(2004) Rituparno Ghosh on Raincoat

Bengali filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh says he roped in Aishwarya Rai and Ajay Devgan for “Raincoat”, his first Hindi film, because he was keen to get his audiences interested.

“They have to be used that way. Otherwise no one would come to watch my film. But I’m not using them only as stars,” Ghosh says.

Though Ghosh says he could have done the film in Bengali, “I did it in Hindi because, after ‘Chokher Bali’ where Ash had the disadvantage of working in an alien tongue, I wanted to give her the space of acting in a familiar language”, Ghosh told IANS.

Plus, he got the chance to work with fascinating actors like Ajay Devgan and Annu Kapoor.

Are you excited about the release of Raincoat?
Why? Because it’s in Hindi? Frankly to me it’s like any release. I know I’m leaping into a different kind of market. But I never allowed that to colour my judgement. Just because I’ve done another film with Aishwarya Rai before there’s curiosity about “Raincoat”. I find that very flattering. “Raincoat” is an intimate and delicate film. Just because it features Ajay Devgan and Aishwarya the mood shouldn’t be misconstrued. It’s a very tender film.

It seems like a chamber piece.
I disagree with that. I’ll tell you why. After a point the setting is immaterial. It’s the human interaction that matters. The encounter between Ajay and Ash could’ve happened in a park. It just happens in a drawing room. It doesn’t convey indoor but intimate emotions. “Raincoat” talks about separation and reunion. It’s a celebration of a relationship-revisited.

Did you plan a different mood for your first Hindi film?
No, “Raincoat” could be in Bengali. I did it in Hindi because after “Chokher Bali”, where Ash had the disadvantage of working in an alien tongue, I wanted to give her the space of acting in a familiar language. I understand Hindi better than she understands Bengali.

If I had done “Raincoat” in Bengali I wouldn’t have been able to work with fascinating actors like Ajay Devgan and Anu Kapoor. Hindi is important because the protagonists are both out-of-towners in Kolkata bonding in their own language. It’s the story of two uprooted human beings. That makes it a global issue. Had it been in Bengali the setting wouldn’t have been poignant enough.

Will the audience come with certain expectations from Aishwarya and Ajay?
Audiences have seen Dharmendra and Hema Malini in blockbusters like “Charas”, “Jugnu” and “Sita Aur Geeta”. But they also did unconventional parts in “Kinara” and “Dillagi”. Were it not for these films we wouldn’t have known the more subtle aspect of their talent at all. Or Sanjeev Kumar and Sharmila Tagore… they did both “Faraar” and “Mausam”. I’m accused of using stars in “Raincoat”. But Ajay and Ash are also actors.

But they’re being used to get audiences interested!
They have to be used that way. Otherwise no one would come to watch my film. But I’m not using them only as stars. I could’ve approached other stars. But from day one I knew Ajay could deliver. He plays a character totally different from what he has done before.

Mild soft spoken, completely ordinary… He was mellow in “Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam”. But there he was a successful person. Here he plays a defeated soul. I think there’s an innately gentle quality about him that only Sanjay Bhansali has used. I’m very indebted to Sanjay. I discovered Ash and Ajay in Sanjay’s “Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam”. But I’ve used them in “Raincoat” in my own way. I know we can’t brush away the comparisons.

Have you caught two aspects of Aishwarya’s personality in “Chokher Bali” and “Raincoat”?
Completely! “Chokher Bali” was difficult for her because she was trying to capture the feelings underlining a different language. In “Raincoat” in spite of the comfort of a familiar language she had a far tougher role to play.

In “Choker Bali” she played a heroine. In “Raincoat” she’s an ordinary housewife. I’ve worked with a lot of very beautiful women including Aparna Sen, Sharmila Tagore, Raakhee and Nandita Das. None of them played a character as ordinary as Aishwarya.

Did you try to diminish her beauty for the role?
There was no effort to de-glamorise her. Between “Chokher Bali” and “Raincoat” the whole year she was doing films that were in sync sound. Suddenly she was doing another film, mine, with dubbed sound.

I personally believe an actor can improve on her performance during dubbing. Ash hadn’t dubbed her lines in “Chokher Bali”. She dubbed for me for the first time. There was a sequence where she had to drink water and say her lines. It was very difficult. And she did it. Her performance improved during the dubbing.

How did you get Gulzar Saab to come into the project?
I needed a poem for the narrative. I had a Bangla poem which I wanted him to translate. He quietly translated it and then asked me about the film. I told him the story and he offered to write a fresh poem… completely free of money! When I mentioned money he scolded me, ‘Tumi maar khabe?’

Then I wanted him to record it in his beautiful baritone. He did the scratch recording. Ajay was supposed to follow his voice. But Gulzar Bhai’s version was too good to be discarded.

So which is better, Aishwarya’s performance or Gulzar Saab’s poetry?
(laughs) I’d go with Ash. Gulzar Saab can create poems any time. But for Ash to come up with such a performance is an event. She played the part with great dignity and charm.

The title “Raincoat” is curious.
Yes, to the extent that people think it’s a thriller. But “Raincoat” falls into the genre of Gulzar Bhai’s “Aandhi”. Every film finds its own viewers. Some people who enjoyed “Masti” and “Dhoom” will enjoy this one too. “Raincoat” isn’t a dry film. It has lots of emotional moments.

- Glamsham

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