I'm accused of making pornography: Rituparno Ghosh

Nov 24, 2005 Subhash K. Jha

Mumbai, Nov 25 (IANS) Suddenly many in Kolkata and a prominent chunk of the film fraternity in Mumbai are up in arms against Rituparno Ghosh.

"A section of Bengalis think my 'Antar Mahal' is pornographic. They fail to understand why I've gone into explicit lovemaking scenes. But hello, hello! What they see as graphic lovemaking is nothing but the ritual of clinical sex between an uncaring husband and an unresponsive, frightened wife.

"The so-called pornography is as titillating in my film as child abuse or wife-beating. The act of lovemaking within the feudal ambience of 'Antar Mahal' is symptomatic of female repression. Of course, the lovemaking scenes are clumsy. They're meant to be. Because they're not about love but insensitive male lust," Ghosh told IANS.

The literate sections of Bengal and Assam haven't perceived Ghosh's elegiac erotica in the spirit that he wanted.

A middle-aged avant-garde filmmaker from Mumbai is outraged by the libidinous liberties with literature in "Antar Mahal", which stars Soha Ali Khan, Jackie Shroff and Abhishek Bachchan.

"It's a shockingly bad script from a short story by a revered master-writer, Tarashankar Bandhopadhyay. And Ritu shows extreme arrogance by crediting the source material as, 'Narrative Core'. How could he ignore, insult and twist a great classicist's work in such a dismissive and irreverent manner?

"I've nothing personally against Ritu. I loved his 'Raincoat', 'Chokher Bali' and earlier works. But critics should stop building Davids into Goliaths."

Harsh words. But Ghosh is unfazed.

"I knew I was going to face brickbats for 'Antar Mahal'. It is a sexually explicit subject. Every time a film goes into forbidden areas of the human psyche the filmmaker gets brickbats. When Aparna Sen showed the housewife in 'Paroma' being unrepentant about her extra-marital affair, Bengal frowned hard. But we've to learn to accept change in the audience and in filmmakers."

Ghosh admits that directing Soha in the explicit love scenes was very difficult.

"Soha's co-star Jackie Shroff was also very, very embarrassed. She is, after all, like his daughter. When Soha's mom Sharmila heard about the nature of the scenes, she told me to take good care of her baby. She calls me Mama (uncle). I knew what had to be done, and how."

Ghosh acted out the love scenes for the frightened and embarrassed Soha. "We filmed them all at one go from morning till lunch break... got them all out of the way like dental problems all dealt with in one go."

The other charge against Ghosh is that he has grossly under-used Abhishek in what's at the most a glorified cameo.

"I agree. Abhishek's role is brief in terms of playing time. But its impact is tremendous. I think everyone - Abhishek, Soha, Jackie and Rupa Ganguly - has performed very well. But Rupa has got the most appreciation. That's because her role is so sympathetic. In our country critics and audiences tend to confuse the character with the performance."

Ghosh says he's happy with the response to "Antar Mahal". "The critical response has been mixed. But I expected that. Every time a filmmaker pushes the envelope he's likely to be pushed into it."

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