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A date with Rituparno
celebrity circus

Last Sunday, it was a date with Subhash Ghai (in person) and Rituparno Ghosh (on celluloid, behind the camera). Opposite the sprawling, swishy Whistling Woods (Ghai’s acting institute), there’s also a multi-storeyed Mukta House coming up. Subhash has a large, elegantly appointed office on the third floor, resembling a big corporate CEO’s professional space. It’s well-stocked and well-staffed, has plenty of room for entertaining guests and also doubles as an intimate suite for the filmmaker who sometimes stays over.

We watched Rituparno’s Nouka Dubi on the home theatre in his conference room with English sub-titles. Based on Rabindranath Tagore’s story, Nouka Dubi has been lyrically directed by Rituparno with some very fine performances by the Sen sisters, Raima and Riya. Raima has been seen before in Ghosh’s films like Chokher Bali and Antarmahal but the more commercially-inclined Riya Sen has also moved very comfortably into Rituparno territory. Getting the two sisters in one film is a talking point but the fact that they don’t share even half a frame together is bigger news. And what is heartening to note is that a big name like Subhash Ghai has produced this film. So you may be sure that it will be marketed well and given a professional release.

There is sometimes a whisper that Subhash suffocates his directors by unofficially treading on their territory when they make a film for his banner. Ashwini Choudhary who made a forgettable film called Good Boy Bad Boy with Emraan Hashmi and Tusshar Kapoor for Ghai’s Mukta Arts banner is one director who is said to have thrown up his hands in despair. Now Ashwini doesn’t even count Good Boy Bad Boy as one of the movies he directed. However, when you watch Nouka Dubi unfold evocatively, you know this is Rituparno and not Subhash Ghai at work.

Subhash Ghai, who was weaned on Ritwik Ghatak’s films at the Film and Television Institute of India, has fallen in love with what Rituparno has made for him. Ghai is a great admirer of Ghatak’s films and has keenly watched every one of them. In fact, he strongly believes that if the world heard of Satyajit Ray and not Ritwik Ghatak, it was purely because the latter didn’t market himself. “Otherwise, Ritwik Ghatak’s cinema was in no way less powerful than Ray’s films,” says Subhash. It is this proclivity for fine, sensitive cinema that made Ghai produce Nouka Dubi for Rituparno Ghosh.

Today, Nouka Dubi is getting ready for a select, elitist release in Delhi and Mumbai too, with Ghai getting the film dubbed in Hindi. As for the Rabindrasangeet in the film, interestingly, all the poetry in them is currently being translated into Hindi by Gulzar. The Hindi version of Nouka Dubi will be released in January with Gulzar’s Hindi lyrics substituting for the original Rabindrasangeet. Sacrilege or superb? We’ll know when the critics in Bengal take a look at it.

Oops, last week we talked about Anil Kapoor’s hat-trick of flops as a producer. Believe we erred for what Anil has achieved is four debacles in a row. Between Gandhi My Father and Aaisha, he also produced the disastrous Shortkut before delivering No Problem. It is, however, his third flop with Akshaye Khanna, an actor Anil greatly admires.

None of these stories of failure is deterring other actors from producing their own films. Next up, apart from guys like Sanjay Dutt, Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn, are the girls. With Mahesh Bhupathi bolstering her confidence, Lara Dutta has turned producer and so has Dia Mirza. Who has Dia got by her side? She’s got a boyfriend too, a goodlooking, well-spoken young marketing professional with a green card and some experience as Nikhil Advani’s directorial assistant. This friend whose name is Sahil Sangha has written a film and joining the couple will be Dia’s best buddy, actor Zayed Khan.

So this is how the equation goes. Dia + Zayed = close pals; Dia + Sahil = a couple that’s seeing each other. Dia has ensured that Sahil + Zayed = great buddies. Dia is the common factor that has brought them together and the trio has joined hands to launch its own banner called Born Free. The three youngsters are enthusiastic, have leased their own office space and will be producing their own films. The first will be a romcom written and directed by Sahil, co-starring Dia and Zayed. You’re going to hear more about them in the New Year, as they have Sahara’s big bucks backing them and they have a budget for marketing themselves.

And so what’s new in 2011 will be that multi-tasking female actors are entering the production fray as well. The men have been warned.

Bharathi S. Pradhan is editor, The Film Street Journal

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