FIRST LOOK and Preview: RITUPARNO GHOSH’S ABOHOMAAN
Abohomaan, the much-awaited film directed by Rituparno Ghosh, is slated for release on January 22. Abohomaan means eternal. Ghosh says it is a metaphor for the eternity of human relationships that the film revolves around. Like many of his films, Abohomaan is also self-reflexive in the sense that it has the structure of a film being made within the main film and the intertwining of these two stories that bear certain resemblances in terms of the characters and their fluctuating relationships. It offers an insight into the mindsets of the creator and the created, that is, the director and the young girl he moulds into an actress and how, during this process, a relationship evolves between the two within the process of filmmaking and also without it.
It is produced by Reliance Big Pictures, which also produced Ghosh’s Shob Choritro Kalponik. Abohomaan has already been screened at Pusan International Film Festival, Montreal World Film Festival, Mumbai Film Festival and Morocco Film Festival, all in 2009. “The film’s response across various festivals is a testimony to the maestro’s craftsmanship brilliantly with the most talented actors in Bengal,” says Sanjeev Lamba, CEO, Reliance Big Pictures.
“Abohomaan explores the nuances of relationships. Aniket (Dipankar De) is one of Bengal’s finest directors. He is married to Deepti (Mamata Shankar), an actress he fell in love with when she was young and they have a young son (Jisshu Sengupta). He falls in love with Shikha (Ananya Chatterjee), an actress as young as his son, when he chooses her to play the role of Binodini, the famous theatre actress of the Bengali stage in his film on Binodini’s life and her links with Natasamrat Girish Chandra Ghosh. Shikha someone reminds him of his wife Deepti when she was young. This sets off a chain of incidents and events that tends to upset the equanimity of what was, till then, what one would call a ‘happy family,” says Ghosh.
Binodini Dasi (1863-1941), more popularly known as Nati Binodini, is one of the most outstanding stage actresses of the Calcutta stage who ruled supreme for a little more than a decade (1873-1886), beginning at the tender age of eleven. Then, she quit the theatre scene when she found herself moving towards spiritualism. Once, after portraying the title role of Sri Chaitanya in the play, (the great saint who founded the Vaishnava philosophy in Bengal), Sri Sri Paramahamsa who had come to watch the play, walked up to the stage to bless her for her brilliant performance. The story goes that she would wake up early in the morning, bathe in the Ganges and would take vegetarian food during the rehearsals and the staging of Sri Chaitanya. After she quit the stage, she married a local zamindar who had waited for her for years. The couple had a daughter, Shakuntala, who died when she was 11, followed by Binodini’s husband’s death, leaving the cursed woman to live in a state of perpetual isolation and loneliness.
There is this constant intercutting between the real life relationship Aniket and Shikha share and between Binodini and Girish Chandra Ghosh within the film that is being made. This means that Ananya actually plays two characters – that of Shikha and of Binodini. Riya Sen plays Jisshu Sengupta’s wife. The story moves in three time zones, the remote past – the period film being made on Binodini Dasi’s life, the not-so-distant past – when Aniket is making his film with Shikha and his son is just a young man, and the contemporary present where the film opens with the death of Aniket, the director. These time zones constantly cut into each other as the film telescopes between and among these three time zones, giving the film a multi-layered perspective. Each character grows over the film, getting fleshed out slowly and surely. Deepti had given up a promising career in films when she married Aniket. The son, who wanted to create a music band and was a bit distanced from his busy and creative father, becomes a filmmaker later and finds a strange bonding with the same father. “My main interest was to unfold, for myself as much as for my actors and my audience, the finer nuances of the relationship between the creator and the created, what are the elements that sustain it, and why such relationships finally do not hold in time,” says Ghosh. There is a strong element of self-critique in the film. But he repeatedly insists that this film has nothing to do with the much-touted relationship between Satyajit Ray and Madhabi Mukherjee. “That is why I have kept a big age-gap between Aniket and Shikha – he is in his 60s while she is around 25. I have not tried to sensationalize on the subject in any way,” he sums up.
Rituparno Ghosh has scripted the film. Avik Mukherjee is the Director of Photography, Indraneel Ghosh is the art director, Arghyakamal Mitra has edited the film and the music has been scored by 21 Grams. Remember Guru Dutt’s Kaagaz Ke Phool?
Shoma A. Chatterji