October 9, 2010 (Calcutta Tube) Raja Sen’s new Bengali film Laboratory was released in four cities in USA recently distributed by Databazaar Media Ventures. Laboratory is the celluloid adaptation of a controversial story by Rabindranath Tagore whose 150th birth anniversary is being celebrated across the world this year. Raja Sen made a live appearance at four of the screenings and fielded comments from the audience. “I flew to the US on the 16th of September. I was quite apprehensive about the feedback because this was the first time in my long career for a feature film of mine to be premiered in the US before it was shown to the audience in my country and my home state West Bengal. But the positive feedback the film has brought in has been fascinating and flattering and very positive indeed. This was something that was beyond my imagination,” says Sen.
[ReviewAZON asin=”B0044FBVYG” display=”inlinepost”]The screening programme was organized in four cities – San Francisco, Houston, Atlanta and Washington. “The Washington screening was repeated on demand of the audience though the majority comprised of the Gujarati and the Marwari-speaking communities settled there. Many of them came to me and told me why I don’t consider making the same film in Gujarati and Marwari language versions they liked it so much. They also said that making it in different language versions would take it to a wider audience because of the film’s universal appeal,” informs Sen. The film was released in multiplex theatres in these four cities, each theatre with a seating capacity of around 250 people. The theatres were packed to capacity for every screening. The film was sub-titled in English which is mandatory for its US release.
“What really struck me is that they liked everything about the film – the acting, especially by Raveena Tandon and Arpita Chatterjee, the costumes, the technology that involves sound, music, and cinematography and art direction and found nothing whatever wrong with the film. So though the organizers had make arrangements for Q & A sessions wherever I was present, there were none because all they had were praises for the film and no questions at all,” is Sen’s take on the audience response. “I was specially fascinated by the period flavour the story demanded in terms recreation of a particular period in history and the timelessness of Tagore’s story that is as topical today as it was when it was written,” explained Sen in his directorial statement.
[ReviewAZON asin=”B0044FDPA4″ display=”inlinepost”]Chandana Sarkar who lives in Cleveland, Ohia, is President, Santosh Cultural Research Center, a non-profit organization that helps people of diverse ethnic backgrounds to adjust to the mainstream culture in USA, She says, “Raja Sen’s Laboratory is an excellent film. It reinforced my faith that Tagore will always remain contemporary. The film thrives on a very good screenplay. I enjoyed the film and was quite impressed with the performance of Raveena Tandon as Sohini, the Peshawari girl who comes to Kolkata after marrying a Bengali scientist. At several points in the film, she says that she is not like the average weak and emotional woman of Bengal Saheb Chatterjee as Rebati, who Sohini considers to take on the responsibility of the laboratory by trying to marry her daughter off to him, has also given a wonderful portrayal of the weak man without a backbone who is used like a robot by the two strong women around him, giving life to a concept that does not fall in the stereotypical mould. Arpita Chatterjee and Ranjit Mullick were no less in their performance and the team work is really good. Laboratory is a true tribute to Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore on his 150th birth anniversary. The story will not be complete unless we also thank Databazaar Media Ventures for making it possible for us to watch the film before it has been shown in India. They are global marketers in the truest sense of the term. We will keep looking forward to more Bengali films like this one now and in the near future.”
“The title Laboratory reaches beyond the literal meaning but remains rooted to the physical existence of the laboratory. It is the epicenter from which the characters emerge. It is a metaphor for the laboratory called “Life” where the chemistry between and among people are created, sustained, destroyed and change as if like magic. It is the ‘laboratory’ that is inside Sohini’s mind where she explores the chemistry among the characters that would realise her dream of keeping the laboratory alive,” Sen details.
Gayatri Chakravarty, a scientist based in Houston, Texas, writes, “Long before Laboratory was premiered in Houston, it was drew a lot of attention from people like me as the film was being advertised for many firsts such as – it is the first Tagore story to be premiered in the USA before being screened in West Bengal, the first Bengali film Raveena Tandon has acted in, the first Bengali film to portray a Punjabi woman as the female protagonist and so on. I had very high expectations from the film. I enjoyed the film very much and extend my congratulations to the director and the writer for a job well done. As a scientist, I could identify with Tagore’s stress on the fact that Indian science does not suffer from lack of funds but due to lack of character. As a woman, I take my hat off to Sohini, uneducated yet confident, honest, determined and with a mind of her own. She is comfortable as an affectionate mother who is equally tough in bringing up her daughter as a single mother. When her husband suddenly passes away, she takes full charge of the laboratory he has left behind. She is not a scientist herself but having worked with her husband closely and observing him at work made her learn some of the logistics of managing the laboratory. Raveena’s heavily Punjabi-accented Bangla, her make-up and portrayal of an extra-ordinary woman in colonial India have added conviction to her portrayal and to the film. The film also brought out the difference between Punjabi women and Bengali women. In Tagore’s Bengal, women were good in cooking, cleaning and looking after the family. They were docile, never questioned their spouses and never ventured outside their homes. Through Sohini’s character, Tagore has tried to convey that women can be equal partners both inside and outside home and that unlike women from Bengal, Punjabi women of that time would leave no stone unturned to achieve their objective. Interestingly, this holds true even today.”
“The film will run across 40 US cities on Saturdays and Sundays from now on and this is a milestone in my career as director,” adds Sen. “I have come to the US many times but this tour has been different. It is to have my film screened to NRI audiences, see their reaction and hear their responses live. It is not the trip that was important for me. It was this journey of discovery of how my film is seen through the eyes of an Indian who has been away from home for a long time. I was specially fascinated by the period flavour the story demanded in terms recreation of a particular period in history and the timelessness of Tagore’s story that is as topical today as it was when it was written. My faith in the story and in my choice has been vindicated with its success in US,” he sums up.
Watch Trailer of Laboratory: