Will 'Raincoat' work for Aishwarya?
A month from now, during the Dussehra festival, Kolkata will be witness to a different kind of festivity - Aishwarya Rai and Ajay Devgan will be in town for the release of Rituparno Ghosh's "Raincoat".
By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
The film, which opens Oct 22, is not just the supremely sensitive Ghosh's first Hindi film. It is also the first avant-garde in which both figure.
Neither Ajay nor Aishwarya are strangers to this genre of cinema. Aishwarya's stunningly lucid "Chokher Bali" for Ghosh had taken the art world by storm.
"In a way, 'Chokher Bali' prepared me for 'Raincoat'," says Aishwarya.
"Though the two films are as dissimilar as can be, they both required me to play women who are bereft but brave and extremely modern within their conservative settings. In both films I felt myself grow as an actress."
Ajay has been dabbling with off-mainstream films like Prakash Jha's "Gangaajal" and Raj Kumar Santoshi's "The Legend Of Bhagat Singh". But this is his first full-fledged foray into art cinema.
He plays a jobless Bihari who, after many years of his sweetheart's departure from his home state, goes to Kolkata. On an impulse, he sets out to find out what his former beloved has done with her life.
The film unfolds over one rainy afternoon as two friends and ex-lovers catch up with old times.
The chamber piece is entirely different from anything that Ajay and Aishwarya have done even in the unbelievably beautiful "Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam".
"That was a different territory... no doubt very, very beautiful but different," asserts Ghosh. "I don't think audiences will get to see Ash and Ajay in a film like 'Raincoat' again. I had the time of my life shooting with them and now I'm having a ball directing Abhishek and Soha in 'Antar Mahal'."
"Raincoat" is especially critical for Aishwarya. It will come two weeks after the worldwide release of her first international project, Gurinder Chadha's "Bride and Prejudice", and a week before debutante director Leena Bajaj's "Shabd", which is Aishwarya's first film with a female director.
Will "Raincoat" shield her from the acid rain that a section of the press has showered her with for the no-show that was "Kyun ...Ho Gaya Na"?
Hopefully, her three autumn releases will prove the detractors wrong and, whatever the outcome of "Raincoat", it will decidedly prove Aishwarya's mettle as an actor.
The role was first offered to Kareena Kapoor, who said an enthusiastic 'yes'. "And then she simply refused to take my calls," laments Ghosh.
"I tried everything... SMS, phone calls... When nothing seemed to work, I approached Aishwarya and she immediately agreed. I don't know what Kareena would've done with the Bihari housewife's role in 'Raincoat'. But what Ash has done is beyond all my expectations," Ghosh adds.