It's on the must-watch list of every cinebuff, every history student and every film lover. And surprisingly, it is no longer relegated to the sidelined and blurred world of parallel cinema. Shyam Benegal's latest masterpiece, Bose: The Forgotten Hero, is as much a force in the mainstream as it is an attempt to globalise Indian cinema.
Documenting Netaji Subash Chandra Bose's life during the period between 1940 and 1945, the film tails the freedom fighter's extraordinary journey through Afghanistan, Moscow, Berlin, Madagascar, Indonesia, Japan and Singapore. As for the cast, the film blends the best of India's serious actors and the cream of international performers. While veteran theatre actor Sachin Khedekar plays Netaji, Rajit Kapur is Abid Hasan, Kulbhushan Kharbanda plays Uttamchand Malhotra, Alan Thomson is Lord Wavell, Nicholas Chagrin is General Auchinlek and Udo Schenk is Hitler.
The general feeling around is that the maker of Ankur, Nishant and Bhumika is making a biopic for the first time. 'But I've also made three other biographical films, one on Satyajit Ray, one on Nehru and, of course, The Making of the Mahatma,' says Shyambabu.
But unlike his other ventures, Bose: The Forgotten Hero demanded maximum research work. From countless books on Netaji to meeting scholars and prisoners of war, it has been a mammoth project. 'Yes, we have done enormous amounts of research,' confirms Benegal, who has taken more than two years to complete the ambitious Rs 210-million film.
Bose: The Forgotten Hero also boasts of some great off-screen technicians. While genius A.R. Rahman has written the music for the magnum opus, Rajan Kothari, who has worked in four of Benegal's previous films, has handled the camera. But unlike Benegal's last film Zubeidaa, which was laced with the likes of Kareena Kapoor, Rekha and Manoj Bajpai, there are no stars in Bose: The Forgotten Hero. 'I have no apathy whatsoever towards stars. There aren't any stars who remotely resemble Netaji' Sachin has given an extraordinarily brilliant performance. Jishu is also first rate (seen together in picture by Aranya Sen),' says the director.
There is a big buzz amongst the select few who have seen the film about the confrontation sequences between Netaji and Hitler. 'There are recorded minutes of the meeting as well as an eye-witness rendering,' says Benegal. The director maintains that the film is as close as possible to the life of the hero, except at places where 'some cinematic liberties have been taken in order to make a coherent and dramatic narrative'.
With 70 per cent of the film in English (the rest being in Hindi), Bose: The Forgotten Hero is being billed as India's first proper crossover film. 'I don't understand the term 'crossover'. I hope the film will be seen by Indians everywhere. It is of primary interest to them,' says Benegal. And there is no thrust on the much-debated disappearance of Netaji either. 'The end is not my focus. We celebrate his life in the film.'
The film has already been censored and received a universal certification. 'I am told by Sahara One (presenters of the film) that the film will release in March,' Shyambabu signs off.
Thank you for the music
Golden oldies, pop, jazz, country, modern, soundtracks new and classic' Over 30,000 music albums and movie titles to choose from, in a relaxed carnival atmosphere, amidst peak mela season.
Calcutta Book Fair won't be the only attraction next week. For music lovers and home video freaks, there will be a special place to browse and buy. Music World Entertainment Ltd, owners of the MusicWorld mega store chain, is organising Music Exhibition 2005 at the Academy of Fine Arts, from January 26 to February 10.
'The exhibition was conceptualised for people for whom music is a passion. It is an attempt to cater to their varied choices through an eclectic spread and lucrative offers,' says MusicWorld regional manager Lalita Sinha.
The RPG Enterprises chain, with its city flagship store on Park Street, started this music exhibition in 2002. This year, the music-movies expo-carnival will be inaugurated on Republic Day at 5 pm by sheriff Chuni Goswami and singer Indrani Sen.
The exhibition will have a wide range of products in different genres, culled from the mega store's exhaustive catalogue, and taking into account 'the wide-ranging tastes of customers and studying the movement pattern at Park Street and our Express outlets', according to a MusicWorld spokesperson.
In international music, the carnival will offer selected classics at special prices, besides the latest in hip-hop, trance, alternative rock and new-age jazz. A wide array of movie soundtracks will also be on display.
In Hindi, the line-up will comprise OSTs from the hottest new films and remixes for the younger generation, as well as evergreen music from old classics and rare ghazal collections.
Bengali music, the forte of MusicWorld Park Street, will be the show-stealer at the Academy exhibition. Legends like Hemanta Mukherjee, Kishore Kumar, Sandhya Mukherjee, Asha Bhonsle and Manna De will dominate the display.
The exhibition fare will include a 'huge range of Rabindrasangeet', right from Debabrata Biswas, Hemanta Mukhopadhyay, Kanika Bandopadhyay and Suchitra Mitra to the likes of Indrani Sen, Indranil Sen and Srikanto Acharya. The Hindustani classical section will have a significant presence from various gharanas, past and present.
There will also be autograph sessions by different celebrities on the days of the exhibition.
K for Katherine in Kisna: The birth of Bernath
If Lagaan was all about Bhuvan, Subhash Ghai's period follow-up flick Kisna is just about Katherine. While the title character played by Vivek Oberoi is straight out of a Manoj Kumar film, the character of Katherine, played by London-based debutante Antonia Bernath is an absolute revelation. Much more at home than Rachel Shelly's Elizabeth, Antonia's Katherine holds the film together, with her mint-fresh Hindi and her million- dollar smile.