Of love and war

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By Jaya Bachchan comes to town to dub for Sunglass and Meherjaan. Mohua Das
  • Published 16.01.10

Following in the footsteps of her superstar husband — Amitabh Bachchan is in town today for a school function — Jaya Bachchan flies down on Sunday to dub for Rituparno Ghosh’s Sunglass and the Bangladeshi film Meherjaan, where she plays the title role.

Directed by the debutante Rubaiyat Hossain, Meherjaan is based on the liberation war of 1971 and boasts a strong mix of cast and crew from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. The story centres around a young Bangladeshi girl, Meher, who falls in love with a Pakistani soldier during the 1971 war.

Victor Banerjee plays grandfather to a young Meher. But the story is told by the older Meher, played by Jaya.

“The film begins and ends with Jayaji, and in between we see flashes of her past. Jayaji’s presence is very strong throughout the film,” Rubaiyat told t2 from Dhaka on phone.

The story unfolds 38 years after the war, when a young Meher (played by Bangladeshi actress Shayna Amin) has grown into Jaya, a sculptor who lives alone. “She is visited by a niece who comes from Berlin in search of her past and she hopes that Meher will help her. That forces Jayaji’s character to go through her old diary and relive the moments of those violent days,” said the 29-year-old Dhaka-based director.

“I was looking for someone who would be able to deliver more through expressions than words, and I felt Jayaji was right for this kind of a subtle performance.... We contacted her office and met her on our second trip to Mumbai. She readily agreed after reading the script. We were apprehensive about how to entertain her in Dhaka but she turned out to be very down to earth!” she added.

On her first ever visit to Bangladesh, Jaya spent a fortnight last November shooting in and around Dhaka.

Cinematographer Samiran Datta from Calcutta has steered the camera. His wife Mita Chakraborty will work on the edit along with Sujan Mahmud of Bangladesh. Mumbai-based Neil Mukherjee will compose two songs and the background score. The cast includes popular Bangladeshi actors like Humayun Faridi, Shatabdi Wadud and Khairul Alam Shabuj.

Essentially a Bengali film with a smattering of English and Urdu, Meherjaan was shot in the span of a year. “Although it’s not a co-production, you can call Meherjaan a South Asian film. I’ve consciously tried to cast actors, technicians and musicians from all three countries and hope to release it in all three places.... I studied in the US and trained in films for the past 10 years before returning to Dhaka in 2008 to make my first full-length feature,” explained Rubaiyat.

Meherjaan is backed by Era Movies, owned by Rubaiyat’s husband Ashique Mostafa.