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Rituparno Ghosh’s poetic tribute to Tagore

One of the most interesting entries at the ongoing IFFI was Rituparno Ghosh’s Noukadubi. Ghosh has always evoked extreme reactions. Some adore his work. Some hate it, says Gautaman Bhaskaran.

bollywood Updated: Nov 29, 2010 14:02 IST
Gautaman Bhaskaran
Gautaman Bhaskaran
Hindustan Times

One of the most interesting entries at the ongoing International Film Festival of India was Rituparno Ghosh’s Noukadubi (Boat Wreck). Ghosh has always evoked extreme reactions. Some adore his work. Some hate it. But, like every other helmer anywhere in the world, Ghosh’s palate is a mix of movies that are touching and not so touching. I really did not like his Chokher Bali or The Last Lear, but was greatly impressed with his Raincoat and Abohoman among a few others.

Noukadubi (once made in Hindi as Ghunghat) has been inspired by Rabindranath Tagore’s novel, written in 1904, though Ghosh sets his work in the 1930s. It is a lyrical, almost poetic, look at one of Tagore’s hauntingly classic stories about how a boat accident on a swollen, storm swept river plays havoc with the lives and emotions of four people.

Kolkata law student Ramesh (played by Jisshu Sengupta) is deeply in love with Hemnalini (Raima Sen), but on his father’s insistence and moved by a widow’s plight, he marries her daughter Susheela. On their journey back from their
Gautaman Bhaskaran
Gautaman Bhaskaran
village to Kolkata, their boat sinks. When Ramesh wakes up after having been washed ashore, he finds a young woman in a bridal costume lying near him, and she is alive. Ramesh, who has never seen his own bride (as was the custom then, since women remained behind a ghungat), assumes that the woman must indeed be his wife.

Back in Kolkata, Ramesh and his new bride, Kamala (Riya Sen), gradually realise that both had been married to different people. Noukadubi in its own languorous, though lovely way, takes us towards the truth, slowly peeling off the layers of lie. Ghosh, who wrote the screenplay, is in no hurry to reach the climax. Will Ramesh and Hemnalini meet again? Will Kamala find her real husband, Nalinaksha (Prosenjit Chatterjee)? But to find that out, we have to move through time and a couple of cities, including Varanasi.

This is first time that both the Sen sisters, granddaughters of the legendary Bengali actress, Suchitra Sen, have come together in a film, though they do not at any point of time share screen space. Much has been written about Raima, and obviously so. For, she is undoubtedly a very good actress.

However, Riya seems equally talented, and that comes as a surprise, largely because she has till now been a part of the Bollywood masala. As a demure wife in Noukadubi, she is arresting, and would hopefully add to the much-need Indian talent basket.

Other performances are as engaging, with both Chatterjee and Sengupta playing their parts with a touch of conviction. They infuse in their characters a rare sense of authenticity, not often seen in Indian cinema.

The movie will open on January 23 2011. For one, the day is observed as Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s birth anniversary. Two, 2011 will be celebrated as Tagore’s 150th birth anniversary year. Indeed, a fitting tribute to some of India's greatest legends.

(Gautaman Bhaskaran has been covering IFFI for a quarter century)

First Published: Nov 29, 2010 13:56 IST