| Shah Rukh Khan in a still from Devdas, inspired by a Saratchandra Chattopadhyay novel
If Devdas has hit the jackpot, can the rest of Saratchandra Chattopadhyay’s oeuvre stay untouched' In what will be Bollywood’s second tryst in close succession with the 19th Century Bengali novelist, another Bollywood bigwig, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, is planning a film based on Parineeta, the triangular love story of an orphaned Bowbazar girl.
“After Munnabhai MBBS, my next venture will be Parineeta which I will co-write and produce. I am working on the script now,” confirms the producer-director of blockbusters like 1942: A Love Story and Parinda. But Chopra is clear that he will not direct it. “The director will be a Bengali guy,” he adds, stopping short of naming names.
And while the decision to dub Rituparno Ghosh’s Chokher Bali in Hindi remains dangling, Chopra has decided that Parineeta will be bi-lingual, marking his first enterprise in Bengali.
The student of Ritwik Ghatak, who been slappped by the maestro in his FTII days in Pune for asking who Hamlet was, but was later nicknamed “Bangali” for picking up the language fast, grew up on Saratchandra (“There were enough Hindi translations of the Bengali novelist, so I read as much Saratchandra as I did Premchand”).
Chopra’s choice of an already-filmed novel adds ballast to a formula behind Bollywood’s recent import of many things Bengali. “Films based on Bengali classics, rather than the literary works, seem to be inspiring film-makers in Mumbai,” says Rituparno Ghosh, hours before leaving for the London Film Festival with his transcreation of Tagore.
“There is an obvious dearth of good storylines in Mumbai, and Bengali boasts of some of the greatest story-tellers. But filmi precedence is clearly dictating the choice of screen adaptations, otherwise Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, whose works are far more cinematic, would have been the rage,” adds Rituparno.
Parineeta is certain to draw comparisons with the 1953 Bimal Roy production where Meena Kumari had brought alive the all-consuming, unswerving devotion of Lalita to Ashok Kumar, the man who had secretly married her, just as reams were written about Dilip Kumar’s Devdas after Bhansali hit the halls.
The Parineeta pattern is mirrored by the renewed interest in Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam. If Pritish Nandy Communications is going big with a Rs 25-crore budget, Deepa Mehta behind the camera and Aishwarya Rai in front of it, the inspiration, here too, is not Bimal Mitra, but Guru Dutt, whose 1962 classic on 70 mm immortalised Meena Kumari as “chhoti malkin”.
Also attempting to do a Meena Kumari would be Raveena Tandon for Sahara Entertainment’s mini-series.