Amitabh Bachchan to play Tagore?
When Sunil Gangopadhyay penned Ranu O Bhanu, it created a huge controversy in Bengal. The reason for the strong reactions was that in the book, Gangopadhyay had written about how Rabindranath Tagore had seen a young Lady Ranu in the nude! Now that Manish Goswami has got the film rights for the book that will be directed by Dr Chandraprakash Dwidevi, the concern across board is about how this particular episode will be shown in the cinematic adaptation.
Says Gangopadhyay, "A couple of months ago, the producer had sought the rights for my book. I had told him then that he would find it extremely difficult to adapt this film. But he insisted that he would be able to go ahead with the project. Fearing this controversy, I suppose, no one in Bengal has ever sought the rights for the movie. I've been told that the Hindi film will be a kind of a biopic. We have no intentions to belittle Tagore. We are not even casting aspersions on anyone. But our problem is that we always think that our icons are asexual and can't ever have affairs."
Back when the book released, there was a huge upheaval in the culture corridors about how Gangopadhyay could have written something about Tagore seeing Lady Ranu in the nude. "This is not a fictitious account. Lady Ranu had herself written about this and that's how I got to know about it. But one has to remember that writing such a thing in a book is one thing while showing it on screen is quite another.
One has to remember that in our country, we have no reservations about young girls being in the nude. Ranu was a bit of a tomboy and her parents would often have her dressed in trousers and shirts. Initially, Ranu's family used to live in Benaras and they would be in touch with each other through letters. Later on, when they shifted to Kolkata, Tagore would visit them. In fact, Tagore found a similarity between his daughter and Ranu. When his daughter was ailing, he would go to meet Ranu because the latter reminded him of her. During one such visit, he had seen Ranu in the nude," he adds.
Reports claim that Amitabh Bachchan's name has been in the wishlist of actors who might play Tagore and Gangopadhyay seems okay with the idea of such a casting. "He is a good actor and is also aware of Bengali culture. As for Ranu, one would need a girl who will age from 10 years to 22 years. That is if one follows my book," the author says.
Meanwhile, Dwivedi says, "I am an avid reader of Hindi literature and Ranu O Bhanu was the first English novel that I finished at one go. It was an amazing subject and Manish was very keen that he made the film. We discussed it at length and I know this will be a lifetime opportunity for me to direct such a film. Initially, when I read the book, I was very surprised with the revelation on how Tagore saw Ranu in the nude. A part of me had felt it was an imaginary account. But come to think of it now, one knows that there are so many girls in villages in that age group who have not really bothered much about their attire. Nobody would even raise their brows at such incidents."
However, Dwivedi admits that showing such a scene on-screen would be the toughest job in his career. "It is a very sensitive subject and one has to handle it with kid gloves. I have spoken to some poets about the relationship that Tagore shared with Lady Ranu. All of them have said that certain relationships should be left undefined. There is a Hindi poem that goes like: "Dheekha baat azm ki/kahn sunan ki nahi/jo janat hai so kahat nahi/jo kahat woh janat nahi." These lines, I believe, perfectly define the relationship between Lady Ranu and Tagore. Here were two people who were happy with their interaction even when the outside world was seeing it in a different perspective."
As for casting Dwivedi is still undecided. "Amitabh Bachchan was part of the wishlist but we haven't had any talks on it yet. For Lady Ranu's character, we need someone who is not only beautiful but has a great degree of innocence on her face. People are surprised with my casting of Sunny Deol as a panda in my film adaptation of Kashinath Singh's Kashi Ka Assi titled "Mohalla Assi". This is a play that was first adapted by Usha Ganguli and I decided to make the film after reading the review of Ganguli's play. Those who have seen the rushes of my film are amazed to see Sunny Deol in the role of Sanskrit teacher from Benaras. For this Tagore movie, I am first going to decide on the screenplay and then finalise the casting."
Shooting for the film will begin in Kolkata. Says Goswami, "It is a fascinating book and I am very keen on starting the film. We will strictly follow what's written in the book. Though the content might be controversial, we mean no disrespect to Tagore in any which way.
Some relationships are above definitions and we stick to that. I am contemplating on making a bilingual film on this. We will be locking the script of the film in a few months. Once the script is ready, we will decide on the shooting dates. Tentatively, it will be done during the end of this year. We haven't locked the title as yet but we will certainly not go with the name of the book. Few would know that Tagore's name is Bhanu. We will have to come up with a title that is nationally relevant."