“As in Bonbon?”
“No, as in autobahn.”
“How do you spell it?”
“That’s not how autobahn is spelled.”
“Is that your real name?”
Oh, how many times have I had such a conversation! Imagine ordering coffee at Starbucks with a name like Bann. You end up articulating nuanced analogies just to buy a simple cup of drip.
This has been the story of my life ever since I left my hometown at the age of thirteen. It was painful and infuriating at first. But I have long accepted that I don’t neatly fit in anywhere. In fact, I have come to see this as something that gives me an edge over people who are inextricably woven into just one fabric. I have learned to live across nations, cultures, paradigms—gaining perspectives I couldn’t have, had I been rooted in just one place.
Perhaps because of my experience, most of my work deals with the lives of marginalized people and their often-unheard voices. Be they those of the first women firefighters of New York City, who fought fires and fellow firefighters (Taking the Heat), or illegal street vendors from Central America in downtown Los Angeles, running from the police and hunger (Pepino Mango Nance). Or at-risk-youth going through a rehabilitation program, trying to beat the odds of prison (Six Weeks). Or a lonely foreign student, hopelessly lost in America, at war with himself (For Here Or To-Go?). Or a rebellious kid waging a war of wits with her orthodox family (Aashpordha). Or two vindictive old men living in an uncaring senior living facility, plotting revenge against each other (The Parting Shot).
I am grateful that almost all my films have been televised. Some in the US, some abroad. And one of them (Aashpordha) was released theatrically, too. More recently, a campaign of television spots I directed (#WhyIMake) has garnered a wide viewership in the US (230 Million cumulative broadcast views, according to Nielsen Ratings). The campaign has garnered an Ad Equivalency of over 8 Million dollars.
I’m currently working on a project titled Apatoto, which means “for the time being” in Bengali. It’s a story of a young man and his paralyzed father. A story that deals with prejudice and acceptance. A story that is, at once funny and sad, bold and understated. It is set in my hometown: Kolkata, India.
Presently, I live in Los Angeles with my Korean wife, my Chinese-Jewish son and my Siberian husky. For the record, my legal name is Anirban. Derived from the word Nirvana.
And my Starbucks name is Bond. As in, you know, James.