Posts Tagged ‘Aparna Sen’

(stills from Satyanweshi)

In a completely shocking news, filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh died of heart attack today morning. He was working on his latest film Satyanweshi – a Byomkesh Bakshi story starring filmmaker Sujoy Ghosh.

Easily one of the best filmmakers in the country, nobody explored the intimate space between two people like Ghosh did. All those film fanatics who are mad about world cinema, i hope they do get time to watch Ghosh’s films. His entire filmography is worth watching. Embedding the video of one of my favourite film – Titli – a terrific coming of age film. And easily the best desi film in that genre. It stars Mithun Chakraborty, Aparna Sen, Konkona SenSharma, and is with English subs. Do watch.

RIP Mister Ghosh.

(Pics courtesy – The Telegraph)

Last week i watched Kannan Iyer’s Ek Thi Daayan. It’s co-produced and co-written by Vishal Bhardwaj. And last night i watched Aparna Sen’s Goynar Baksho. And i could not stop myself from comparing the two. Apart from Konkona Sensharma’s spectacular acting, there are few more common factors between the two. Both the films are based on literary work. Ek Thi Daayan is based on a short story written by Konkona’s father Mukul Sharma. (You can read the story here) Goynar Baksho is based on Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay’s story titled “Rashmonir Sonadana”. So in a way one is Mommy’s film and the other one is Daddy’s. Though both are in supernatural space, in terms of what they deliver, the difference is huge.

Ek Thi Daayan is a strange film. Because it’s two films in one. Though it plays around with all the common elements of horror films in first half, it sets up a great mood, is deliciously ambiguous, and keeps you totally hooked. Konkona and the kids keep you engaged in their mouse and cat game. The 2nd half is drastically different – almost a Vikram Bhatt film. Everything is on the face, new rules are set, it’s silly, becomes unintentionally hilarious and has a strange closure. What is Kalki’s character doing in the film? She is just to misguide us? Is it all about who is the witch out of the two? It all boils down to one spoiler? There have been many rumours floating around about the film’s climax being changed by its producer, and once you watch the film you realise that all those rumours must have been true. There can’t be no other reason for the second half to be so disappointing.

Now, about the end. A wise man once said that you must ask yourself 3 Questions – 1. what’s the film about? 2. What’s the film *really* about? 3. What’s the film *really, really* about? If you know the answers, you are on right track. And the answers to these three questions tells you the difference between these two films – Ek Thi Daayan and Goynar Baksho – why one works and why the other doesn’t. Let’s see.

(SPOILER ALERT)

Magician Bobo can hear voices. Because he has a back story. Because his sister was mysteriously killed by his step-mom/witch. Interval. Bobo has a GF/wife. He also has a kid. A new stranger who might be a witch. BOOM! She is not the witch. The GF/wife is the witch. But why is Konkona suddenly back, and from where? What’s the sudden funda of pisach? And all that choti-wali ladayee? Why kill all ambiguity? Was there a way out in the same set-up? i think so. It was all there, just needed to be perfectly tied up like Konkona’s hair braid.

For me, the answer would have been Bobo’s adopted kid, Zubin. Going by the trend of orphan kids who get superpowers, he perfectly fits the demography too. We don’t know about his real parents. Aha, that’s where the magic and mystic happens. If you see the second trailer here (at 01:05), you will know that there was more to Zubin for sure. See the screenshot – Zubin talking to a doll (or Misha?) when Bobo spots him. This scene was not there in the film.

The film just used him for the choti-kaato act. Given a choice, i would have gone with Zubin getting some of the supernatural powers to hear/see daayans, something that connect Bobo and Zubin, and then a closure for Bobo’s story with him coming to terms with Misha’s (his sister) death in some way. I believe it was also there in the script – if the lift is going down, it’s going to hell. Can Bobo take the lift up to heaven for Misha? As for Lisa (Kalki’s character), isn’t she going to be step-mother for Zubin? When it plays around on the funda of sauteli maa acchi ho toh sakti hai par hoti nahi, isn’t Zubin in same scenario as Bobo? Aha, the loop.

