Story, screenplay and direction:Subrata Sen
Cast:Paoli Dam, Rohit Roy, Malobika Banerjee, Biswajit Chakraborty, Locket Chatterjee, Rupsha Guha, Mumtaz Sorcar, Aparajita Ghosh
By Soma A. Chatterji
In 2001, Subrata Sen made his sparkling directorial debut with Ek Je Aachhey Kanya (Once there was a Girl) marking the outstanding debut of Konkona Sen Sharma as a girl sexually obsessed with older men. It was a remarkable debut though the ‘inspiration’ from the Hollywood film Crush (1993) starring Alicia Silverstone remained unacknowledged in the credits. Ek Je … was enriched with excellent technique and bagged for the director the prestigious Golapuddi Srinivas National Award for the Best Debut Director of a feature film. The BFJA bestowed the Best Actress (Konkona), Best Cinematography (Shirsa Ray) and Best Debut Director the following year.
Thirteen years later, Sen has made the same film again with changes that hardly make a difference to those who have seen and remember the original film. He has even retained the names of the lead characters, Anjan (Rohit Roy), Rupa (Paoli Dam) and Riya (Malobika Banerjee). He has changed their professions and family framework slightly. Anjan, in this remake, is an artist with a creative block who desperately urges wife Rupa, who runs a boutique, to pose in the nude for him so that he can come out of his creative block. She refuses. The desire is never articulated by Anjan but is strongly suggested and realised when his young art student Riya (Malobika) is more than ready to oblige and she does. Riya is from a small town in Bengal but her dress sense comprising short skirts, shorts and other designer wear contradict this ‘reality.’
Sen has tried to intercut the story with some surreal elements such as Riya conversing with the ghost of a girl who has committed suicide in the same room which, however, turns into a red herring. Besides, poor Rupsha Guha as the ‘ghost’ looks as ugly as a witch though her performance is touched with intrigue.
Raja Chanda’s music is minimalistic compared to the melodious creations by Debajyoti Misra in Ek Je Aachhey Kanya. It is unfair to compare in this manner but the comparison becomes almost inevitable when the director is the same for both the films. Rohit is okay but Paoli is quite good though neither of them have much scope for exploring the potentials of their characters as the characterisations are linear. Malobika tries her best to invest her character with the impish diabolism it demands. Locket Chatterjee is very good in a small cameo. The cinematography creates a mystique with dark shades and muted colours.
The end has a different twist but that hardly changes the repetitive quality of the film. A director repeating himself with the same film he has done before with a different cast and technical crew does not necessarily mean that he has run out of his creative potential. Mehboob Khan had done this with Aurat and Mother India which, in essence, become two different films standing on their own. Michael Hanneke made Funny Games in 1997 and again in 2007.
But Sen’s film has not been able to achieve this distinction. Remakes can reflect a different era, a different take on the same story even when they are made by the same film-maker. Except the actors, the film remains essentially the same but qualitatively inferior to the original one. One would like to know why the film has been named Sada Canvas – The White Canvas.