Veteran actress Sharmila Tagore has starred with her daughter Soha Ali Khan for the first time in Life Goes On, a film on British Indians that was screened at the ongoing 11th Mumbai Film Festival.
"This is the first time Sharmila Tagore and Soha are sharing screen space. I have known Sharmila Tagore for a long time and from the very beginning I have imagined her in the character she is playing," said Sangeeta Datta, who has made her directorial debut with the film.
"I have worked with Soha while I was associate director in Rituparno Ghosh's Antar Mahal," said London-based Datta.
The story of Life Goes On revolves around the cultural conflict between a father and his youngest daughter, with different sub-plots shown in flashback.
The story, script and screenplay are by Datta and detail the prejudices and Islam-phobia still deep-rooted among certain sections of immigrant Indians in London. It is a contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare's King Lear but it has a hopeful ending.
"The story is the contemporary adaptation of King Lear, though the ending is more hopeful. It shows that love can conquer," explained Datta.
Sharmila Tagore, Girish Karnad, Om Puri, Soha Ali Khan, Rez Kempton, Neerja Naik, Mukulika Banerjee, Christopher Hatherall, Stef Patten and Aria Gitanjali Banerjee Watts played the lead roles in the film.
Datta worked as an associate director in Rituparno Ghosh's films Chokher Bali, Raincoat and Antar Mahal.
When asked about their performance while sharing screen space, she said: "They were as good as expected. They gave an amazing performance while shooting an extremely difficult scene."
She said Sharmila is a perfectionist and even guides co-actors. "Sharmila wants the shots to be perfect. She helps her co-stars whenever required," said Datta.
The director wanted to cast veteran Bengali actor Saumitra Chatterjee, but he was not keeping well, so Girish Karnad was chosen instead.
"I was very keen to rope in Saumitra Chatterjee but he was not keeping well those days. Thankfully, Karnad agreed," said Datta.
Lyricist Javed Akhtar translated two Tagore songs into Urdu for the film. Datta says this is the first time any Rabindra Sangeet has been translated into Urdu.
"Rabindra Sangeet itself has been used in films plenty of times, but this is the first time the lyrics of such a song have been translated into Urdu with the same tune," said Datta.
She would prefer to call Life Goes On a British movie.
"I am a British Bengali but still hold an Indian passport. As the story is about immigrant Indians in London and has been shot with a British crew, probably it would be considered a British movie," guessed Datta.
The Mumbai film fest started on October 29 and will conclude on Novrmber 5. The film will also be screened at the Mahindra Indo-American Arts Council (MIAAC) Film Festival in New York this month.