The film approached this international and inter-religious love affair from an uncharted angle. The fact that the two leads are from two different countries also only comes up while discussing different recipes that are specific to their respective states. Thus, politics and geography take the back seat to make way for a human story
Two people from two completely different backgrounds are brought together by their love of cooking in Ranjan Ghosh’s third feature film Ahaa Re.
Newly single Raja (Arifin Shuvoo) moves to Kolkata to pursue his dream career as a chef. He subscribes to a catering service, coincidentally run by Bashundhara (Rituparna Sengupta), someone he ran into at an old restaurant. Their mutual appreciation for each other’s cooking morphs into romance, but secrets from their past latch on.
The film approached this international and inter-religious love affair from an uncharted angle. Ghosh didn’t take the usual Hindu-Muslim forbidden love affair route. The fact that the two leads are from two different countries also only comes up while discussing different recipes that are specific to their respective states. Thus, politics and geography take the back seat to make way for a human story.
This was a story of breaking the stereotype of breaking stereotypes. Let me explain a bit what I mean by that. When films started portraying strong female leads who weren’t the usual homemakers, that independent woman was almost never someone who stays at home all day taking care of her family. But here, Rituparna delivers a nuanced performance of a stay at home entrepreneur who is the main bread winner of a family of three, a combination of characteristics we don’t often see.
The characters have delicious back stories, like a complicated recipe you can’t figure out without the help of a cook book (or YouTube at present). When the film was screening at the Dhaka International Film Festival this January, audiences broke into applause when the Dad (Paran Banerjee) spoke in quirky Bangla proverbs. That was one of the secret ingredients that made this film so enjoyable.
The names Bashundhara and Raja felt symbolic like the film’s title Ahaa Re that alludes to the Bangla word Ahaar (meal). The director deserves praise for getting such subtle expressions from Arefin Shuvoo, who is not known for restraint while playing more serious characters. The onscreen chemistry of the two, however, didn’t always seep through the screen.
Not everyone has the patience of a film critic and the length may seem to drag on for quite a bit more than necessary. The element of magic in the end could also be dispensed with.
Ghosh expressed his feelings about screening his film in Dhaka last month. “It was an honour to be invited to the Women in Cinema Conference 2020, and screen Ahaa Re at the Dhaka International Film Festival,” he told the Dhaka Tribune Showtime. “We have created this film with our love for the two countries that are also our roots, and our identities. We feel vindicated by the love, understanding and generous applause given by the sensitive houseful audience. The interaction that followed was special, too. Looking forward to another year at DIFF with another film!”
Audiences can expect to be entertained with the many elements of surprise in Ahaa Re. The film was released last February in India and is anticipated to be released in Bangladesh later this year.