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Marriage, malice, murder


Based on a real life saga, Jagmohan Mundra's "Provoked" explores a landmark case in domestic violence in Britain.

FILMMAKER WITH HIS ACTORS Jagmohan Mundra, Aishwarya Rai, Miranda Richardson and Nandita Das

An ironical statement attracted and inspired Jagmohan Mundra to make "Provoked." When Kiranjit Singh Ahluwalia was jailed in London for killing her abusive husband, she said that she felt free for the first time in her life! The film is based on her story.

This prolific Indian American filmmaker, Mundra, came into prominence with "Kamla," starring Shabana Azmi and Deepti Naval. His other films include "Night Eyes," "Tropical Heat," "Sexual Malice," "Perfumed Garden," "L. A. Goddess," "Monsoon" and "Bawandar" (an award-winning movie based on the true tale of a lowborn woman raped by the upper-class men in rural Rajasthan).

Jagmohan, who was in India recently to finalise the background music score for "Provoked" with A. R. Rahman, talked about his current movie. Excerpts:

How did Aishwarya come on board this project?

When the book [`Circle of Light' by Rahila Gupta, a social worker] came out, I read it and recommended it to my producers, Dr. Murali Manohar and his wife Sunanda. The book was suggested to me for a movie by Southall Black Sisters, an NGO, when I screened "Bawandar" for them. Aishwarya heard about it and showed interest in playing Kiranjit. I narrated the story and she agreed at once. She even met Kiranjit.

How many days did you shoot?

The entire film was shot in England... 40 days at a stretch... Madhu Ambat is the cinematographer. On June 22 we finished the film, August 8 the editing was completed... Murali's company has its own editing facilities in London and we did it there.

I heard you had some trouble during the shooting of the wedding scene at the Gurudwara in London...

Well, it was like this. A scribe wanted to interview Aishwarya and she declined to speak to him. He created trouble the next day by complaining to some disgruntled political elements. It was sorted out.

Did you shoot in any prison in London?

In England, they do give permission to shoot inside prisons but there are so many restrictions. we erected a prison set in an old studio on the outskirts of London and shot. We also went to Scarborough [to] an old abandoned prison cell [for the shoot].

What about the background music score?

A. R. Rahman is doing [it] and the recording is being done here [in Chennai] in his studio... he is a phenomenon... there is a lot of background orchestra music towards the end...

When is the movie scheduled for release?

The first copy should be ready by the middle of October. November 25, I am told by the producers, is the date on which the film is to be released in the U.K. and India simultaneously....

Who are in the cast besides Aishwarya?

We have two Cannes Film Festival Jury members in this film... Aishwarya, and Nandita Das!

What is Nandita's role?

She plays an aggressive social activist working for a NGO ...

And the husband?

Naveen Andrews. He became well known after the award-winning movie "The English Patient" ... He is [working] in [a] TV Series called "Lost" produced by Steven Spielberg. He was also in "Bride and Prejudice"... it was Aishwarya who suggested Naveen's name.

Can you tell us something about Naveen Andrews. His name sounds Indian.

He is a Malayalee raised in England... he made no secret [about the fact] that he was brought up in an abusive family... it helped him to understand the film and his role... His eyes can be very disturbing and he uses them to his advantage playing this demonic character! He lives in Los Angeles.

And the other roles?

There are three important characters ... one is played by the Miranda Richardson...she is [actor] Vanessa Richardson's daughter... She plays the cell-mate of Kiranjit. The story is at three levels and is inter-linked. First is the story of her marriage and the betrayal by the husband...the love goes sour... and the murder. The second part is her life in prison.... She was in the Halloway Jail. The bonding of different women from different cultures... and how her cell mate, a white woman, draws her out of her shell and makes her blossom as a person... there is Rebecca Pidgeon who plays the solicitor... Roger Moore's daughter Debra Moore plays another prison inmate. Robbie Coltrane, Scottish actor, plays the lawyer.

And the third part?

There is an active group of Indian women running a NGO, Southall Black Sisters, who take on the British legal system against heavy odds and eventually triumph over it...

Any other Indian actors?

Rajiv James plays a solicitor for the NGO. He is a British Indian who has acted in the famous TV series, "East Is East"... he was also in the movie"East Is East" with Om Puri. Karen David, who is of Indian origin,... is a singer. She is going to sing the end-credit's song...there are [also] minor roles played by noted Asian actors prominent on the British scene.

Are there songs in this movie?

Only one towards the end on the credits... it is in English...The original song was composed and recorded by Karen herself. But, Rahman will re-arrange and re-record it here.

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