(SPOILER OVER)

ETD2

And if there’s something more funnier than Vikram Bhatt style kaat-choti-kaat act, it was the disclaimer in the beginning of the film. Easy to understand that neither the makers nor the Censor Board is guilty of that. It’s because of the times we live in, where the fringe groups are always looking for such occasions to raise their voice and get attention. This is where Aparna Sen’s Goynar Baksho hits the ball straight out of the boundary.

On the surface it’s a story about three generations of women and their relationship with Goynar baksho (jewellery box). But Aparna manages to pack in so much, that it’s unbelievable. And treated it in a humourous tone, this one should work for all. In a memorable and heart breaking sequence in the film, Pishima (aunt in bengali, father’s sister), a child widow who has died and become ghost, asks Konkona Sen (new daughter-in-law) what sex feels like? Does she enjoy cuddling? In today’s times of offending sensibilities, this might be counted as quite sacrilegious. But this is where the bravery and the brilliance of the film lies – it packs everything with humour.

Pishima got married at 12 and was widow at 13. Forget love, relationship, or any such pleasure, widows were not even allowed to have good food. All she got was boiled veggies, all she wore was white sarees. It reminded me of someone i know closely. Married at young age, she had a son just after marriage, and then her husband died soon. She returned back to her parents and brothers. Since then it was been a life of white sarees, religious stuff and only vegetarian food. It’s actually quite a common sight in bengali families, mostly in rural areas – the eldest daughter who is married at young age and if she becomes widow, she comes back to her parents and stays with them for the rest of her life.

Moushumi Chatterjee plays the role of Pishima, an authoritative voice in the house. Because she owns those expensive jewels, nobody wants to be in her bad books. But the fun begins once she dies and becomes a ghost. Interestingly, only Konkona’s character of Somlata (new daughter-in-law) can see her. She is new in the house, she is scared and to make things worse, she even stammers. With a hookah in her hand and more abuses that you can count, initially Pishima starts bullying Konkona to protect her jewellery box, and then slowly they develop a bond. Pishima is bitter, sarcastic and is always cursing everyone around, but all done with dollops of humour in her Faridpur accent. Her dead character is the life of the film.

Goynar Baksho

In another sequence she gets emotional as she talks about how the men in the house always had all the pleasures, and all she got was this jewellary box. The (pishima) ghost played brilliantly by Moushmi Chatterjee, instigates Konkona’s character to go out, fight for her rights, to pursue her passion and enjoy everything that’s forbidden. Who talks about heaven and hell? As a ghost she knows it better than everyone. Enjoy till you can and then your body will perish one day.

Konkona’s character of Somlata represents the second generation. She is on the other extreme compared to her Ek Thi Daayan role. Set in a completely rural background, instead of scaring others, in this film she is always scared. And like in almost every other film of hers, she is so convincing that you would think she has a twin sister who acted in ETD. She is undoubtedly the best actress of our generation. The last 15mins of the film feels bit odd but you get what the filmmaker is trying to do – the third generation. You can also see the limitation of budget and resources, but this one is a must watch.

The film has released with subtitles in Mumbai and other cities. Though the subtitles might not be able to translate the fun of Faridpur accent but do watch it. Bollywood desperately needs some funny ghosts. And Vikram Bhatt needs to put his tacky ghosts in his closet for sometime.

So in two weeks we had two supernatural stories – one with mysterious witches and the other with loveable ghost. Both with three leading ladies. For whatever reason, one remains a half-baked affair, the other manages to pack a punch. One doesn’t say anything new, the other takes a strong stand on so many issues without making a big fuss about it. And it all comes from the same family. I guess in the end it’s all about the *choices* – we are the stories we tell.

