The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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And is this final'
Priyanka Chopra

Currently the hottest contender in the Aishwarya-Preity-Rani-Kareena league is Priyanka Chopra, and we have Karan Johar's word for it.

The young lady, all of 23, has suddenly been hurled into the orbit of the opulently successful. Luckily for her as well as us, Priyanka is handling her sudden tryst with super- success with an easy-going grace. No high-handed behaviour, no sudden spiralling of her fee, no attitude.

That's why the rumour that she had been pencilled in to play the pivotal and extremely complex role of Chhoti Bahu in a new adaptation of Bimal Mitra's Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, took one by surprise. Earlier, a much-celebrated screen version of the literary classic had featured Meena Kumari as the unforgettable daughter-in-law in a Bengali feudal household battling bigotry, gender discrimination and alcoholism.

Priyanka Chopra stepping into Meena Kumari's place'

Sounds a bit far-fetched.When asked about it, Deepa Mehta denies any knowledge of Priyanka Chopra or the project for that matter, Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam. Mehta was keen to cast Aishwarya Rai and Vivek Oberoi as Chhoti Bahu and her faithful Man Friday, Bhootnath. Now she appears to have washed her hands off the project.

So is Pritish Nandy Communications actually producing a version of Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam starring Priyanka Chopra' Or has it passed on to the hands of another director' The truth is perhaps a little more complicated. Mehta is out of this prestigious project.

Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam has now passed into the hands of Rituparno Ghosh who admits, 'Yes, I've met Pritish and his daughter Rongita Nandy about a possible new version of Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam. When Priyanka's name was mentioned for the pivotal role I was sceptical. They showed me a photoshoot of hers dressed as Chhoti Bahu. I must say I was impressed.'

But wasn't Chhoti Bahu a far older character in the film' Ritu explains, 'Yes, in the film she was far older because she was played by Meena Kumari. But in Bimal Mitra's novel, Chhoti Bahu was far younger. Priyanka would be fine. I'd love to do Sahib Bibi' with Priyanka. But not right away. I've just done two period films, Chokher Bali and Antar Mahal, based on Bengali literature. A third one will be a little too much for me. But, yes, I'd like to get into it sometime later.'

At the moment the future of this project and Bengali literature in mainstream Hindi cinema depends entirely on the fate of Vidhu Vinod Chopra's new adaptation of Saratchandra's Parineeta.

If this ornate period piece does as as well as Chopra's former protege Sanjay Leela Bhansali's adaptation of another Saratchandra novel, Devdas, then PNC is bound to revive Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam.


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