Noted director Rituparno Ghosh is ready with his English film, The Last Lear, starring Amitabh Bachchan, Arjun Rampal, Preity Zinta and Shefali Shah.
In spite of the controversy surrounding Jaya Bachchan's statement, and Maharasthra Navnirman Sena's demand that all Bachchan movies should be banned, Ghosh seems undeterred about releasing his film in Mumbai this week. He tells Nithya Ramani why.
What do you have to say about the controversy that has erupted over Jaya Bachchan's comments? Will this affect The Last Lear's release?
Nothing is going to change as far as the film is concerned. It is slated to release on September 12 and it will. It is the producer's choice to release it on September 12. I don't want to comment on the controversy especially on the eve of the release of my film. I wouldn't be able to do justice to either the issue or the film.
As far the commerce of the film is concerned, the producers are there to take care of that.
What is The Last Lear about?
It is an emotional film about an aging actor, who is suddenly spotted by a director. I cannot reveal much because I want you to go and watch it.
How was the experience of working with Amitabh Bachchan?
You don't expect me to say politically right statements like 'It was great working with Amitda' or 'he is a wonderful man'. But the truth is that it is really an enjoyable experience working with him. I have heard that he is very professional. But I found out that he was not only a thorough professional but also a warm person, who makes everything lively and easy.
Why did you choose him for The Last Lear?
He suited the role perfectly. He has a theatre background and has lived in Kolkata. His parents have literary knowledge, which was passed down to him. So I couldn't have asked for anybody better than Amitda to play Harry.
The film is an adaptation of Utpal Dutt's play Aaj Ke Shahjahan. Why an adaptation of a play?
Utpalda has always been known as a comedian and a character actor. He never got the recognition he deserved. I wanted to revive this play as a tribute to him, as his contribution to cinema is very important. His work was known and confined only to Bengal. I wanted to change that.
What do you think about the trend of making films based on novels and old plays?
This has been the case ever since the beginning of cinema, which has always been a slave to literature. All films in the past have been lifted or inspired or adapted from our rich literature. This happens only when you run out of ideas. It is very difficult to banish literature from cinema. It gives the story a stronger narrative.
Why is it that all your movies are related to real characters? Why don't you make commercial films?
I am born and brought up in popular cinema. I love what I am doing. The day I get apologetic about what I make, I'll make a commercial film.
Why did you choose Preity Zinta?
I know she has always played bubbly roles in the past. I liked her in Dil Se and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna. I thought she might fit perfectly into Shabnam's role, which was more serious.
So was the case with Aishwarya Rai. She hadn't done serious roles until Choker Bali and Raincoat. But after that, she got recognition for her versatility and was offered more films from different genres.
The same is with Arjun Rampal too. I feel good when I am instrumental for somebody's success. I feel like a proud parent. I feel very proud when Arjun was applauded in Rock On!!.
Tell us more about Preity's role.
She plays a model-turned-actress and finds herself a misfit in the industry. So she feels for Harry, who like her, is a misfit.
You have worked with everyone from the Bachchan family. Who is your personal favourite?
Who, according to you, has outdone himself/ herself in the film?
Arjun. People never expect good performances from him. He was highly appreciated in Rock On!! and his performance is outstanding in The Last Lear.
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What was the most difficult scene to shoot in the film?
There is a drinking sequence, something that Amitda is best known for. It was dealt with very differently and was very difficult to shoot. He got into the character completely and made it seem like he was actually drunk. His speech was slurred even when we were not shooting.