Roshmila Bhattacharya (MUMBAI MIRROR; May 1, 2017)

A day before Satyajit Ray's 96th birth anniversary, Mirror has learnt that Ananth Narayan Mahadevan is adapting a story, Galpo Boliye Tarini Khuro (The Storyteller Tarini Khuro), by the auteur for the screen. The 90-95 minute film, produced by Anjum Rizvi, will feature Paresh Rawal and Naseeruddin Shah as the protagonists. He hopes to be ready by January 2018 so he can enter it for next year's Cannes International Film Festival where Ray's first film, Pather Panchali (Song of the Road) bagged the 'Best Human Document' Award in 1956. "Years ago, when I was doing television, I'd approached his son, Sandip Ray, for the rights to a Feluda story and was turned down because he wanted to carry the franchise forward himself. But this story, which my documentary filmmaker friend Tapobrati Das read out to me in its original form, is one that cannot be made in Bengali. Ray plays beautifully between the mother tongues of the duo - Bangla and Gujarati - with Hindi as the linking language," explains Ananth who has been developing the screenplay with India's animation pioneer, Bhimsain's son, Kireet Khurana.

This time Sandip's scepticism was deflected with the promise that The Storyteller would either be a royal tribute to the master or else Ananth's swan song. And since his father had made only one feature film in Hindi, Shatranj Ke Khilari, apart from a TV film, Sadgati, Sandip is excited to see one of his baba's stories translating into a Hindi film. "When we shoot in Kolkata in July, he's promised to visit the set and also give us a grand tour of Ray's home and memorabilia. I'm looking forward to the pilgrimage," Ananth exults.

He's shot some portions in Kolkata during Durga Puja last year and plans to return to the City of Joy with Paresh in July. Naseer who's busy with a new play, will join later when they move to Ahmedabad.

In an interesting casting against type, Paresh plays the Bengali babu, with a vow to get the look and accent right. Naseer has been roped as the Gujarati businessman.

"Naseer saab takes his time giving his nod, but 15 minutes into this narration, he told me he was doing the film, more so if Paresh bhai was in," Ananth reminisces with a smile, adding he plans to cast a Bengali actor as Tarini's friend and two theatre actors from Mumbai for two other significant parts.

He is reluctant to reveal details about the plot. All he says is that unlike the other Tarini Khuro stories, this one doesn't dabble with ghosts or the supernatural. It's the only story in the series which is in a realistic space and as relevant today as it was when it was written.

"It talks about creativity and pilfering, which makes me wonder if Ray was alluding to his Alien script, based on a 1962 short story, Bankubabur Bandhu (Bankubabu's Friend), which he'd wanted to turn into a Hollywood project but couldn't. But Steven Spielberg's 1982 alien adventure, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial had disconcerting similarities with it which hurt Ray deeply. It's a simple story, rich in humour and biting satire. While one would jump to the conclusion that Paresh is playing the titular role of the 'storyteller' the title in itself is deceptive," Ananth ends enigmatically.