Ketan Mehta’s ambitious project Rang Rasiya has been in the cans for almost a year and a half. However, after receiving accolades at the London Indian Film Festival, the biopic based on controversial painter Raja Ravi Varma, will be finally be released this September. Ketan says, “The film charts Raja Ravi Varma’s life, from his early days under the patronage of a king in Kerala to his time in British Bombay in the late 1800s, where he makes his fortune. Here, he gives birth to Indian modern art and helps inspire the freedom movement and Indian cinema with his depictions, which bring to life Hindu Gods and Goddesses.”
Randeep Hooda, who essays the painter’s character, says, “We only had black and white images of him as reference material. Not having audio-visual reference was both a relief and responsibility. Ketan wanted me to put on weight and look muscular for this role. He also wanted to soften my eyes because the eyes of a painter always look for beauty.”
Randeep feels Raja Ravi Varma’s life and that of MF Husain was very similar. He says, “Both were persecuted for their art and then made to sound like heroes posthumously. It is sad that when these artists are alive, we (society) make them go through hell and then celebrate them after they are gone. Things are the same even after 100 years. So how far have we really come?”
Rang Rasiya’s story is about Varma’s many muses including Sugandha (Nandana Sen). His fascination with a model turns into a torrid love affair, which is reflected in his art. A religious man sees his increasingly erotic work as dangerous and Varma is dragged to the British courts to be tried for blasphemy.