It was his desire to work with the doyen of the Bengali film industry, Soumitra Chatterjee, that drove filmmaker Sujoy Ghosh to direct "Ahalya", a 14-minutes short thriller, which has been getting rave reviews.
Ghosh's Kolkata-set, Bengali film has taken a page out of Hindu mythology, in which Ahalya, the wife of the sage Gautama Maharishi, was seduced by Indra and cursed by her husband for infidelity.
The "Kahaani" helmer has given a modern twist to the story, starring Radhika Apte and Tota Roy Chowdhury, besides Soumitra.
"I am a big fan of Soumitra da. I always wanted to work with him and not just as an actor but I wanted him as a hero in my film. So, that was one primary reason for me to do 'Ahalya'. It does not mean that
Tota and Radhika were not important but it is just that I always had this dream to collaborate with dada," Sujoy told PTI over phone from Kolkata.
"Ahalya", which released yesterday, has already received more than three lakh views overnight, and word-of-mouth is helping the film gain momentum.
Ghosh said only a "fearless" actor like Soumitra could have taken upon the challenge of doing this film and tackling the role of Goutam Sadhu, an ageing artist, who is married to a much younger woman.
"He was very excited about it. It is also a new thing for him and he is fearless. He is not afraid of taking up challenges. Co-incidentally he was looking to work in a project like this, so everything fell into place," the director said.
"Ahalya" is a venture of Royal Stag Barrel Select Large Short Films.
For the beautiful and mysterious protagonist's role of Ahalya, Ghosh wanted someone, who could look like a seductress without being too obvious about it and he found that in Radhika.
"I wanted someone who could play a woman men lust for.
Radhika has a magnetic quality about her. When I met her and spoke to her, I knew she was Ahalya, as she could completely transform herself into this desirable woman."
Ghosh said making a short film is way too difficult than directing a full-length feature as it involves time constraints, but he enjoyed working on this new venture.
"I was supposed to do it for a long time. Short films are very tough as compared to making feature films. And not just the timing part, the writing part is a challenge and telling the story which has a beginning, middle and end in that short span of time. So, it may be a few minutes of film but the hard work equals the making of a full length movie," he said.
Ghosh said the response that "Ahalya" has been getting from the audience and film industry people is very encouraging and he is happy that everyone is looking beyond the language of the film and appreciating the content and story.
"The response is tremendous. This whole new medium of online viewership is new to me and I am still learning about it. I am really taken aback by the response. So many people are watching it. I don't think that many number of people have ever watched any of my films," Ghosh said.
"Another interesting aspect is that people are calling it a film and not a Bengali film. That is a very positive sign not just for me but for many filmmakers who make short films in regional languages. It proves that if content is good it can transverse language boundaries," he added.
Ghosh is also glad that after watching the film, people have realised that his 2012 Vidya Balan-starrer "Kahaani" was not a fluke and he can actually pull off ventures like that.
"I am happy that now people are realising and many have told me that they think 'Kahaani' was not a fluke. That is a big compliment," the director said.
When asked about his upcoming films, Ghosh, whose last directorial venture was "Kahaani", did not give out any details but assured he will be back on the big screen soon.
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