The treasure box
Any new work by filmmaker-actress Aparna Sen makes news. Now the buzz is around her long planned 'Goynar Baksho' getting off the block. Shoma A. Chatterji gives a tentative look at the upcoming film
Aparna Sen's new film marks several firsts in her long directorial career spanning three decades. The story is a celluloid adaptation of noted Bengali litterateur Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay's Goynar Baksho ( Jewel Box).
Says Sen, "I had held this story close to my heart immediately after I had read it in 1993. But for some reason or the other, it kept getting postponed and I diverted to other films. I bought the film rights in 2004 but still could not manage to make it for all these years. I am truly grateful to Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay for allowing me to hold the rights till today."
Sen has always made her films on her own scripts. For the first time, she will be handling a story picked from contemporary Bengali literature. "I don't even remember the story properly," says Mukhopadhyay. "But her reading put me in recall and she has done a wonderful job with the script. I don't mind the improvisations or the liberties she has taken because I feel these are necessary for the shift from the written word to the language of cinema," he adds.
Goynar Baksho translates into a Jewel Box and is linked to women in some way or other. The story is dominated not only by the characters but also by incidents drawn from the history of Bengal spanning three generations of women in the same family that was once aristocratic and affluent but gradually went into slow and sure decay. The seriousness of the story is subtly undercut with a light touch of the comic and the ironic and a touch of the intrigue through a ghost figure.
Of the three generation of women, the first one is Rashmoni who is a child-widow who grows up to become a matriarch of sorts within the family where the men are sketchy shadows compared to their female counterparts. The second is Somlata, the second generation in the family who steers the family's dwindling economic conditions to some extent partly through her timid, low-profile husband portrayed by Saswata Chatterjee, now famous nationally as Bob Biswas for his role as the scary assassin in Kahani. Somlata's daughter Chaitali forms the third generation who is the split image of the beautiful Rashmoni. The three women are bonded through the box of jewels they inherit and explore the contents.
The cast comprises Moushumi Chatterjee who portrays the older Rashmoni. "I worked with her in The Japanese Wife. She has an uncanny sense of timing the comic and the satiric demand. She was a natural choice for Rashmoni. Srabonti [one of the most popular Bengali heroines now in commercial cinema] is doing two roles - the younger Rashmoni and Chaitali, Somlata's daughter with who the box of jewels finds its final destination," Sen elaborates.
Moushumi Chatterjee is elated too.
"I am thrilled about Rashmoni because I love working with Rina-di and this is a very challenging and crucial role," says the bubbly Moushumi Chatterjee. "My character has the longest span because even after I die, I keep haunting Somlata as a ghost. When Chaitali begins to grow up, my ghost disappears from Somlata's life and steps into the romantic world of Chaitali. My only problem is to learn and hone the Bangal dialect from Faridpur because I can't speak it though my family is originally from Bangladesh," she sums up.
Srabonti, now a star in mainstream films, is terribly excited about making her debut in an off-mainstream film directed by Sen. "When I was asked to see her, I couldn't believe my ears! I have a double role in the film and that makes it more exciting," gushes Srabonti. Somlata will be essayed by Konkona Sen.
"It was the surreal and the fantasy elements of Latin American short stories found in Goynar Baksho that attracted me," reveals Sen.
Though Iti Mrinalini reportedly did not do too well either on the festival circuit or commercially, Shree Venkatesh has come forward to produce Goynar Baksho.