Sunday, April 21, 2013

Rituparno Ghosh: Shaking you out of your comfort zone

Miss not the quiet by lanes of Kolkata, for oft they conceal great minds; although, if you ask, even the paan-bidi wala, he will lead you to their home. Nor must your eyes overlook the aesthetically done with beautiful antique furniture and large paintings, dimly lit dark rooms, whose walls tell stories, no less than half a century old.  In one such home, resides, India’s pride, the brilliant film maker, Rituparno Ghosh.  His name and work go far beyond the domain of the ordinary to reach out to the sky, where freedom of expression weds the colours and hues of human relationships, in its diverse alternate shades.

Engaged with presenting human relationships from two points, loneliness and companionship, finding a friend in unlikely places, indeed, all of Rituparno Ghosh’s films talk recurring same subject and bring the viewer to address realities they do not acknowledge consciously. Questioning the institution of marriage, it’s happily ever after cover which hide deeper schism between couple, the film maker’s representation of the urban middle class families is unprecedented on Bengali screen.

“I was the first at least in Bengali films to deal with the urban middle class home in a manner that some poignant truths of their lives came out which have not been spoken of before. For the first time the audience was watching things that had remained buried within them; in fact, there was a denial of this truth. So in a way it was some kind of getting into the unchartered waters, at the same time dealing with loneliness and companionship and questioning the whole notion of the two.”

In Dahan, the first film that talked about marital rape, or the National Film Award winner, Unishe April (19th April) depicting the stressed relationship between a divorced couple, and the strained mother-daughter relationship, Utsab, which show complex set of problems in a family who have gathered for the annual Durgapujo, or Shubho Muhurat,  showing parallel relationships running from past to present, a sleuth and a victim find companionship in each other, even as a medley of human emotions, compassion and empathy come to the fore and leave the audience with much food for thought, there is no right and wrong, no judgment made at any time. This reflects Rituparno Ghosh’s own aspiration as non-judgmental. His films, in Hindi, English and Bengali, are his voice to artistically reach that destination.

When asked whether he thinks a committed live-in relationship is better than a marriage, he is wise.
“I don’t condemn marriage nor is it something I am immediately elated about; it is how you want to conduct yourself, and we can’t preempt our behavior at any stage. Marriage is not about two individuals; it is two families. When you are staying together there are certain odds you are facing. Are you staying together just to challenge the institution of marriage, or are you really living together happily? Quite often, just because, we have chosen to live together over marriage, there is an extra effort to prove that we are happy, which may be artificial at times. In the face of being marginalized for living lives that do not conform to society, it is entirely upon our fortitude and patience, our  ability to complement each other that make the relationship last.”
Rituparno Ghosh (49) is blessed with fingers that give away his parents’ profession as artists. These long, perfectly manicured hands learned their first lessons in film making with his father, who made low budget documentary films, converting the family’s dining table into his editing table! Further, his love of cinema took a serious turn when at 12, in 1975, Doordarshan Kolkata started airing Hindi and Bengali cinema on Sunday evenings. ‘It was then only a matter of scale,’ he says when armed with the technique of making films and ten years in advertising experience, the final push came while shooting a documentary, Vande Mataram with Shabana Azmi. She suggested that he take up making films for the larger screen. Hirer Angti, a children’s film, was his first.  He was young and hungry for fame and recognition. With Unishe April, his second, he rose to become one of India’s best known film-writer and Directors.  From 1994 to 2010, almost year on year, Rituparno Ghosh won Awards at the national and international level.

With his latest film, Chitrangada (A), released in Kolkata, in August, 2012, now available across India, on DVD, from 11th February, 2013, Rituparno Ghosh has ventured upon a yet again widely discussed subject of same sex relationships and the Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS).

“After Article 377, it has actually given visibility to homosexuality and there is a clear line drawn in the minds of people between homosexuality and heterosexuality. What lies with the entire gender matrix of various kinds of sexual desires had not been discussed before on screen. Chitrangada wanted to talk about the liminality of one’s desire to belong to a particular sexuality and the entire debate of gender and sex and the need to have an altered body, which everyone can wish to have. We are all working toward sculpting our own gender identity; women alter their bodies at Beauty Parlours, men get six packs. No transformation is actually over, it is a process; it is fluid.”

