The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Star-struck season

This will be Calcutta's hottest winter, ever ' and we aren't quoting the Alipore Met office here. From November to February, the heat will be on with a Bolly-Tolly-Holly (!) bandwagon of big projects and mega stars rolling into town and beyond. Here's a zoom-in on what would send the mercury soaring...

Vidya Balan


Director: Pradeep Sarkar (producer: Vidhu Vinod Chopra)

Star cast: Saif Ali Khan, Vidya Balan, Sanjay Dutt, Raima Sen, Dia Mirza

Storyline: A teenager morphs into a woman having been secretly wedded to her neighbour. The Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay novel was canned for celluloid by Bimal Roy in 1953 with Ashok Kumar and Meena Kumari.

Schedule: After some studio shots in Mumbai, the team is now in Siliguri for a song sequence atop the toy train. Next, they will be camping here in Calcutta for a 40-day schedule when they will shoot throughout the city ' Lahabari, Majherhat and even Bali.

Voiceover: 'Calcutta has never been portrayed in this fashion before. We have set the film in the 1960s, and not 1913, since it will be difficult for the modern generation to identify with the Brahmo Samaj notions of that time. Through the images, I am also trying to bring out the way the river Ganga is connected to this land. Calcutta is just an amazing city where disaster and creation happen side by side. You have the dazzle of Park Street on one hand and the intellect of theatre on the other. It's quite amazing. I am trying to capture this unique essence' ' Pradeep Sarkar.

Viewpoint: The mint-fresh triangle of Vidya Balan, Saif and Sanju could turn out to be one honest celluloid adaptation that Bhansali could never make. Isshhh'

Konkona Sen Sharma

The Namesake

Director: Mira Nair

Star cast: Undecided, but likely to be led by Konkona Sen Sharma and Sharmila Tagore

Storyline: Jhumpa Lahiri's novel has Nikhil 'Gogol' Ganguli ' born to expat Bengalis Ashoke and Ashima ' on a journey of self-discovery through some ill-fated relationships.

Schedule: To start either in end-November or early-December, Nair plans to shoot for one month in the city. Out of that, three weeks are to be spent shooting indoors (probably Aurora Studios), while the outdoor shots will be canned during the rest of her stay in the city.

Voiceover: 'Mira Nair has offered me the role of Ashima Ganguli and I am dying to do it. It would be a dream come true, but I haven't signed up yet because there's a date problem. My character is a young girl from a typical conservative Bengali family who gets into an arranged marriage and goes to the US with her husband' ' Konkona Sen Sharma.

Viewpoint: The cultural circles in Calcutta are all agog about the Golden Lion-winning maker of Vanity Fair basing her next venture in the city. Salaam Calcutta, with a pleasant twist'

Sameera Reddy


Director: Buddhadeb Dasgupta (producer: Jhamu Sughand)

Star cast: Rahul Bose, Sameera Reddy, Mithun Chakraborty, Labony Sircar. Hunt still on for Mithun's love interest

Storyline: Son Rahul meets father Mithun who had left home many years ago. Digging up memories through flashbacks, the two embark on a journey that reconstructs the past and brings them closer.

Schedule: Starts on November 8 in Calcutta. The heavy-duty cast camps in Orissa from November-end.

Voiceover: 'I have chosen Orissa because I dare not shoot my entire film in Calcutta with such a star cast. For the portions to be shot here, Samir (Chanda) is replicating Chowringhee in the studios. It will be very interesting because the real city and the sets will merge often' Buddhadeb Dasgupta.

Viewpoint: Watch out for middle-class Bangali bou ' and mother of two ' Sameera balancing home and away. Who emerges mahapurush ' the scrum stud or Mithunda'

No Poblem

Director: Raj Kaushal

Star cast: Undisclosed, but wife Mandira Bedi sure to make a guest appearance

Storyline: The first film of a quadrology on the four Indian metros and four colours of the Indian flag. A romantic comedy, the film tracks three couples through one night.

Sche-dule: To be shot in a start-to-finish 15-day schedule in December, filming will be at all major Calcutta locations, including the usual showcases ' Victoria Memorial and Howrah bridge.

Voiceover: 'It is more of a Benglish film with a liberal sprinkling of English dialogues. I have done my recce visits to the city and have really liked the locations and available infrastructure. I want to use the best talent that Tollywood has to offer' ' Raj Kaushal.

Viewpoint: 'Raj being more Punjabi than Bengali (Mandiraspeak)', wonder how much of true-blue Bengal this fluffy fairytale would be. But hey, No Poblem'

Ranir Ghater Brittanto

Director: Anjan Das (producer: Arindam Chaudhuri)

Star cast: Manjari Fadnis and Yash Pandit (the lead pair in Rok Sako to Rok Lo), tentative supporting line-up ' Shivaji Sattam, Sachin Khedekar, Irrfan and Yashpal Sharma

Storyline: Set in 1951, the Syed Mujtaba Siraj tale has some Census officers bumping into a pregnant mad woman in a village on the riverfront. Twenty years later, one of the officers revisits the place, meets the woman's 20-year-old son and kindles in him a desire to dig up the past and find the missing link, his father.

Schedule: A fortnight in Bolpur in the first week of February, then Murshidabad. Art director Samir Chanda is recreating a village in Bolpur.

Voiceover: 'When I read the story, I was taken in by the various characters and the tragedy that befalls them. It's a quest of a missing identity. The role of the mad woman is very crucial and I am trying to get a stage artiste' ' Anjan Das.

Viewpoint: With a national audience opening up for 'serious' Bengali cinema, the time could be ripe for the maker of Saanjhbatir Rupkathara and Iti Srikanta to taste box-office success.

Amitabh and Aishwarya

Yet untitled

Director: Rituparno Ghosh

Star cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Shabana Azmi, Aishwarya Rai, Fardeen Khan

Storyline: A successful father's relationship with his son.

Schedule: Mid-February to mid-March in Calcutta and in a hill-station thereafter.

Voiceover: 'If Unishe April explored the mother-daughter relationship, this film will be about the father-son relationship. The characters could be universal but since I know this industry, I have made the father a film-maker and his son a musician. And though the film is set in Mumbai, I want to shoot it entirely in Bengal because this is my state and I receive the maximum co-operation here' ' Rituparno Ghosh.

Viewpoint: Shades of Satyajit Ray and Amitabh Bachchan in the Big B's character will keep the spotlight firmly on the making of the biggest filmi venture by the Hooghly. In the name of whose father'

Postscript: There's more in store, with Aparna Sen, Anjan Dutt and'

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