is everywhere. It is in our homes, our CD and DVD players, our
TV's, and even in some of our minds when we dress. Bangla cinemas
(from both Kolkata and Bangladesh) remain a far cry from the
glamour and masala we get from the Hindi Film industry. Although
half the South Asian subcontinent does not originally speak
Hindi, we learn to understand it and even pick up catch phrases
in a language that is not quite ours.
what happened to Bangali-ness. Simple: it's been overshadowed
in Bangla are formatted into the Bollywood formula, such as
Sarat Chandra Bose's Devdas. Three movies have been
made based on the original story. The first is in Bangla, the
second is in Hindi and the third is Bhansali's production. It
is this new, "glammed up" version, that has made Devdas
a household name among South Asians. Starring Shah Rukh Khan,
Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit, Sanjay Leela Bhansali's "Hum-Dil-De-Chuke-Sanam-flavoured"
Devdas has caused a stir throughout the South Asian
community. On one hand Bangalis claim that "it is nothing
like the original story and completely takes away from the simplicity
of Bangalis in general.” On the other hand, Bollywood-wallahs
insist that "the original is too boring and needs to be
is in the midst of these arguments that Bangali director Rituparno
Ghosh has given rise to a new-born baby in the South Asian film
industry: his Chokher Bali (Sand in the Eyes). The
film is based on a story by Nobel Prize winner and the pride
of Bengal: Rabindranath Tagore. The film stars Bollywood princess,
Aishwarya Rai, Raima Sen (grand-daughter of Kolkata's very own
sweetheart, Suchitra Sen), Prosenjit Chatterji and Tota Raychaudhari.
Ghosh manages to keep the original Bangla flavour but also manages
to give it the extra umph it needs to be Bollywood worthy. Having
a high profile Hindi film actress as his leading lady also gave
it the right commercial boost.
In the story,
hauntingly beautiful Binodini (Rai) is arranged to marry medical
student Mahendra (Chatterji). Not ready for marriage, he promptly
rejects the proposal and Binodini marries another man who dies
within a year of their marriage, leaving her widowed. Meanwhile,
to take the heat off himself, Mahendra convinces Behari to consider
Ashalata (Sen) for marriage. The tables turn when Behari and
Mahendra both go to see Asha and Mahendra falls in love with
her. Being a selfish, self indulgent, spoilt brat, Mahendra
insists that Behari give Asha up. Behari, the eternal push-over
and a doting, loyal friend, steps aside and lets Mahendra marry
Asha. After their marriage all three characters meet Binodini,
who comes to live with Mahendra's family. She befriends Asha
and wins the heart of everyone, thereby weaving herself in a
tangled web of love, deceit, jealousy and fate.
name Chokher Bali comes from a conversation between
Asha and Binodini, in which Asha asks her what she should call
her "ador kore". Binodini smilingly responds with
a strange term of endearment -- Chokher Bali which
can be interpreted in two ways. The obvious analysis is that
Binodini's presence in Mahendra's family is a disturbance among
their family life, similar to the way a grain of sand in the
eye irritates and does not allow one to see things clearly.
At the same time, the same grain of sand can be placed in an
oyster and transform into a pearl. Binodini starts out as an
irritant, but causes each family member to re-establish and
value their relationships with each other, transforming them
into original persons with greater wisdom and integrity. She
becomes the outsider who disrupts their lifestyle, which finally
results in all the characters coming to a better understanding
of what is really important.
It is hard
to say which actress shines more: Raima Sen or Aishwarya Rai.
Both of them have their advantages. While Rai is more experienced
in terms of acting, Sen is in her element because she is working
with a Bangali story. Sen also has had the advantage of listening
to her grandmother Suchitra Sen reading out the book in Bangla
to her when she was younger, which she claims, has helped her
put more feeling into her acting.
Binodini and Asha both have their own appeal. Where Binodini
is wise, intelligent and efficient, Asha is naïve, innocent
and oblivious to what is going on around her. While you have
to sympathise with Binodini because life had dealt her such
an unfair hand, you cannot help but feel endeared towards Asha
because of her simplistic nature.
entire film was done in Bangla, unlike Bhansali's Devdas, which
was in Hindi (unless you want to count the fleeting ish,
bondhu and kemon achcho's that you hear in Hindi-ized
accents). The director of Chokher Bali is a Bangali
and that makes all the difference. Although the movie is obviously
different from the original story, it is true to the Bangaliness
that some people feel is lost in the midst of Bollywood's glamour