Director Ranjan Ghosh’s inter faith romantic drama stay clears of any bloodshed that often accompanies such stories.
Film: Ahaa Re [Bengali]
Director: Ranjan Ghosh
Cast: Rituparna Sengupta, Arifin Shuvo
Rating: 3.5/5 [Good]
By Mayur Lookhar
Bengal, a land known for its egalitarianism, literature, and equally famous for its cuisine. When served together, it leads to a sweet potpourri of humanism.
Filmmaker Ranjan Ghosh’s Ahaa Re (2019) celerbates the inclusiveness of Bengal’s liberal society, a human interest story of told in delectable manner.
Left heart broken, noted Dhaka [Bangladesh] chef Farhaz Chowdhury [Arifin Shuvo], alias Raja, finds a lucrative job [LEGALLY] in neighbouring Kolkata [India]. He bumps into a ‘salt tooth’ Basundhara [Rituparna Sengupta]at a local Kolkata eatery, and is smitten by her. Basundhara is scarred by her past, but the Bangladeshi man is hopeful of a miracle.
Though fairly predictable, Ahaar Re serves a treat with its tender writing, engaging, appetising screenplay, and the competency of its cast.
Bangladeshis are stereotyped as infiltrators, poor illegal immigrants who threaten the sovereignty of Assam and Bengal. Inter-faith love stories, especially those involving Hindu girls and Muslim men are often met with scepticism among Bollywood audiences. The success of Abhishek Kapoor’s Kedarnath  came like a breath of fresh air. Kedarnath showed us that if religious sensibilities are respected, then Indian audience are matured enough to accept such stories.
Ghosh’s Raja Chowdhury is a far cry from the archetypal Bangladeshi. He was born to liberal parents – his late father worked in the Bangladeshi embassy in New Delhi, while his mother is a Hindu. For a liberal though, he’s still to make peace with the fact that his mother married again. Raja is not the archetypal conservative Bangladeshi, but comes across as the Muslim that Indian civil society, right wing ideologists wants him to be.
He’s lived largely in India, respects its secularism. He understands the problems faced by Muslims in getting accommodation in Hindu owned properties but carries no ill will against the community at large. Raja follows his faith but also respects other religions and even sits for Hindu prayers. Raja offends no ‘love jihad’ moral police [on both sides]. Faith is a personal matter, but being part of Hindu rituals to win a woman’s hearts? That’s no way to earn any secular certificate. Honestly, humanity, kindness require none.
Your reviewer has witnessed Shuvo’s for the first time and the Bangladeshi actor doesn’t disappoint. Being married to a Hindu women in his personal life makes Shuvo an apt choice to play Raja Chowdhury. The burly Bangladeshi displays his gentle side as Raja Chowdhury. It’s impossible to hide the age difference between Shuvo and Sengupta, but it’s his gentle nature, his maturity that wipes all religious, social barriers. Shuvo leaves an indelible mark on Indian audiences with his mellow, understated performance.
Bengali super star Rituparna Sengupta chips in with another virtuoso performance. The bitter past has left Basundhara despondent. Her servitude to her father-in-law Atanu Ganguly [Paran Bandopadhyay], his son Bappa [Shubro Sankhr Das] is her penance. Sengupta subtly emotes the grief of Basundhara.
Atanu Ganguly is a wise old Bengali. At first he is bit hesitant but then respects Raja’s love for his daughter-in-law. Ganguly reminds his son Bappa that while inter-faith marriage is a sensitive issue but the success of Nargis and Sunil Dutt, Sharmila Tagore and Mansoor Ali Khan, and Pramila Devi and the legendary Bengal poet Kazi Nazrul Islam marriages proves that true love transcends all religious boundaries. Ghosh aptly uses Islam’s poem Aay Behestey Ke Jabi Aay as a song.
The culinary delights in Ahaa Re are made more appetising through the aromatic conversations. Raja wonderfully explains how smell is equally important to your taste bugs yearning for chocolate, or your favourite delicacy. And this writer was enlightened with the origins of Malai Curry. Food has the power to warm bellies and hearts too.
While the film is largely engaging, you got a little put off with Raja’s obsession with Basundhara. The girl has rejected his overture, and Ganguly and Bappa, too, want the man to stay away but Raja is persistent. His actions run the risk of falling under stalking.
Raja’s past, his affair with Dhaka girl Shahida [Amrita Chattopadhyay] is played out in a jiffy. The man is upset that his love is leaving him for a lucrative job in Paris, France. The girl rightly reminds him that she too has made sacrifices. Shahida comes back into his life later, and wants to rekindle their love. The feminists will chide, ‘It is all fine, if a man has big dreams, but a woman’s desires bring desolation’. Also, for a liberal man, it’s hard to understand why Raja didn’t accept his step father?
Basundhara carried one too many additional burden from the past, and the revelation is predictable. There is a fear that the film might meander into a sob drama but Ghosh serves the best in the latter part of the film.
Inter faith love stories often end in despair, but Ahaa Re revels in its simplicity, and how there is no bloodshed in this cross-cultural drama. Ahaa Re! this is one is sure bound to appeal to your taste buds.