Mohar Basu (MID-DAY; July 6, 2017)

Priyanka Chopra’s upcoming Bengali production, Nalini, traces Rabindranath Tagore’s relationship with his teacher, Annapurna Atmaram. The film’s subject [of the legendary writer’s infatuation with his English tutor] has upset members of West Bengal’s Visva Bharati. About a month ago, the university’s approval committee was given the film’s script for validation. They blue-pencilled two objectionable scenes — one where Atmaram shares a kiss with Tagore, and another where she kisses a suitor as Tagore looks on.

In 1878, Tagore visited Bombay before leaving for England. Atmaram, a teenager who was his brother’s friend’s daughter, helped him learn conversational English. She fell in love with Tagore and was named Nalini, the heroine of his first published book of verse, Kavi Kahini.

The committee had requested director Ujjwal Chatterjee to drop the said scenes. They now claim they will move the Kolkata High Court if the makers refuse to oblige. A member of the committee, on condition of anonymity, told mid-day, “Legal proceedings will be our last option. But if all reasoning fails, we will have to go ahead. The scenes are unnecessary. There’s no proof of their authenticity like the director claims.”

Chopra is currently in Paris for an ongoing fashion week, but her mother, Madhu Chopra, told midday, “We are in talks with Tagore’s family members to make the material as authentic as possible. I hope we can retain the scenes. They are factually correct. Ujjwal has been thorough with his research. Unless the censors delete them, we would want to retain them,” she said, adding that the movie will take viewers back to Tagore’s early days and his first tryst with love.

Chopra, also the film’s co-producer, said the scenes are important since they establish the infatuation Tagore experienced for his teacher. “The story is about his infatuation, so we can’t have a holier-than-thou approach. We knew this was a difficult film and it will require permissions because certain sections would be touchy about it, but the hurdles are all worth it.” Chopra argues that the subject was detailed after gathering information about Tagore’s past from reliable sources. “Our argument is simple — we haven’t created this story. There are books on the subject. We aren’t taking cinematic liberties. The story and the script were presented to the university.”

Asked about the possibility of a stay on the film, Chopra said, “If things get out of hand, we might be forced to cheat the kissing. People need to understand that we don’t intend to malign Tagore. I have Bengali roots too. We won’t do injustice to the subject.”