From the margins

From Pakeezah to Umrao Jaan, courtesans have been an integral part of our cinema but with art going out of their lives their wretched lives also went out of our films. Now civil servant and litterateur Vishwas Patil is making his debut as director with Rajjo. Patil, who has taken leave from his job to pursue his passion, says mujras no longer happen in Lucknow, which was once considered as the hotspot. “The only place where you can still watch mujra is Congress House and Bachchu Bhai Ki Wadi in Mumbai. The film could well be swan song for this diminishing art.” Through Rajjo, Patil is covering the journey of a tawaif from being a courtesan to a classical singer. “As an election officer I have been in the Central Bombay for a long time. There I come to know about life in the cramped kothas that dot the area. Around the same time I read a compelling love story of Jayant Pawar about a 24-year-old Muslim tawaif and an 18-year-old Brahmin boy.”

It spurred his imagination. “The boy comes from a family where classical music is appreciated. His mother is a bhajan singer and he himself plays harmonium. So music becomes the attraction and then it leads to other things.” Patil says lack of training in cinema is not a handicap. “I come from Kolhapur, which was the centre of film production even before Mumbai. It was the place where Prabhat Studios came into being and the birth place of V. Shantaram. There was a time when the films of South were also processed at the film lab of Kolhapur. So cinema was in my environment. Then I assisted cinematographer Binod Pradhan to get a hang of things,” says the Sahitya Akademi Award winning writer.

With music by Uttam Singh, one can be sure of raga-based tunes in classical mould. Won’t it look out of place considering today there is nothing like class at Kamathipura? Patil differs. “There are still two three places where girls still dance to classical tunes. Also, my research shows that these people still show respect to only those clients who have some understanding of classical music. I am not recreating the world of Umrao Jaan but there is a strong connection between poetry and reality.” He says a five crore set of Kamathipura was created. “It reminded some seasoned industry people of the efforts taken for Pakeezah and people started comparing it with the masterpiece. Mine is a contemporary take on the state of affairs.

On casting Kangna Ranaut in the title role, Patil says he always had belief in her acting talent. “The only doubt was about her dancing skills but she has excelled under the guidance of three choreographers.” With a strong support cast that includes Mahesh Manjrekar, Jayaprada and Prakash Raj, the film scheduled to clash with Ram Leela this November.

She is in focus

BBC has launched a new season of programming. Called 100 Women, this season will feature more women’s voices and women’s stories on the channel. As a part of this BBC World News is airing a documentary India: A Dangerous Place To Be A Woman, on 19th and 20th October. With the number of sexual abuse and rape cases rising like never before, BBC World News journalist Radha Bedi travels to India to understand the reality of life for young women.

Horrified by the attack of a medical student who was brutally gang-raped in a bus in Delhi and later died of her injuries, Radha returns to the country she’s visited many times to explore the problems some women and girls face in India. During her visit to India Radha meets victims like Mousumi Sharma from Assam, who was filmed being manhandled publicly for attending a birthday party, Tuba from Bihar, who is an acid attack victim, Manoharlal Sharma, lawyer of Delhi gang rape accused, Badri Singh, father of Delhi gangrape victim, Veena Bhakshi, who runs an orphanage for abandoned female kids and many more. Radha tries to understand what is underpinning all this violence and why do women in India feel so unsecure. She also understands the changes in the judicial and administrative system, and acknowledges that India is seeing a change.

Voice from the hills

Uttarakhand with its rich cultural heritage seldom finds its way into Hindi films. This week is different as director Nitin Tiwari has come up with a thought provoking film Rajula. It is about Ravi, who while searching for a unique love story for his new documentary project, stumbles upon the mythical story of Rajula-Malushahi, a 700-year-old folk tale of Uttarakhand. With more than 50 different versions of the story available, no one seems to exactly know what really happened and he decides to dig deeper and explore it further. Nitin says he is trying to portray the struggle of women and the fact that things for women have not much changed in our society. “It is not just the adaptation of the epic love story of Rajula-Malushahi rather I have taken the inspiration from the tale and depicted the true face of our society when it comes to issues on woman.” Full of folk music and dance of the region some of the dialogues are also in Garhwali and Kumaoni. The film is releasing this week under PVR’s Director’s Rare initiative.

Language no bar

After doing some offbeat films Vishakha Singh finally achieved box office success with Fukrey. Now, Vishakha has taken up the onus of delivering something that very few actors have even attempted to do. Along with her Hindi horror film The Maya Tape with Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Vishakha has signed three other films in the South. Thurram in Telugu, The Motorcycle Diaries in Malayalam and Valeeba Raj in Tamil. Doing four films at a time, in itself, is a big deal but considering that she is Punjabi girl from Delhi, doing films and in different languages is really tough. While The Maya Tape will be releasing soon the other are under production. Vishakha says, “It’s a task to manage three different language films in the South and that too when the shoots are happening around the same time. But I really enjoy taking up such challenges and enjoying the fact that my hard work is being paid off.”