The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Classic twist in masala medley

Sasurbari Zindabad, Dadathakur, Saathi… and Tagore’s Chokher Bali. Not too tough to pick the odd one out. But now, all four must be spoken of in one cinematic production breath — for it’s time to mix masala with some classic fare.

Shrikant Mohta of Shreevenkatesh Films, whose Saathi is completing a 100-day run, is also producing Rituparno Ghosh’s Chokher Bali. And that’s official.

Ghosh has been planning to film Chokher Bali for some time now. It all started three years back with producer Tapan Biswas and the director engaged in Tagore talks. But one thing after another saw Chokher Bali — that must be shot in winter — being pushed back one season after another. During this time, the two have collaborated for one small-budget (Utsab) and one medium-budget (Titli) film.

The delay saw the initial budget of around Rs 75 lakh inching towards the crore mark. With Biswas, reportedly, hesitant about meeting the revised costs, in stepped Shrikant Mohta and Mahendra Soni. “I will be starting Chokher Bali next January with Shreevenkatesh Films,” says Ghosh, now busy with the post-production of Shubho Mahurat.

This is not the first time that the National Award-winning director has tied up with the Mani-Shrikant duo. “Rituda and we go a long way when Sreevenkatesh Films distributed Dahan. And when I heard Chokher Bali’s script from him, I did not take more than two seconds to say yes,” says Shrikant.

This is also not the first ‘venture with a difference’ that Sreevenkatesh Films has decided to back. “Years ago, we took on Tapan Sinha’s Ajob Gayer Ajob Katha that hardly got us returns, but we were still happy,” recounts Shrikant.

Chokher Bali is budgeted at Rs 1 crore, but Shreevenkatesh Films is allowing for “another 10 per cent” by the time the film is complete. “We will have a star cast and the best of cameras. We will be shooting in Varanasi and Calcutta and recreating the 1902 ambience,” says Mohta.

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