A maverick in black and white
|After bringing Bangla cinema back to national consciousness, Rituparno Ghosh now experiments with black and white in "Dosor". |
Most films are judgmental about extramarital relations. "Dosor" just explores the different facets.
THE MAN AND HIS MOODS Rituparno Ghosh directing Konkona Sen Sharma and Prasenjit Chatterjee
What puts Rituparno Ghosh in a different league? Come along.
When even Salim and Anarkali have donned colours, Ritu has just completed "Dosor" in black and white format. "When we got colour as an option, black and white ceased to be an alternative. This happens with technology. It's not that it was a must for my script, I wanted to exploit black and white as an option," says Ritu, fresh from a 20-hour shift.
The Bangla film deals with an extra marital affair, a subject squeezed out by filmmakers from Bhatt to Balaji. Languishing on a Victorian sofa in his sedate house in South Kolkata, Ritu smiles, "Right, but what I have seen of Hindi films, most of the time they are judgemental about the subject. Either the other lady is adjudged an adulteress, or the man is termed debauched. My film just explores the different facets of the relationships."
Real life incident
Produced by Planman Motion Pictures, the storyline revolves around a lady whose unfaithful husband has just got severely injured in an accident where his female 'friend' got killed. "I got the basic idea from a real life incident when I was working with Anand Bazaar Patrika."
The film brings together two of his favourites, Prasenjit Chatterjee and Konkona Sen Sharma. "I have developed a certain chemistry with Bubba (Prasenjit's pet name in Kolkata) since 'Unishe April'. He does so many films, but when I have a character for him he takes out time."
A person so busy with his commercial flicks that he literally juggles between sets, Bubba, says Ritu, "studied books, went to doctors to study his character. I just told him that his backbone gets injured. He went on to study the medical history of patients to get the reflexes right!" What has surprised him is the growth of Konkona from Koko. "I worked with her in 'Titli'. That was more of a picnic, but today she is an extension of her mother, yet has a distinct personality of her own. The best thing is, she can portray a character within the age group of 18 to 35."
Breather for Bollywood
Known for helping Bollywood actors seeking a fresh breath in their careers, Ritu is bound to meet with raised eyebrows when he says, "It was a relief to work with a Bengali cast after a long time." Quickly he substitutes the word bonus for "relief". "Be it Aishwarya, Kiron, Ajay or Jackie, they just suited the roles." He is often charged with doing this to gather a pan Indian acceptance for his films. "Do you think I need to do this?" he counters.
One doesn't know, but his first foray into Hindi cinema "Raincoat" suffered because his anglicised heroine could not master the Bihari accent in the fast-paced schedule of a dozen-odd days. "That had more to do with my limitation with the vernacular. I should have taken care. Aishwarya gave her best."
Still from "Dosor".
"Dosor" is an exception, but Ritu is credited with bringing literature back to Indian celluloid with his "Chokher Bali" which won both critical acclaim and box office success. His soon-to-be-released "Antarmahal"
is again loosely based on a short story by Tarashanker Bandopadhyaya. Interestingly, in Bangla there is a common word for book and cinema - boi
. "Yes, it is. Literature has always inspired cinema in Bengal, whatever be the trend in other parts of the country. However, we must interpret literature according to the times we are living in. I did it in 'Chokher Bali' where I didn't agree with the way Tagore ended the novel. I kept an unresolved ending. Similarly, I adapted O Henry's story in 'Raincoat' differently from the novel."
On his next project on the Mahabharat, he points out, "It is an epic and should not be treated as a religious text."
Often his works are compared with Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak, but Ritu says it is for the critics to judge. "I believe I am overrated because there is not too much of talent around." Another acclaimed director Anjan Das says Ritu has been able to turn Ray's sensibilities into box office success, which Ray himself could not do consistently. "I don't believe in intellectualising cinema too much. Who has the patience to watch Mani Kaul's 'Duvidha'?"
Fascination for perfection
Still from "Dosor".
Ritu's fascination for perfection is well documented. His trusted cameraman Abhik Mukherjee shares, "When we decided on black and white format, we decided to shoot backgrounds to be used in colour and changed them to black and white to see the effect. He wanted the densities and tones of the props to match with the background. Even cups and vases! Some colour combinations look gaudy in colour, but they are perfect in black and white." Konkona says though Ritu always pushes to get what exactly he has in his mind but he also allows the actor to grow into the character on the sets. "He is always ready to listen to my inputs on the character. This is quite unlike my mother, who relies more on pre-shooting workshops."
Ritu says he imbibed this fascination early from his father, who was a documentary filmmaker. "I have seen cinema getting demystified on the dining table, like I discovered the difference between a rush print and a final print very early. However, I could not relate to documentary films as I wanted to be a storyteller... interpreting the truth, which documentary filmmakers call distorting the truth."
Another intriguing feature is the speed with which he delivers. If "Raincoat" was a quickie, "Dosor," completed in some 14 days, is already in postproduction, and "Antarmahal," which premiered recently at the Locarno Film Festival, is ready for release. "It has more to do with the team and planning. I don't intend to make a record. It's the team that wants to stick to the schedule, at times literally forcing me to complete the shot." And the affection shows. In an industry where the backroom guys are tuned to remain in the background, Ritu introduces almost his entire crew to the press. "The rest succumbed to the 20-hour shift."
So what makes Rituparno Ghosh different?
Perhaps he is a league unto himself.
Edited by Qwest - 23 June 2006 at 1:47pm