@CilemaSnob

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Pratim D. Gupta is a full-time film critic with The Telegraph and a part-time screenwriter. Well, part-time till his film gets made. Based in Kolkata, he closely tracks Bengali film industry’s every intelluctual, pseudo-intelluctual and aantel (ask your bong friend. There is no english word for this one) move. So where does Aparna Sen’s latest film Iti Mrinalini fits in? Scroll down and read on…

Disclaimer: I don’t know why I am writing this piece. In an industry where scratching backs is the only way forward and where every film is a classic and every performance award-winning, one online rant really matters very little. Unlike Bollywood where good films and bad films, moneymaking films and praiseworthy films all have their own space, Bengali cinema is going through this incredible phase where you have to laud at everything and anything up there on screen. If you do not comply, you are against the growth and prosperity of Bengali cinema. “How dare you? Just because your script hasn’t got funding, you are badmouthing other films!” Honestly, I can’t help myself. I refuse to be party to this mogojdholai (brainwashing). So you can have your own conspiracy theories but I have my own views and I will stick by them. And no I didn’t like Iti Mrinalini. You too have a choice — close the window at this stage or read on.

What goes wrong with Aparna Sen? She makes a brilliant film and follows it up with something so ordinary, you start wondering how could she have possibly made that earlier great movie? One of the frequently asked questions in Bengali movie circles that has refused to die: Did Ray ghost direct 36 Chowringhee Lane? You watch Mr & Mrs Iyer, Paromita’r Ek Din and The Japanese Wife and you know the answer. You watch Yuganto, Sati and 15 Park Avenue and you are not so sure about your answer.

The problem is not just with inconsistency. There are many great directors whose great films are punctuated with not-so-great films. It is the sheer ordinariness of some of Aparna Sen’s films that really complicates the situation. You look at every nook and corner of the frame hoping to spot that Rina-di touch and your disappointment mounts by the minute till the time you want to throw up your hands and leave the theatre.

Sen, along with Rituparno Ghosh, has been the so-called custodian of the modern Bengali woman on celluloid. Her fantastic domestic femmefatales are independent, self-sufficient beings who manage to emerge on top of every challenge that men (and society) have thrown at them. From Paroma to Paromita. Sen herself in the 1970s was this ultimate epitome of everything that was new and clutterbreaking about the Bengali woman ultimately leading to her print revolution, as editor of Sananda.

Mrinalini is a wimp! A namby-pamby, a maudlin… such a waste of human life, that I do not want to watch her wet — strictly tears — life on screen for two hours. I do not care which bits of that life are fictional and which bits are from Sen’s own life, the life is dull, boring and flaccid. She fell in love with a boy in college who was a Naxal and got shot down, she then fell for her director who had a wife and two kids and was never really interested to set up a home with his kept and their daughter, and then she developed feelings for a man who has a very sick wife at home and yet is always there by her side. As is evident, it’s always the men who call the shots in Mrinalini’s life, who is just a ping-pong ball in search of the net.

And this insipid biopic is narrated in the most archaic way possible — an unfinished letter, a bottle full of sleeping pills and lots and lots of glycerine! You get the drift?

The only mildly interesting bit of the film is Mrinalini’s daughter with her director lover Sid who she gives away to her Canada-based brother and sister-in-law but ensures that the girl spends the summer vacation with Pishi and Kaku. It is a unique relationship that these five people share where terms of endearment and lines of blood get beautifully blurred. But then the most important scene of the film, when the young girl Sohini reveals to Mrinalini that she already knows that Pishi is her real mother and Kaku her real father, is so lazily written and treated so matter-of-factly that the emotional fulcrum is not tampered. How can Mrinalini’s reaction line be: “When did this happen?” As if the date and time of the revelation is more important to her — clearly written with the audience in mind — than the fact that her daughter knows she is her daughter. Compare this scene with the heart-wrenching revelation scene between Irrfan and Kal Penn in the car in The Namesake and you know where the difference lies.

