Aditya Vikram Sengupta makes his directorial debut with “Labour of Love,” a contemplative film set in his home town of Kolkata, India. Sengupta spent years directing promos for an Indian music video television channel before transitioning into filmmaking. His first film, which was screened on Dec. 9 and 10 at the Marrakech Film Festival, is likely quieter than the average music video promo – it follows a young couple as they struggle with the crippling recession that struck India a few years ago. Sengupta spoke with Variety about making (and self-financing) his first film.
The film is set in India’s recent recession, which had real global resonance, as people all over the world felt the effects; what inspired you to explore this international disaster on this personal, community level through these two individuals?
The recession in 2009 had greatly affected India, and I witnessed complete chaos around me. Lots of people lost their jobs overnight and were living under the constant shadow of uncertainty. My characters, too, feel this pressure. What I tried to create was a restless world outside and a calm world inside the house, almost like a womb. Even my characters are restless in their actions and anxious about the future, but deep within there is a sense of comfort because of the deep love they have for each other. They cannot control the economic crisis. They can only hope that it gets better. The best that they can do is to live in the present with as much love and dignity they can muster.
The film is set in your native city of Kolkata; what was it like for you exploring your own home town in your first film?
In “Labour of Love,” much of my storytelling is created through combinations of images, sounds, moods, colors, textures, atmospheres, etc. These are things that I have experienced while growing up in Kolkata (and still do). When I designed my film, the narrative organically emerged from these memories.
What was your biggest challenge as a first-time director?
Financing it myself — I spent all my savings to make this film. Even today, whatever we earn goes into the film.
Your film is described as very quiet, with little dialogue and a lot of lingering silences, which seems like it might go against the instincts of a first-time director; how did you maintain that quiet tone and feel to your film throughout, and resist the urge for more dialogue and noise?
There was no urge to put in dialogues. We had a very small team, and while we were shooting in the house, the quietness of the house made the filming an almost meditative experience for me. I would walk around the house and experience the spaces and silences. After a few days, the film took complete control of me, and decided its pace. It decided its tone, how it would like to talk to the audience — when would it like to keep quiet and for how long.
You spent three years shooting promos for a music video TV station in India before moving into filmmaking; how did that TV experience prepare you for filmmaking? Was there anything you had to sort of unlearn to make the transition from TV promos into film?
When I made promos, I would write, direct, edit, art direct, do the sound design, the graphics, do the animation and almost everything else that needed to be done. This happened mainly because we operated on small budgets. But that helped me a lot and made me very independent. I did not leave promos because I wanted to switch to films. I just wanted to create my own content. I started painting and then moved to film because there was more that I wanted to express.
What’s next for you? What are you working on in the future?
I am busy working on a couple of projects right now, but would unfortunately not be able to disclose more details at this point.