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    'White Noise' is fiercely feminist: Rahul Bose

    [Interview by Subhash K. Jha]
    Monday, March 07, 2005
    Actor Rahul Bose says his "fiercely feminist" release "White Noise" could not have been directed by a male director.

    He feels it is the first film that puts the female protagonist played by Koel Puri on the edge. "Koel''s character is vulnerable, psychotic, self-destructive, alcoholic and yet creative," Rahul told IANS in an interview.

    The former advertising account manager, who is known for his experimental films,
    also admitted that "White Noise" would appeal only to a select audience. Excerpts:

    What are you doing making all this noise, white and otherwise?

    You know me. The quietest soul on earth. "White Noise" the colour white that's made up of all the colours in the spectrum, when you mix all the sound frequencies the sound you get is what you hear when there's nothing on television.

    So essentially it signifies the nullity of television culture?

    "White Noise" is set in the television industry. My character Karan Deol is a reluctant editor of a regressive soap opera. He seeks solace in 'white noise'. It equalizes the turbulence inside him.

    You directed Koel in "Everybody Says I'm Fine". Now you've acted with her in "White Noise".

    It was certainly better to direct than to act with her. As an actor I had to bite my tongue many times and let the director have her way. Obviously that makes it a far less comfortable situation for me. I was supportive of Koel throughout. If you aren't that then you've no right to share the screen with others.

    The two of you were involved earlier.

    Having known each other for eight years, there's an absolute comfort level between us. After our break-up, we've remained friends for four years. I didn't have to go through the preliminaries and initial formalities with Koel. We immediately clicked as co-stars.

    But I had reservations about certain things. Like always, I was concerned with the pitch of the film. I'm an actor who thinks less is more.

    "White Noise" is your second tryst with a woman director.

    I don't look at a director as male or female. But certainly a film as fiercely feminist as "White Noise" cannot be made by a male director, though "Mr & Mrs Iyer" could've been done by a male director. Aparna Sen's concerns were more socio-political.

    My directorial debut "Everybody Says I'm Fine" had a lot of emphasis on the female condition. The female characters played by Pooja Bhatt and Koel Puri were very important in my film. But on the whole the creative impulse isn't gender-biased. Buddhadeb Dasgupta with whom I've just completed "Kaal Purush" has so much of the feminine sensibility. Abroad, Mike Leigh who has done "Vera Drake" has the feminine perception."

    Unlike Aparna Sen, Vinta Nanda was a novice to feature films.

    Very frankly when she came to me I didn't find the role extraordinarily challenging. I certainly knew how to play it. But it's the first film that puts the female protagonist on the edge, completely out there. Koel's character is vulnerable, psychotic, self-destructive, alcoholic and yet creative.

    Akin to Smita Patil in Mahesh Bhatt's "Arth"?

    I'd hesitate to compare the two films. My problem was to find a reason why a character like mine would fall in love with a woman like her. I wanted my character to come to a point where the male hegemony over the world ends and the male no longer sees the bright intelligent assertive career woman as a threat.

    This man has the enormous self-confidence to accept someone who would challenge him every step of the way. She certainly won't accept the traditional subservient role in the male-female equation.

    Aren't you tired of playing the near-flawless supportive male partner?

    Yes, I think this is it for me for a while. No more such roles for a long time. My role in "White Noise" is similar to "Chameli" and "Mr & Mrs Iyer" in their outward brush strokes. However, Karan Deol in "White Noise" is troubled in ways that the other two wouldn't know.

    In my next release "Kaal Purush", I'm stretched as an actor in every direction, and I'm delighted with that. It's going to surprise audiences. In Khalid Mohamed's "Silsilay" I play a very flirtatious south Mumbai guy with mobile phones in both hands, forever on the move and ambitious. This will be followed by Aparna Sen's "15 Park Avenue" where I play a solid, dependable, conservative, traditional male.

    But isn't Sen's new film dominated by strong women characters played by Waheeda Rehman, Shabana Azmi and Konkona Sensharma?

    You know, seen in totality, I'm very important to the lives of these women characters. The audience is constantly reminded of my presence. At any rate I've never been bothered with the playing time.

    How do you rate the three actresses you have 'supported' in "Chameli", "Mr & Mrs Iyer" and "White Noise"?

    That's a tough and unfair question. I'll give you a politically correct answer. They're all different actresses. Kareena is intuitive, warm and quicksilver with an innate rhythm. Konkona is naturally endowed with a great deal of understanding of cinema. Koel is raw, dark and edgy. This is only her second film. But Koel has a certain quality that one doesn't see in too many actresses in India. Koel is a new kind of actress for Hindi cinema.

    Do you think "Black" would influence the destiny of English-language urbane films like "White Noise"?

    We should be forever grateful to Sanjay Leela Bhansali for attracting the non-English audiences into a film with so much of the English language, on the strength of his name and Amitabh Bachchan and Rani Mukherjee's names.

    Now having seduced them into theatres, he's gripped them with an emotional story that makes them forget the language. Language doesn't determine a film's impact. It's the grammar of "Black" that attracts the masses. The grammar of "White Noise" is certainly not mass-oriented.

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