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Chaos at Kolkata's fish market

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By: Subhash K. Jha, IndiaFM
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
This is one fishy tale that Rituparno Ghosh could've done without. On Friday at the tail-end of her shooting for the Hindi-Bengali bilingual Sunglass Jaya Bachchan suddenly found herself in a quandary. The scheduled shooting in a crowded fish market had to be called off because of the unwieldy crowds.

Shudders Ritu, "Of course I was aware that Jaya-di is very popular in Kolkata. But I had gotten away with shooting in a crowded market place when Aishwarya Rai shot for Chokher Bali. We thought we'd zip in and zip out, shots duly canned. But you know what they say about man proposing and God and fans disposing."

Hundreds of clamorous fans descended in the venue. "Making the situation worse was our security guards who spread the news that Amit-da was also coming there. Chants of 'Amitabh...Jaya!' filled the air. Then I knew we were in for trouble."

The shooting in the fish market was cancelled. "We went to my home and ate fish instead," chuckled Ritu recalling the week-long absolutely memorable experience of shooting with his most favourite actor.

"The next day, on Saturday, things went so well in a St James School. You see, Jaya-di plays a school teacher in Sunglass. She was so comfortable in the surroundings, she bonded with the students and teachers instinctively, and blended into the school as though she belonged there. Her commitment to the project was more than anything I had ever seen. She took all of us under her wings and became the mother figure. After a break she would shoo us back into work, 'Come come time for work. Lunch over.' She actually climbed on the sofa to arrange the Kali paintings on the wall. Jaya-di became one of the unit. I've never felt such warmth in any of my actors before."

Ritu got so attached to Jaya he didn't want the shooting to end. "On the last day when we shot in the school I found myself delaying the shots. It was my own childish way of fobbing of her inevitable departure. But she couldn't be kept back any longer. Jaya-di wanted to be back home in Mumbai in time to receive Amit-da who was returning from London. She quickly postponed her return to accommodate us for another day. I don't think I've bonded better with any other actor I've worked with."

Jaya even 'adopted' a manual rickshaw-puller. "At first she was wary of getting into a richshaw plied humanly. She found it inhuman. But when she realized her character needed to do it she formed a rapport with the guy we had hired to do the needful. They traveled together conversing very normally."

As for her performance, over to Ritu. " Jaya-di just blended into her role. I can't say she looked like Konkona Sen-Sharma's perfect mother because I know Konkona's real mother (Aparna Sen) too well. But they make a thoroughly convincing mother-daughter pair... and Pradeep Sarkar (who has cast them as mother -daughter again) will soon get to know."

Any glitches? "None! Jaya-di was an absolute dream. You won't get to see Jaya Bachchan in Sunglass. You'll see Jaya Bhaduri. Yes, there was one bone of contention between us. And that was the size of her bindi. Jaya-di wears very small bindis. I wanted her to wear much larger ones. She reluctantly agreed after grumbling, 'Ritu, you don't like my face. That's why you want to hide it under a large bindi.' But she finally agreed. She has never looked the way she does in Sunglass."

As for Jaya's Bengali... "Yes she is rusty with the language. But that worked to my advantage. We gave the character a peculiarly indeterminate profile. We don't know where she comes from, or what she really wants."

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