Once Satyajit Ray was asked, “Which of your films would you like to remake?” He answered that, if possible, he would have remade all his films except for “Charulata”. It was only “Charulata” that he thought was made “perfectly” and he would like to keep it that way. Well, now an expatriate Bengali film maker, Amitabha Neil Ray, is trying to recreate history. Amitabha is planning on making “Charu: Unspoken”, a modern version of Tagore and Ray’s Charulata set in current day America. To some, it may sound like sacrilege. To remake what most people think as a classic, to try to better one of the best film craftsman of all times, is what only few would like to dare. The stakes are too high, the expectations are sky reaching – almost impossible to meet, and failure seems to be inevitable. But, isn’t that what geniuses strive for? Isn’t the challenge to excel, to better the best, to pursue the dream to the end, what drives artists to create their master pieces? Didn’t Ray himself take the leap to recreate another master creators work and make it even better in many ways? Great works of art always inspires other artists, and that is why Ray’s “Charulata” drives artists like Amitabha Neil Ray to remake his own, “Charu: Unspoken”.
When Amitabha approached me to write the screenplay for the film, I too was not quite sure if this was the right thing to do. Will I be able to reach anywhere near the artistry that Ray’s screenplay had achieved? But then, I tried to think it through and took it upon as a challenge to myself as to how to recreate Charulata in modern day America, more specifically New York. The original story (Tagore’s Noshto Nir – Broken nest) was set in late 19th century Bengal. The social, political and economical as well as the moral value system of that time was quite different from that of the 21st century New York. The environment of Charulata in Noshto Nir and the environment of Charu in New York are way different – hence their behaviors, their responses to the circumstances must be different. But the fundamental human psychology, the conflicts of relationships, and the basic moral dilemmas have not changed over the centuries. And this makes the story of Charulata, Amol and Bhupati a classic that transcends time and space. I hooked on to this basic pivotal point and framed the story of Charu, alone in a Manhattan high rise apartment, Anupam (Bhupati in Noshto Nir) a busy Wall Street executive, and Amol – a second generation Bengali American who strives to make it big in the New York theater scene. Just like the film Charulata, “Charu: Unspoken” isn’t just a triangular love story – it delves into the multi dimensional human psychology and attempts to deal with the complexities of human relationships at multiple levels.
But screenplay is only a small part of the entire film making process. It is the film director who finally brings it to life. As David Mamet once mentioned, “In Theater the director serves the writer, but in film the writer serves the director.” Amitabha now needs to spin his magic and artistry to create poetry on the silver screen. Being an artist and poet himself, Amitabha has all the right ingredients in himself to make this film a reality. An award winning painter, Amtabha had the good fortune of being an apprentice of the master painter of India, Paritosh Sen. His experience in the film society movement in Calcutta and his long associations with film makers like Purnendu Patrea and Gautam Ghosh made him thirsting to make a film of his own. Although he has made couple of documentaries, feature film is his passion – and hence “Charu: Unspoken”.
Film making is a team sport and Amitabha has formed quite a formidable team to ensure success. He has roped in internationally acclaimed art director Tushar Unadkat as the producer of the film. National award winning actress Rituparna Sengupta will be playing the central character, Charu. Active negotiations are in the process with several other well known actors and actresses from Mumbai film industry. For more details take a look into the film’s website. Principal photography of the film is scheduled to start in June 2008 and the film is scheduled to release in 2009.
Amitabha and his team are now actively looking for more producers/investors for the film. He has kept a tight reign on budget and plans to keep it well within $150,000 of which he has already secured $20,000 as seed money. The project is now looking for an executive producer who can invest around $130,000 and will enjoy complete financial authority over the project. Investors who can put in $10,000 or more are welcome to join the team too. Amitabha envisages that the film has the potential of making a significant return on investment. He cites the numbers from similar films like Mira Nair’s “Monsoon Wedding” which cost approx $160,000 and made more than $13.0 million in US box office. If anyone is interested to be an investor/producer of the film or even want to contribute to the project in any other way, please contact Amitabha at Amitabha@NeilRay.com.
Amitabha is embarking upon a journey that very few people would dare to tread. He and his team needs all your support to make this project a great success. I hope you will be with us on our journey too.