Those expecting Chokher Bali to be an extension of Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Devdas (Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai, Madhuri Dixit) are in for a disappointment warns the director of acclaimed films like Dahan [Crossfire], Utsav [Celebration] and Bariwali [Lady Of The House].
"Please don't bring in Devdas. We are talking about two different kinds of films. It has a different kind of audience appeal. If they [audience] come to see another Devdas they will be disappointed. Apart from the same actress [Aishwarya Rai] there is no common ground between the two," revealed Ghosh.
While outside Bengal, audience's wait for another Devdas from Ghosh and Rai, within the State cineastes are comparing Chokher Bali with Satyajit Ray's immortal adaptations of Rabindranath Tagore's novels.
Rituparno Ghosh is equally wary of being compared with Ray. "The Bengali audience expects it to be a renewal of Satyajit Ray's renderings of Rabindranath Tagore's novels Charulata and Ghaire Bhaire [Outside The House]. My Chokher Bali is a very different rendering of Tagore. The national audience would connect Aishwarya's presence in Bengali literature with Devdas. But my film has as little to do with Devdas or Charulata. Every period creates its own glamour and nostalgia. The same is true of cinema."
Ghosh is positive that the audience will see more to Chokher Bali than just Aishwarya Rai. "I think Rabindranath Tagore is universal. The philosophical complexities and literary resonance in Tagore are beyond language barriers. Even when Devdas was to be released everyone had reservations about how audiences would react to an alcoholic defeatist hero. Once the film released everything changed. So how can we anticipate the audiences' reactions?"
Ghosh doubts if his film's literary antecedents will click with the average Hindi moviegoer in Mumbai. "I don't think Chokher Bali is meant for him."
Making Chokher Bali has been a dream come true for Ghosh. The maker has left no stone unturned to ensure that this period drama stays true to its essence. "I am personally taking care of every department. Chokher Bali needs extra caution. This is my first period film, therefore totally alien to me. Even the incidental hawker on the street has to speak and walk correctly."
Working with Rai was a pleasure for Ghosh who became friends with the actress during the making of Chokher Bali.
He reveals "For some sequences, I would consult her before retaining it in the script. She was extremely particular about her continuity details. She made notes in her copy of the script. Her hairdresser and make-up person helped her work out details before she faced the camera. Her major obstacle in becoming one with her character, Binodini was her stardom. But she overcame that to give a memorable performance."
Ghosh fondly concludes, "A lot of people are waiting for her [Aishwarya] to fail. In my opinion, Ash has not only given one of her finest performances but also one of the best in cinema. She will be remembered in Chokher Bali not only because she is Aishwarya Rai but also because she has become Tagore's Binodini."