Rituparno Ghosh: Home and the World (THE CARAVAN, July 2013)
EXCERPT: “Ghosh knows his audience well, and he plays on our fascination with the actual world of film stars by embedding aspects of it on screen. He casts a real-life mother-daughter pair, Aparna Sen and Konkona, at a time when Bengali curiosity about the latter’s potential as an actress was very high, and yet does not make them play themselves—Aparna’s character, Urmila, is a housewife who has nothing to do with the cinema. Ghosh inserts into the film snatches of conversation that seem perfectly natural between Urmila and Titli, but also pick up on the film-going public’s innate tendency to compare star children to their parents. My friend Sandip thinks it’s incredible that a mother as beautiful as you had a daughter like me, Titli says guilelessly to Urmila, to which Urmila responds in a protective motherly fashion, “Eto sundar mishti meye amar” (Such a sweet, pretty daughter I have). There is also the near-perfect casting of Mithun Chakraborty as Rohit Roy, with the character’s life story drawing judiciously on aspects of Chakraborty’s own biography—his growing up in poverty in a refugee colony, his unusual status as a Bengali hero who made it big in Bombay films.
…In Shubho Mahurat, the film fan’s fascination with the star is taken to another level, by marshalling the obsessiveness of fandom in the service of solving a murder mystery. And having one real-life movie star of yesteryears play the fan of another—Rakhee Gulzar, cast against type as a homebound, spinsterish Bengali Miss Marple, plays a longtime admirer of Sharmila Tagore, cast as a version of herself—provides another level of deliciousness for Indian movie fans. Building that sort of on-screen relationship between actors who share an off-screen history was one of Ghosh’s favourite cinematic ploys. He played constantly on the Bengali audience’s cinematic associations, creating with finesse the frisson that comes from rubbing the real against the reel. In Shubho Mahurat, an early scene has Sharmila Tagore (playing heroine-turned-NRI-producer Padmini Chowdhury) posing for a photograph with Soumitra Chatterjee (her co-star in several Ray films, playing himself). Then she turns to Subhendu Chatterjee, who starred with her and Soumitra in Ray’s 1970 classic Aranyer Din Ratri (Days and Nights in the Forest), and the three take a moment to remember comic actor Robi Ghosh, an unforgettable member of the original Aranyer party who had—in real life—recently passed away. Ghosh’s joyful cinephilia is not satisfied until he gets fellow filmmaker Goutam Ghose to show up in an unannounced cameo, taking the still camera out of the photographer’s hands to take the picture himself—a little in-joke about the fact that Ghose was then making a sequel to Aranyer Din Ratri called Abar Aranye (In the Forest, Again, 2003).”
Read the complete piece HERE.