The script has no structure or build-up of any sort and have scenes that shouldn’t have ever made it to the screen. Towards the climax we have a scene between Mrinalini and her young director love Imtiaz which goes something like this… “Have the tea Imtiaz.” “I didn’t ask for tea.” “Now that the tea is here, have the tea.” “No.” “Will you have coffee then?” “I can have coffee. But black coffee.” After she has ordered the black coffee for him, she asks: “Have you studied in America?” “Why because I asked for black coffee?” “Something like that.”

And then the whole film is explained in one scene. “There are different types of love Minu,” says one of the men in her life. Ok alright, we get it! But Rina-di, have you seen Frida? That film conquered what you set out to achieve. Yes, it’s a biopic of a real person and obviously a far more fascinating person that Mrinalini but it has the same plot points comprising Frida Kahlo and the men in her life. And this feels really silly on my part to tell this to someone like you but just by giving voice to WHAT THE WOMAN WANTS, Frida becomes so bloody awesome. When her husband Diego Rivera learns that Frida has been unfaithful to him, he says: “You’ve broken my heart, Frida.” She gives it back to him: “It hurts doesn’t it? But why? It was just a fuck, like a handshake.” Mrinalini sadly has no venom or vermin.

The Rituparno effect on Aparna is quite telling in this film. The whole analogy to Karna-Kunti Sambad and Raktakarabi bears a strong whiff of Ghosh and company in the way literature is blended into the lives of the characters. Throughout Iti Mrinalini there is an attempt to attach importance to a subject which is obviously not that important. It’s not true to its genre, it tries to be An Aparna Sen film. The political events streaming in the background (Vishal Bhardwaj tried the same in 7 Khoon Maaf) and the baffling ending are the biggest examples. It wishes to leave you dumbfounded, just like the ending of 15 Park Avenue. It’s that last shot in the arm to elevate the film to something substantial but when it backfires – like it does here – it really does more harm to the film.

The only masterstroke of Iti Mrinalini is how Konkona Sen Sharma is asked to perform like Aparna Sen and not the other way round. They both play Mrinalini and Konkona has the lengthier role but yet she tries to ape Aparna. Because the director understands that the better actor should be given the difficult task. And while Konkona cannot possibly start looking like a young Aparna, her body language and especially her speech is ditto her real-life mother. Close your eyes in the theatres and you will know what an outstanding job Konkona has done in Iti Mrinalini.

All the other actors barring Aparna herself — these filmmakers who act really need someone else directing them, as was evident in Ranjana Aami Ar Ashbo Naa recently — are good. The deadly combo of Rajat Kapoor on screen and Anjan Dutt in the dubbing studio makes Sid such a believable character. Koushik Sen is so effective in the few scenes he has. Saheb impresses in his little cameo. Priyanshu has great presence but is saddled with such a strange character, he can only do that much. The late Somak Mukherjee shot Iti Mrinalini with a lot of pizzazz, especially that shot on the beach where the two women are chatting and the camera curls on the young girl sleeping on top of Rajat. Wish there was at least a hint of period detailing, though.

Iti Mrinalini is really a very weak and disappointing effort from Aparna Sen. But sometimes there comes a performance that becomes so much bigger than the movie it comes in that the ordinariness of the films takes a back seat. Konkona has always reserved her best acts for her mother’s films. And while her mother’s films have ranged from brilliant to bad, she has shone in all of them. Personally, I found this performance to be her best till date. Here neither did she have the superficial condiments embellishing a Mrs Iyer nor the free mind of a schizophrenic patient like Meethi. It’s just one of the best actresses of our countries at the top of her game.

But Rina-di, don’t you think Koko deserves better? And maybe we too?

Iti Pratim

The Japanese WifeRemember those good ol’ days of pen friendship ? And if you were born before the internet era and ever experienced the joy of pen friendship, then you must read Kunal Basu’s story The Japanese Wife. Its one of the most beautiful love stories I have read in recent times. Simple, serene, heartfelt and fascinating. The book is a collection of 12 short stories.

