Assam filmmaker adapts Bond’s ‘ The Black Cat’ on celluloid
Guwahati, Oct 22 (PTI) A witch… a broom and a cat – Assamese filmmaker Bhargav Saikia’s adaptation of Ruskin Bond’s “The Black Cat”, starring Tom Alter has all these necessary elements of a spooky fantasy tale.
The short 22-minute film in English recently won the Best Cinematography award and an honourable mention in the Best Fantasy/Sci-Fi category at the summer edition of Asians on Film-Festival of Shorts.
Alter, who passed away recently, is in the role of Bond as the protagonist.
“’The Black Cat’, which I had read many years ago as a school student, is a simple story with interesting characters in an unusual setting, and it gave me the opportunity to explore many new aspects of filmmaking,” Saikia tells PTI.
The old-world charm of the story, the eccentric yet likeable characters and its fine balance between fantasy and the supernatural were exciting, he says.
“Tom Alter, a close friend of the real-life Ruskin Bond, was a natural choice for the renowned author’s character. He could relate to the characters and the world that I wanted to create in the film,” he says.
It was the same in the case of Shernaz Patel, who was “instantly excited about her character of a traditional, eccentric English witch called Miss Bellows. Their outstanding performances are the major highlights of the film,” says Saikia.
Collaborating with Bond, who was introduced to the 28- year-old filmmaker by a family friend, was a dream come true for Saikia and the meeting which was meant to last only 30 minutes, went on for almost three hours.
“He was pleasantly surprised that out of all his spooky stories, I wanted to adapt ‘The Black Cat’. He was a little sceptical about how I would make the cat perform in the film, but I somehow managed to convince him. I cannot thank him enough for his generosity and for trusting me to pull off the film adaptation which was a huge responsibility, no doubt,” he says.
Asked about his experience of shooting with the cat, Saikia says it was undoubtedly the biggest challenge as the feline are known to be stubborn creatures and cannot be trained easily.
“I had absolutely no budget for creating the cat through visual effects, hence I had to make sure that the cat performed convincingly. I hired professional animal trainers from Mumbai and they trained two black cats for several months. Surprisingly, the cats performed very well during the film’s shoot,” he says.
“We have tried our best to bring out the essence of the original story in the film. Mr Bond appreciated the film at a special screening which was organised for him at Woodstock School in Mussoorie and I am overjoyed to get his nod of approval,” adds Saikia.
“The Black Cat”, scheduled to release on the Internet in November, is his second short film as a director and screenwriter.
He made his directorial debut in 2015 with a short film in the horror genre “Awakenings”, while he launched an independent film company and went on to produce a feature film, set in Kashmir, named “Kaafiron Ki Namaaz”.
The filmmaker says he is currently working on three projects that are in different stages of development — a feature film in Hindi, a web series and an Assamese feature film — exciting and challenging concepts in the fantasy- horror genres.