Aishwarya Rai, Raima Sen lend glamour to a 'dull' IFFI 2003
The 'star' presence of Aishwarya Rai and Raima Sen on Sunday morning at the screening of their latest film – Rituaparno Ghosh’s Chokher Bali - on the last day of the International Film Festival of India 2003 sent both the Press and the audiences into a tizzy.
Easily the best-attended film in the rather low-key festival which wraps up on Sunday night, Chokher Bali ended up overshadowing even Shubho Muhurat, Ghosh’s last film screened at this festival earlier, and other gems such as My Mother’s Smile, Dogville and At Five in the Afternoon.
Aishwarya’s performance as Binodini, though a finely etched one, will not nominate Rai for the national award (for she hasn’t dubbed for it), but the actress says that she does "not regret not having dubbed in her voice. When you dub, it completes an experience as an actor but it was Ritu(parno)’s decision. The film is set a 100 years ago and the language spoken was very pure and he did not want the intonations to become a topic of discussion."
Chokher Bali, which literally translated means 'sand in your eyes' and based on a novel of the same name by Rabindranath Tagore, is about a young widow Binodini (Rai) who is a rebel too.
Not only does she get involved in an extra-marital relationship, despite being close friends with the wife Ashalata (Raima Sen), she also believes that Mahendra (the husband played by Prasenjit) was truly meant for her before he married.
It is this conviction on Binodini’s part that leads her into the affair and then beyond to self-discovery as a woman.
Chokher Bali, "isn’t strictly a Tagorian novel", according to Ghosh. "But, I wanted to work within the typical Tagorian concept and deviated number of times from the written work to make the subject more 'Tagore-like' on film. I can’t comment on the number of deviations I made from the original plot, but the departure was necessary," said the director addressing a press conference along with the cast of his film after the screening.
Chokher Bali, which was touted as one of the five premiere screenings that the organizers had managed, in fact, has already been released on 2nd October in Kolkata. Reveals a DFF source, "It was being considered as the opening film but Rituparno decided on releasing it instead."
The film, which is currently running to packed houses in Kolkata, is not likely to be dubbed in other languages for mass audiences. "We’re releasing it with subtitles and then we’ll take a call on it later after seeing how it fares."
Meanwhile, probably the only flaw that the film suffers from is subtitling "done in a single day because the film had to go to Locarno," as Ghosh says, is nothing to write home about.
"And the film per se isn’t a magnum leap for me as a filmmaker," said Ghose, disagreeing with the suggestion that this film was his best ever and a departure from his earlier works. "I have always worked with issues relating to women and my subjects discuss alienation, solitude and bonding. Chokher Bali too carries on with the same theme."