Director Sushil Rajpal was inspired by the real story of one of his closest friends in Bihar, who was kidnapped and forcibly married off to a bride not of his choice, to make his National Award winning film Antardwand that releases this Friday. Raj Singh Chaudhury, who recreates the trauma in reel life, insists that this bizarre case is not an exception.
"Just last year 1,300 cases of groom abduction were registered. And there must have been other instances that were not reported," says the actor who himself married the girl he loved in a big, fat, normal Rajasthani wedding.
The man whose life he mirrors hasn’t been as fortunate. After being suddenly picked up, he was tortured for days together before the pheras. Then, after the wedding, locked up in a room with his bride for 15-20 days in the hope that, broken and beaten, he would, as in 80 per cent such cases, submit to his fate.
"I could empathise with his anger and frustration when I was put through the same ordeal cinematically. It’s worse than serving out a life sentence in prison. At the same time, I could also understand his bride’s trauma… To be married and yet not married, then be deserted by your husband," Chaudhury sighs.
Identity under wraps
The man in question whom he interacted with on the sets, managed to escape from his in-laws house to another city. But with the case still pending in court, he is legally married. And the Anatardwand cast have been careful to keep his identity under wraps.
Such forced marriages have got social sanction amongst the upper caste, particularly in the northern states like UP and Bihar, where potential bridegrooms who have cleared their IAS exams or have a medical or engineering degree are targets of families who can’t afford big dowries.
“Being an educated and well-read person, I thought I’d seen it all till this script came to me. My first reaction was, Aisa bhi hota hai?” reminisces Chaudhury, who had assisted Anurag Kashyap and acted in Black Friday. He played the lead role in Kashyap’s Gulal.
Kashyap, along with Rajkumar Hirani and Imtiaz Ali, will be promoting Antardwand. The film has already created waves on the festival circuit and Chaudhury insists that despite focusing on a social malady, it is not ‘other’ cinema.
“Antardwand has all the ingredients of commercial cinema, including a ‘UP-Bihar lootne…’ kind of item number. Only we have shot on real baijis instead of a Shilpa Shetty,” he reasons.
Chaudhury has snapped up Kashyap’s next film, and one being directed by his assistant Shlok Sharma. Quiz him on details and he smiles, “It’s Anurag Kashyap kind of cinema, intense and dark.”
So would he describe himself as an Anurag Kashyap kind of an actor too? “I would call myself an Anurag Kashyap, Nishikant Kamat and Tigmashu Dhulia kind of an actor,” he argues. “At the same time, I would love to do commercial Hindi films, but with big names like Aditya Chopra and Karan Johar who know what they are doing.”
Middle-level commercial makers, he points out, wouldn’t work with me, nor for that matter would these ace producers since he’s not a star yet. Which leaves him with the Anatrdwand kind of cinema for now. “That’s not bad. Ideally, I’d love to do a Rang De Basanti or a 3 Idiots that’s a blend of both worlds. Hopefully, Antardwand will take me a couple of rungs up the ladder and I’ll get there, some day soon.”