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Ash triggers scramble for Chokher Bali

At least 3,000 people are likely to turn up to fill to fill a 1,900 seater to watch Aishwarya Rai in Chokher Bali, says Saibal Chatterjee.

india Updated: Oct 18, 2003 16:56 IST

Rituparno Ghosh's Chokher Bali, starring Aishwarya Rai, is running to packed houses in Kolkata since October 2. In Delhi, too, enthusiasm for the much-publicised Bengali-language film seems to be just as strong.

The organizers have been snowed under by a mounting heap of requests for entry passes for the special screening of Chokher Bali at the 34th International Film Festival of India, scheduled for the morning of the closing day. At least 3,000 people are likely to turn up in a bid to grab seats in Siri Fort Auditorium I, which can accommodate only 1,900 viewers.

Ghosh is understandably thrilled at the response, and so are the organisers of IFFI, the Directorate of Film Festivals. But the much sought-after Kolkata filmmaker has reason to feel sad that his previous film, Shubho Muhurat, which is a part of the Indian Panorama this year, hasn't quite got the kind of media play a film featuring Rakhee Gulzar and Sharmila Tagore should have attracted.

"With Chokher Bali hogging all the media attention, Shubho Muhurat has been sidelined a bit. Some people probably feel it is an old film," says Ghosh. Such are the wages of being as prolific as he is.

The reigning Bollywood diva, Aishwarya, is scheduled to fly in from Goa, where she is currently shooting for Gurinder Chadha's Bride and Prejudice. Expectations are understandably running high. Press Information Bureau (PIB) officials are on the edge, fretting over the limited size of the press conference hall at the Siri Fort Cultural Complex.

"Should we shift the press conference to a bigger place?" one PIB official asks. Ghosh puts his foot down. "Aishwarya is a down to earth person. I do not think she is looking for star treatment here. She'd be much happier if she is treat as a woman of substance. The Siri Fort press conference hall is just fine," the director tells the organisers.

Aishwarya will be presented at the end of the screening of Chokher Bali because she will be reaching Delhi only on the forenoon of Sunday and the show is scheduled to begin at 11.30 am. A shortened 142-minute, subtitled version of the film will be screened. The running time of the version released commercially is 167 minutes. The print that has arrived in Delhi has been received on loan from Kolkata's newly opened Inox multiplex.

What, then, is all the talk about Aishwarya Rai being upset that well-known Bengali actress Sreela Majumdar has dubbed her lines in Chokher Bali, thereby putting her out of contention for National Award? "There is no problem on that count," asserts Ghosh. "That fact has been acknowledged in the film's credits and Ash knows that she will not be eligible for a National Award for her performance."

The director goes to the extent of adding that Majumdar's strong voice has added weight Ash's portrayal of Binodini. "In fact, Raima Sen's lines have also been dubbed by Sudipta Chakraborty because her Bengali diction is too Angliscised," reveals Ghosh.

First Published: Oct 18, 2003 11:08 IST