This is an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s popular play Romeo and Juliet with a contemporary twist. Aparna Sen’s Christmas release, Arshinagar, starring Dev, Rittika, Jisshu Sengupta and Waheeda Rehman, raises its voice against land grabbing and communal strife but depicts how love between two innocent youngsters from rival families transcends all.
“There is violence in the film but you must remember that this is a musical. There is one dance which depicts a real fighting sequence but that too has been stylised. The turbulence of the times is otherwise woven into the plot,” Sen told Millennium Post.
So how did Arshinagar,the film,come about? Years ago, Sen was toying with the idea of launching Hema Malini’s younger daughter Ahanaa as Juliet in her film which was going to be an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet.
“I thought of options, like Juliet coming from a family of Manipuri rebels or even Kashmiris. But that film didn’t materialise whereas my script did. Then I met Debojyoti Mishra who put music to Srijato’s lyrics. Finally ready, I set the story in Arshinagar — an imaginary space — perhaps embodied in the Sufi song, Barir pashe Arshinagar — by Lalon Fakir. The neighbor in this song whom you never see is just someone like you —irrespective of caste, creed or religion — just another human being” said Sen. The film has 10 songs and at least three of them are Sufi songs.
The plot depicts how Arshinagar is torn apart by rivalry between two powerful mafia lords(House of Capulet and Montague in Shakespeare’s original play) who are in the real estate business and are arch enemies. Ronojoy (played by Dev) and Zulekha (played by Rittika) — children of the two mafia lords — meet and fall in love.
After several twists and turns in the plot, Rono and Julie try to elope but meet with a tragic end. Their death perhaps brings an end to the enmity between the two families and also the communal tension that is rearing its ugly head in Arshinagar.
Sen however avoids the straight narrative in the film. She moves back and forth in time and adopts a theatrical style of story-telling.