and post and production processes.
Abhijit Roy, our sound designer has been a friend from his film school days. He walked the alleyways of Bally day and night, coaxed locals for organic sounds, begged boatmen, risked his equipment and gathered original sounds for the film extensively.
This is Dishari’s (our music director) first Bengali film. He is a supremely talented and sensitive classical musician. He has a great understanding of the language of cinema. He moved in with Amit for weeks, went without sleep for days, shortlisted instruments from hundreds to create the soundtrack of Bridge.
The power and achievement of making Bridge is collective, that is of the entire team and this is what we are exceedingly proud of and humbled by. We are extremely satisfied in the fact that through a narrative, we are able to give a message, present a philosophy and a way of life.