Clearly, Rituparno Ghosh’s mind is larger than life. The world will confer, in life and on the silver screen. 

This article by Julia Dutta was first published in Atelier India, March 2013 Issue of  the magazine. If you are not in India, write to: Creative Nest Media Pvt. Ltd, M-66, Punj House, Outer Circle, Connaught Place, New Delhi - 110 001 Email:info@creativenestmedia.comAdd caption

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Madhulika Liddle: Engraved in Stone

You might have looked hard at the Jaipur Book Festival for her, or even expected her to be seen at book readings in Delhi, but she is best found in Wikipedia prominently figuring as the author who created  the 17th century, detective Muzaffar Jang, placed historically in the Mughal period in India. With her debut novel in The Englishman’s Cameo, Madhulika Liddle secured her place in the history of the literary world of Indian authors writing in English, to give India its first detective placed in a period.
Liddle (40) began writing when she was 6 years old!
 “My mother used to subscribe to Femina and I thought it was the perfect magazine, a story here, a recipe there, some fashion and so I emulated it and had my own Madhu’s Magazine, which had a story, a grotty recipe, some drawings, it had a bit of fashion with little swashes of material hanging out...!”
The journey with words had begun but it was much later, in her late twenties that Liddle began to look at writing more seriously.
Into her third book featuring Muzaffar Jang, the latest being Engraved in Stone, Liddle’s books sell even before the launch. The sheer romance of a period equals the love and addiction people have developed for her main character. The language is excellent and the plot so engaging that the reader is kept hooked till the end.
Madhulika Liddle studied Hotel Management. But it was her historian older sister who became her source of inspiration for writing in the Maurya period. Besides, when her brother-in-law, passionate about historical detective novels brought into the family, trunk loads of novels, Madhulika Liddle got hooked. It is then she decided that she was going to create one herself.
“When I read these books I found that in almost every period of history there is a detective - there is a medieval Chinese detective, a Welsh monk, an Egyptian eunuch and I thought why not one from India? If there has to be one, then, I must create one.”
And bingo! Muzaffar Jang was born! The enormous amount of literature and research material available on the period helped to write stories placed in the Mughal period.
The creation of a detective placed in a period, is not the only first that has graced Liddle. The first prize at Femina’s thriller contest with her story, Silent Fear, now a part of her latest humour short story collection, My Lawfully Wedded Husband was followed by a first at The Commonwealth Broadcasting Association, with The Morning Swim; again a first at, Crossing Paths. A Suitor for Saraswati was the second runner-up in The India Smiles Contest. Also, in Zubaan  21 Under 40 short stories collection All this added a philip to her confidence and she realised that she could write stories that people liked to read.
Madhulika Liddle  is a prolific writer and has four published books, a few short stories, and plans to create a series of books placed in Delhi between the period of 11th CE and 1947.when India got its independence.  She wishes to carry on her Muzaffer Jang stories, the first of which, The Englishman’s Cameo, was also published in French by Editions Philippe Picquier, as Le Camée Anglais. Indeed, Muzaffar Jang is an extension of Madhulika Liddle, with his love of books, birds and curiosity. But he may begin to sulk soon as his creator aspires to publish another series of detective novels with a different central character! Madhulika Liddle has her mind full with a number of other books and stories she wishes to write in the near future
“I would like to be known as an author who writes stories in different genre and not only one, including socially relevant stories. The story which won the CBA competition is one such. I am hoping to bring out a collection of stories which showcase this aspect of my writing.”
Liddle follows a strict discipline. She does at least 1000 words a week day. She reads a lot, does not watch Television and writes throughout the day. She also writes frequent on her blog on cinema, before 1970.
She regards her husband, Tarun Bhandari as her greatest support. It was he who stood by her when she decided to leave her job to pursue a career in writing.
“He is the sweetest thing in life,” says Liddle coyly. “Actually I would not have been an author today if not for him. He is my first level editor, and the in-house marketing person for my books.”
Cheers to Tarun for supporting the lady’s success, as India’s first historical detective novelist. Indeed, Madhulika Liddle’s name is engraved in stone for giving birth to Muzaffar Jang, from India. 

The article by Julia Dutta was first published in the March 2013 issue: 

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