The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Soumitra to star in British Asian film

Cannes, May 24: Soumitra Chatterjee is being lined up to play the role of a father in what will be his first British Asian film, it was announced in Cannes by the movie’s director.

The English-language film, The Potter’s Daughter, will also star Archie Panjabi, whom many regard as one of the most talented actresses in the UK and possibly the best from the British Asian fraternity.

The director, G.D. Jayalakshmi, said the '1.5 million movie would be shot in Bangalore or somewhere in south India.

“That’s because I’m from south India,” she said. “But it will be a pan-Indian film, with the saris worn Bengali-style.”

The budget is small but Gurinder Chadha’s Bend It Like Beckham, made with funds not very much more generous, has taken well over $70 million.

Describing the film, for which she is in Cannes seeking a distributor, she said: “This is a rite of passage romance, set in Britain and in India, about Chakora, a young British Asian girl who goes to India. At first, she is very English. She will be played by Archie Panjabi, whom I consider to the one of the best in the world. In my film, she will play Chakora, a name derived from Hindu mythology from a bird which feeds on moonlight.”

The romantic lead is to go to Sanjay Suri, with the role of the potter, who takes Chakora under his wing, going to Chatterjee. “The two young lovers become rivals to succeed the potter.”

The Potter’s Daughter is to be made by Jayamac, a Northamptonshire-based company. It made a short film called Arranged Marriage as a pilot for The Potter’s Daughter.

This has won a number of awards, including the Platinum Remi for short film and video at Worldfest, Houston. It has been screened by Cine UK at all its 32 UK multiplexes. Jayalakshmi has also won a writing competition.

For the crucial role of the Potter, she admitted she had considered Om Puri. In the end, however, she decided to be even more ambitious and her choice settled on Chatterjee, “who brings the halo of having worked under Ray”.

Although he is one of India’s most distinguished actors, he has not had much exposure in the west outside the circle of Ray devotees who loved him from the moment he appeared in Apur Sansar. This could be his big breakthrough to a wider audience.

Panjabi was most recently seen in the critically acclaimed The Constant Gardener, a film based on a novel by John Le Carre. She will be remembered, too, from her role in Bend It Like Beckham.

Speaking from her home in London, Panjabi told The Telegraph that she was “very excited” about the prospect of working with Soumitra Chatterjee. “Such an honour!” she commented.

Incidentally, Chatterjee is expected to be in London later this week for a play reading of Tagore’s Shesher Kabita.

“The role of Chakora is very different from my previous roles, and this is something on which I thrive,” added Panjabi.

Recently, at the Reims Festival, Panjabi won the award for Best Actress for Yasmin, a film set in northern England about a westernised Muslim girl who is radicalised by the reaction of her English neighbours and colleagues to the attacks on the Towers in New York.

“This award was a great honour, knowing how critical the French are,” she said.

“I have also been in a film with Russell Crowe, called A Good Year, which will be released world-wide in November.”

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