The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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33 summers on, yet forest fresh
- RAY’s MEMORY GAME players back for trip down memory lane

The bad news: nature is playing tricks with Goutam Ghosh. When he is banking on the north Bengal mist to film a long sequence, it suddenly disappears. When he’s waiting for the sun to shoot a crucial scene with the three central characters, it refuses to make an appearance. The schedule for Abaar Aranye is, naturally, going haywire.

The good news: the stars are shining bright in the dark forests of Chalsa, near Malbazar, in the Dooars. There’s Tabu who has flown in from Chandigarh, Champa from Bangladesh, Soumitra Chatterjee, Subhendu Chatterjee, Samit Bhanja, Rupa Ganguly from Calcutta, and Sharmila Tagore, who’s now in London but will soon be joining the 50-member unit. So, Aranyer Din Ratri revisited after 33 summers, is turning out to be an affair to remember.

Ghosh’s new film is a sequel to Satyajit Ray’s 1969 masterpiece, though many new characters have cropped up in the course of the comeback. Besides the four from the old cast, ‘Part-II’ introduces Tabu as Soumitra and Sharmila’s daughter, Saswato Chatterjee as Subhendu and Champa’s son, Rupa as Samit Bhanja’s wife, Rajatabho Dutta and Chaiti Ghoshal as a planter couple and Jishu Sengupta as Saswato’s friend.

The setting for these ‘nights and days in the forest’ has shifted from Daltongunj to the Dooars, but the “feel” is similar.

Abaar Aranye sets the stage for the second generation to meet at the same place where generation-ex had got together and indulge in a ‘memory game’. “Through all this, certain characteristic revelations are made. Time plays a vital role. It seems as if the jungle, too, has undergone a metamorphosis — there are more men than animals,” laughs Ghosh, in trademark check-shirt, faded jeans and cap.

Banani bungalow, a two-hour drive from Siliguri, is the centre of all attraction. The tranquil cobbled banks of the gurgling Murty, skirting the forests, is where all the action is. And Tabu (“she is slightly broad-built, but suits the role to a T”, says her director) is the one to watch.

The tall girl in grey T-shirt and blue jeans — who has recently turned ‘veg’ — is thrilled to be here: “I think it’s important to be part of a film based on a Ray sequel. My role is an extension of what I am.”

For Soumitra, Subhendu and Samit, their roles are an extension of what they were. A pivotal scene has the trio taking a trip down memory lane, while walking through the same forest (well, not quite). The three exchange anecdotes and share jokes as if time has stood still. The sun plays truant, but the shot is canned smoothly when there is a break in the clouds.

Amidst all the laughter, however, there’s a sense of irreparable loss. “We miss Robi (the late Robi Ghosh). He used to be such fun during shooting,” chorus the three, who were there then and are here now.

The scene for this Rainbow-T. Sarkar production will shift to Jayanti, Alipurduar, in October, while the final portion will be shot in a Calcutta bungalow.

Sun and mist permitting, Abaar Aranye will be ready for a February 2003 release.

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