| ROLE CALL: Amitabh Bachchan and Rituparno Ghosh at an earlier tete-a-tete
After Ash, Amitabh. After the queen bee, the Big B.
If 2003 began with Aishwarya Rai toeing Rituparno Ghosh’s directorial line in the Tollygunge studios, the year will end with Amitabh Bachchan doing the same.
As soon as Chokher Bali is canned and screened, Ghosh will start his yet-untitled 10th film — his first in Hindi — “on a famous father and his son who chooses the same profession”. This could well be the true crossover film — produced by Golden Moments, floated by Tollywood leading man Prasenjit and sister Pallavi, shot in Calcutta and Darjeeling, crafted by Tollygunge technicians, but starring the biggest of Bollywood stars, with post-production in Mumbai studios and script collaboration by Javed Akhtar.
“I am doing the film,” is what Bachchan told Ghosh and Prasenjit at The Hyatt, Mumbai, on Tuesday afternoon. The dates for the winter schedule will soon be worked out, as will the cast — that could comprise the likes of Deepti Naval as Bachchan’s wife, Akshaye Khanna as the son and Tabu as an actress.
“The germ of this idea can be traced back to my first film, Unishe April, as I kept wondering what it would have been like if the daughter (Debashree Roy) had been a dancer like the mother (Aparna Sen),” says Ghosh. “Is it a curse to be born to a famous parent and pursue the same profession'”
These thoughts crystallised during the making of Shubho Mahurat, when Sharmila Tagore heard the director out and asked him to make the film in Hindi “for a wider audience”. A few months later, Aishwarya, too, urged Ghosh to tell the tale in Hindi, with Bollywood actors.
“I, of course, had Bachchan in mind, as he is the cinematic symbol of a successful patriarch. I sent him an SMS, saying I had a story idea and asking him when I could call. ‘Now’, came the monosyllabic answer in true Bachchan style,” recounts Ghosh.
From then on, for the past few weeks, the director and the actor have been in touch constantly over cellphone, discussing the project threadbare.
“He comes across as an interested and responsible actor, who is treating this project with extreme respect, wanting to be involved with it every step of the way. He has also been a very good guide, advising me how to go about my first Hindi film, a language I am not at all comfortable in,” adds the director, taking a two-day break from Chokher Bali’s post-production to firm up things for his next film in Mumbai.
Bachchan told Ghosh to write the script in Bengali and “not worry” about the translation. And Javed Akhtar, whose association with the actor dates back to the Sholay days, is “most excited” about lending a helping hand to scale the language barrier.
Ghosh had earlier been in talks with Bachchan after Bariwali about a couple of projects, and “Jaya, too, had been very keen” that he direct her husband, but “things, somehow, didn’t fall into place”.
But now they have. With Bachchan saying “no problems” to a 30-35-day schedule in Bengal, the industry here is in for a “big boost”, feels Prasenjit, whose company will produce the film with Sahara patronage.
“Our goal is do national-level work in and from Calcutta. In this endeavour, Amitji’s coming to Calcutta is great news for the industry, as he is not only the most popular, but also among the most wonderful actors we have had,” said the actor-producer.
And this could well mark a renewal of the best of the Tolly-Bolly legacy that, down the decades, has seen Mumbai stars like Dilip Kumar and Waheeda Rehman, Vyjayanthimala and Simi Garewal, Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi shining bright in the south Calcutta studios.
For, if Ghosh —who, with his eighth film, brought Sharmila Tagore and Raakhee back on big screen after years — has been approached by Subhash Ghai, Sahara and Shringar Films for their next projects, Prasenjit, on Tuesday, managed to rope in Anil Kapoor for his directorial debut Vande Mataram, which will soon hit the floors here. It’s showtime in Tollywood, folks, and the fun has only just begun.