New take on Tagore novel to open Bengali film fest

Among the offerings at this year's Darpan Bengali Film Festival is Noukadubi (2011), an adaptation of a novel of the same name by Nobel prize laureate Rabindranath Tagore.

It is a well-loved story that has already been adapted for the big screen six times.

Veteran Tollywood actor Prosenjit Chatterjee, 50, stars in the latest version - a period drama about love and mistaken identity. He plays a doctor whose wife goes missing and he later falls for another woman.

Speaking over the telephone from Kolkata, the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal, he says: "All the characters are more complex, more real, so that's the basic difference from previous adaptations."

He is not worried about comparisons because as he puts it: "People have forgotten about the old versions and for a new generation, it's a new classic. You can say it's a rebirth of the novel."

His confidence is not misplaced as Noukadubi is, thus far, the only sold-out movie of the festival.

Chatterjee will be present at the screening of the opening film at The Cathay today. The festival runs till Sunday with screenings at Cathay cineplexes and The Arts House.

The film was helmed by openly gay director Rituparno Ghosh, who died in May at the age of 49 after a heart attack. He had suffered from diabetes and pancreatitis.

Chatterjee had worked with him on seven Bengali films and his wife, actress Arpita Pal, was the female lead in Ghosh's final work, mystery thriller Satyanweshi (2013).

He calls him "a very good friend of the family" and adds: "It's a big loss for the industry."

His films with Ghosh are part of a body of work that numbers more than 300 movies. He has even been described as a one-man industry.

Chatterjee speaks matter-of-factly about having worked 18 to 19 hours around the clock and says: "Indian cinema works in this way."

Perhaps knowing first hand how tough the business can be, he has not pushed his nine-year-old son Trishanjit into movies.

He says: "I don't know what he wants to do in the future but I will let him study now. Maybe he's going to be a cricketer. He's into sports and he loves cricket."

Apart from Noukadubi, this year's Darpan festival features 14 other films as well as panel discussions and music events.

Festival director Sreyashi Sen, 39, estimates that more than 4,000 people will attend. Last year, the inaugural festival drew over 2,000 with a line-up of seven films and associated events.

Its success led to the regular screening of Bengali movies at Golden Village cinema in City Square Mall starting from July 18.

She says that while the regular screenings are of new films, the festival programme will feature a mix of new films as well as older, acclaimed works.

The line-up for Darpan is also curated according to a specific theme and this year's is 100 Years Of Indian Cinema.

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