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Friday, March 27, 2009
Return to Grace?: Sharbani Mukherjee
Sharbani Mukherjee returns to the Malayalam film industry with Soofi Paranja Katha directed by Priyanandan, after a hiatus of eight years, writes KK Moidu
Despite being born into the family of well-known film-personalities Sharbani Mukherjee failed to make an impact in Bollywood unlike her cousins Rani Mukherjee and Kajol. Sharbani is trying her luck in South Indian films once again. She made her debut a couple of years ago in Malayalam film Raakkilippaattu, directed by veteran Priyadarsan. Raakkilippaattu had also featured two other leading ladies Jyothika and Tabu in important roles. The film was dubbed into other South Indian languages including Tamil as Snegithiye. The film bombed at the box-office but some how managed to get some attention because of the women-centric subject and all female cast. The suspense-thriller revolved around a women’s college and its hostel life. The film had colourful song like Devathai Vamsam Neeye and Kallori Malare and dance sequences also. But all these factors couldn’t save the film from a box-office flop. Like many others, Sharbani was hoping to return to Bollywood through south Indian films but the failure of her debut venture stopped her for journey to Bollywood. Sharbani Mukherjee, of Bengali-Marathi descent, made her film debut long back in a blockbuster movie Border. J P Dutta’s Border was released in 1992. The film was based on Indo-Pak war of 1971. She shared screen space with Sunil Shetty as his wife. Her debut venture was a critically and commercially hit. But the success of the film didn’t make any impact on her career and she remains a lesser-known face in the industry, even after a decade. The actress with her trademark light brown eyes that runs in the Mukherjee family failed miserably at the box-office and could not left any impact on the sliver screen. She has also been unfortunate in a sense that she was never paired opposite big stars and not had the luck to work with the big banners and reputed directors. Though she has acted in a dozen films in ten years of her career. But none of them helped her to sail her ship. In the new film, Sharbani is playing the central character Karthi aka Beevi in the female-oriented Malayalam film Soofi Paranja Katha directed by Priyanandan, who won national acclaim for Pulijanmam. Soofi Paranja Katha is based on a famous novel by the same title authored by KP Ramanunni nearly two decades ago. He himself writes the screenplay and has made the necessary changes to suit the demand of today’s audience. Sharbani’s character Karthi aka Beevi in the film is entirely different from her eatlier films and it is a real luck for her as an actress to get such role. Karthi, who has shown unaccustomed intelligence and precocity from her childhood itself, grows up in Melepullaaratharavadu. She even puts the ancestral goddess under the shade of the house. The deep respect shown by other family members like her mother, uncle makes her isolated in the house. But the story turns when a young Muslim from Ponnani, Maamutty enters in the house for buying coconuts and arecanut, brought a change in her life. Karthi, who for the first time sees a human being looking at her without any fear, elopes with him without knowing where he is taking her. She embraces Islam and Maamutty marries her and lives happily. But Karthi is haunted by her childhood culture and customs. Maamutty builds a temple for her in the surroundings of their house but he got killed by villagers in the violence following this act. Karthi becomes Beevi in the latter part of the film. Sharbani’s role as Karthi aka Beevi is a singular and unique character played by her, but also a milestone in Malayalam and Indian cinema. Although talented actress are not short in Malayalam cinema the director must have thought that a well-known face can’t portray the role of Karthi powerfully. Sharbani had done enough preparations for the role by reading the English version of the novel. According to a report, she said, "She was very attracted to her character." Newcomer Prakash Bhare and Beyond The Ball fame Thambi Anthony plays important roles as Maamutty and Sanku Menon respectively. Prakash Bhare, a successful IT businessman in California is new to the film world but has proved his mettle as an actor in theatre. Thambi Antony, who plays the challenging role of Sanku Menon is a poet who wants to be valued more for his poems than his showbiz performance. Mohan Sitara tunes music for the lyrics of Rafeeq Ahmed. KG Jayan is the cinematographer and make-ups are done by Pattanam Shah and Pattanam Rasheed. Gokuldas does the art direction, while costume design is by Kumar Edappal. Soofi Paranja Katha is a teamwork of sensitive and culturally talented people. The bold attempt of the team is expected to become another classic of the new times. The film is made without any commercial elements like mind-blowing fighting sequences or glamorous dances, which are the staple of new Malayalam cinema. That the film challenges this scenario by telling a female oriented story is another specialty. Soofi Paranja Katha is the third film directed by Priyanandan after Neythukaaran and Pulijanmam. Neythukaaran won the best actor National Award for Murali and Pulijanmam won the National Award for best feature film. Will the third film of Priyanandan fetch a best actress National Award for Sharbani Mukherjee?