The name on my ‘annaprasanna’ card was Debarati Ghosh…there, I have revealed it! A hard pressed secret that I have known for a long time now, and have time and again thanked my parents to have changed it to Rituparna soon after. But then, 30 years back no one considered Rituparna to be a popular name. It was of course coincidence that I had one other Rituparna in class and another in our family friend circle! It’s still a very ‘Bengali’ name and yes like every adolescent there was a time when I thought of other names for myself…thankfully that name obsessed phase has rolled over and it’s been a while since I have learnt to love my name, my identity.
Then suddenly there was someone else who lay stake to Rituparna Ghosh. In fact after Unishe April released in the mid nineties, I remember a trip to Calcutta where the main objective was to catch the film at a theatre. I went too with my mother and aunts and I remember coming back with a feeling that Bengali cinema is not all that bad! Until then I had seen very little of Ray and to me Bengali cinema was all about Feluda’s series and Goopi Gyen Baaga Byen. The ‘antel’ (intellectual) cinema of Ray, Ghatak and Mrinal Sen were unseen to the 14 year old in me. By and by as Rituparno made National Award winning films, his fame spread beyondCalcutta. And by the time I finished college, post graduation and applied for my first job, it was 10 years and Rituparno was 10 films old!
My first boss who hired me at Times Now came for a campus interview. Since my resume was submitted earlier, she skimmed through my nearly bare CV again and very candidly added, “Now that’s a famous name there! We all contemplated whether we should have a ‘Rituparna’ in our organisation!” To be very honest, I didn’t know whether to smile or cringe! Was she giving me a compliment, or was pointing out to the lack of imagination in Bengali names? Anyways, like a good fresher, I stayed quiet…hoping the conversation would veer towards more serious matters. Thankfully, it did. She asked me a what I was interested in (never heard someone ask that to a fresher before) and where would I like to be placed. I happened to be the ‘only’ one who asked for aDelhiposting and got it at the word go! The rest asked forDelhiand got Mumbai! I smiled and told myself that I am the privileged one, thanks to my name!
Years later now however Rituparno’s identity is quite easily confused with mine! And really it doesn’t come with a feel-good feeling! A popular film critic fromCalcuttawho I have been in touch with for a while writes me mails mistaking me to be Rituparno! I have corrected her on a couple of occasions, but the poor thing continues to make this mistake pretty often! My Twitter handle has been particularly bombarded by curious followers who take me to be Rituparno. But the most disconcerting experience has been on mail. It’s been long since I gave up on Hotmail, but then once in a while I do long in to check if I am spamming anyone! Well…I think I do spam sometimes, but more than that what surprised me are the emails that are addressed to Rituparno!
Most of them are written in Bengali (English text used for Bengali), some are funny, some that you smile at the naïveté of the writers. Most of them are closet film aspirants – some who want to act, some who want to write and some others who want to meet the man, uh, woman…whatever Rituparno likes to be called now.
Sample this –
I am writing to you after a bout of confusion and hesitation. I don’t know if I am doing the right thing here.
I am Sankhamala Kundu and I live in Kolkata. Last year I joined Jadavpur University for an MA in History. This year I have taken the NET, SET, TOEFL, GRE of the world to satisfy my parents. My father is a professor of Geology at Jadavpur University and my mother is a banker with Canara Bank. My parents are keen I make a future that is ‘safe’. My father in particular wishes me to join academics, he feels being a teacher is the safest profession in the world. I can’t tell him that I want to do other things. I want to act. I want to be a good actress. I know I have to experience. No connections. There is no one I know who is associated with the film world. I follow Bengali cinema closely. My parents and I love your kind of cinema. I have been learning dance since a little child. Will you help me in some way? Is there a way we can meet? I know you are a busy director. I am but a middle class girl with dreams in her eyes. Will you please guide me? No matter how far is the reach of cinema, it isn’t easy for Bengali middle class girls to pursue cinema. You know how it is.
I don’t know whether I should expect a reply from you. But from the bottom of my heart, I shall wait to hear from you.
Your ardent follower,
Here is another one – this one came with a music video!
Hi Sir, this is my video. Myself, Vishnu Dey, from Malda. Maybe you don’t know me, maybe this video will tickle your memoy. Is there any work for me? I will be grateful if you could help me? I shall wait for your reply. Have a nice day.
And another one – this one came with a portfolio, pictures clicked in a studio.
Name: Arati Banerjee
Father’s Name: Sukumar Banerjee
Education: Sociology, BA (running)
I want to act. Please help.
And yet another one – this one attached an entire script, at least that of the opening scene of a film!
I am trying to write a film script. Please read through and see if this is how it should begin?
And the most ‘professional’ of the lot. Pratim added pictures from his portfolio too. And he wrote in proper English and I have almost copied his letter.
SHREE RITUPARNA GHOSH
WITH DUE RESPECT I BEG TO DRAW YOUR KIND ATTENTION THAT I AM AN ACTOR, BELONGS TO GROUP THEATRE AND I PLAYED A ROLE IN T.V. SERIALS, MEGA SERIALS,TELEFILM, AND ALSO PLAYED A SMALL ROLE IN A MYTHOLOGICAL FILM NAMING “ICHHAMOYEE MAA”. IF YOU GIVE ME A CHANCE TO PLAY A ROLE IN YOUR PRODUCTION I SHALL BE EVER GREATFUL TO YOU. I PROMICE YOU WON’ T HAVE YO THROW A STONE IN THE POND. I HAVE HEARD ENOUGH ABOUT YOUR GOOD BEHAVIOUR TO OTHERS WHICH INSPIRE TO GIVE HIS BEST.
NAME PRATIM MAITRA
There are more. At least a dozen more. I have read through them all, and I must add with the thrill of a voyeur! And with a sense of guilt too. But I haven’t had the courage to respond to them. I have not had the courage to tell them that the address that they have written to is incorrect. That Rituparno Ghosh will never read them. For as long as there is no reply, there is hope for these innocent minds. There is hope that Rituparno read their emails, saw their photographs and will perhaps write to them one day…
All names have been changed. If any one of them happen to reach this post, my apologies to them for not writing back. All I can say is that I am Rituparna Ghosh and I work for the small screen.