BTW, I bought the book because I loved the cover. The paper quality and the pic looks and feels gorgeous (not so in the pic that I have posted on the left). Call me mad but I love all these, and there is nothing like the smell of a new book. Instead of reading between the lines, try putting your nose between the pages once!

Aparna Sen’s new film is based on the same story and it has the same title The Japanese Wife. The film stars Rahul Bose, Raima Sen, Moushumi Chatterjee and Japanese actress Chigusa Takaku. It is in English, Bengali and Japanese. And here is the synopsis of the film….

The Japanese Wife2Snehmoy (Rahul Bose) and Miyage (Chigusa Takaku) are pen friends who exchange wedding vows through letters. Fifteen years pass but they never meet. Yet the bond of marriage is strong between them. This unusual relationship comes under a cloud when a young widow, Sandhya (Raima Sen), comes to stay with Snehmoy along with her eight-year-old son. Snehmoy and the little boy bond and the arithmetic teacher discovers the joy of palpable bonds and fatherhood. There develops an inexplicable thread of understanding with Sandhya too. But what happens to the love story of Senhmoy and Miyage ? Will not spoil it for you. Read the book or wait for the film.

Lil late on this but just figured out from a friend that the trailer of the film is already online. Take a look. Not sure why they are using the word “grand” in the trailer. Its just the opposite…its intimate! The film has been ready for quite sometime but the producers (SaReGaMa) has been sitting and shitting on it! No clue why!

Some quick bollywood updates of the day.

1. Aparna Sen’s long in the making Gulel may roll soon. Ranbir Kapoor and Farhan Akhtar have agreed to do the film. Ranbir came on board through Konkona Sen (Wake Up Sid ) and Farhan through Shabana.

2. Dostana’s sequel is on. And this time there is one more gay couple. Ritesh Deshmukh and Shreyas Talpade have been signed for the same. 

3. Richa Chaddha ( Dolly of Oye Lucky Lucky Oye) has finally got a film. She has signed Yunus Sejawal’s new film alongwith with Kay Kay Menon and Rajpal Yadav.

4. Chandrachur Singh is alive! Yes, the Maachis actor will soon be seen in a film titled Maruti Mera Dost. The film is by Chandrachur’s brother Abhimanyu Singh.

5. Nishikant Kamat is going back to his Julie ( he wrote the film) days. This time its not Julie, but John Abraham who will star in his film. UTV will  produce the film. Nishi earlier directed Dombivili Fast and Mumbai Meri Jaan. 

6. Shekhar Kapoor is still making Paani. And when he is not making it, he is going to be a judge on a reality show. India Got Talent, a new show on colours will have Shekhar Kapoor as one of the three judges. Known for his roving eyes, we are sure Shekhar will look out for some special talent.

7. More and more actors are saying no to Kunal Kapoor. Yes, its confirmed now. Imran Khan and Ranbir Kapoor also said no to him. Will Aditya Chopra save him finally?

8. Nikhil Advani is back from China and planning any African safari as indicated in the film Chandi Chowk to China.  This time he is not planning any big budget ambitious film. He is soon going to start a film titled Tanu Weds Manu starring  R Madhavana and Shahana Goswami. Update 11/05 – Nikhil Advani is not directing the film. It will be directed by Anand Rai (directed Strangers earlier).

9. More troubles for Ravi Chopra. After the plagiarism controversy came out, Big Picturs has made it clear that its not interested in buying Chopra’s Banda Yeh Bindaas Hai any more. They have even asked him to return the advance money.  The film is a copy of hollywood film My Cousin Vinny and the matter is in court. The complete dope on plagiarism story is here.

10. Roshan Abbas is soon going to make his debut as a director. Shah Rukh
Khan will produce his film. Whether he will star in it or not, its not clear yet.