Onir’s new Hindi film Shab will introduce Bengali superstar Prosenjit’s wife Arpita Pal (left) to Bollywood.
The film will transform Arpita’s traditional Bengali beauty’s image into a hip South Delhi socialite, and will also cast her as a woman in love with a younger man.
Apparently, Prosenjit was scandalized when he heard the role.
Arpita -- who is considered to be one of the finest contemporary actresses in Bengal, voluntarily gave up her career to be Mrs Prosenjit and to look after their daughter -- emerges from her self-imposed exile to do the occasional film, like the late Rituparno Ghosh’s last film Satyawanshi.
Onir says it took all his persuasive powers to get her on board for this project. “I had actually gone to meet Prosenjit, as he had expressed a keenness to work with me. When I went to meet him, Prosenjit’s wife walked in.”
It was camera-love at first sight for Onir.
Sighs the director, “I’m surprised she hasn’t been cast in any Hindi film so far. She is absolutely stunning, so stylish and elegant. Arpita has the potential to be the next best thing in Bollywood from Bengal after Sharmila Tagore, Jaya Bhaduri and Bipasha Basu.”
After convincing Prosenjit to let his wife work in Bollywood, Onir has now taken on the task of transforming Arpita’s image.
“I am giving her a very elitist South Delhi look. I am cutting Arpita’s long hair to a chic stylish shorter crop, changing her wardrobe, body language, the works,” reveals Onir.
"I am moving to Delhi for the next six months to explore the milieu and get familiar with it," Onir continues. "The Old Delhi, Chandni Chowk, Pahadganj area has been done by Dibakar Bannerjee, Sudhir Mishra and Ajay Bahl. I’d like to explore the other more upmarket Delhi, South Delhi, in Shab.”
Onir has also convinced Sangeeta Bijlani to come out of her retirement and play a prominent role in the film.
"Sangeeta plays a fashion diva who heads a beauty pageant. I saw her at a fashion show and loved the way she carries herself. I asked a common friend Anita Dongra to introduce us," he says.
Unlike Onir’s other films like My Brother... Nikhil, Bas Ek Pal and I Am, Shab will not deal with alternate sexuality.
Says Onir, “As a filmmaker, I don’t want to limit myself to one specific thought or genre. It is true that my earlier films did deal with alternate sexuality but there are so many other themes that I wish to explore."