The real story behind Anaarkali of Aarah

Swara Bhaskar takes on powerful men in "Anaarkali of Aarah," a film about erotic singers and their fight for rights

Kolkata: Kulwinder Kaur, a 25-year-old dancer, was three months pregnant when she was shot dead by Lucky Singh, son of Punjabi political leader, while she was performing a dance number on stage. She died on the spot. Girls like Kaur are found in scores, across North India, who make a living by singing and dancing for weddings and parties hosted by the rich feudals.

Incidents like this happen and often go unheard. Telling the tale of many such women is journalist-turned-filmmaker Avinash Das’s directorial debut – Anaarkali of Aarah. The film’s poster that was recently launched by Karan Johar, shows an excited septuagenarian peeping out of the window, ogling at a garishly dressed Swara Bhaskar, who despite the loud make up and dress, sums the essence of this film.

Speaking to eNewsroom, Avinash says, “You, definitely, don’t need to be a rocket science expert to understand that the film, is about a Bjojpuri singer, who makes a living by singing kinky, double meaning songs at various occasions that the rich celebrate in the rural belts of North India. Even today, in villages, girls like Anaarkali, the protagonist of my film do exist.”

The film produced by Priya and Sandiip Kapur, has been both written and directed by Avinash Das. ‘Anaarkali of Aarah’ is the story of an erotic singer, who performs at various events along with her troupe. “The story is about a woman, an erotic singer, who at a point stands up against a powerful man in her area, to fight for her rights. It’s a film, that I have always wanted to make,” he says.

Now, does not that sound like Pink? “Well, the no thing common between the two is that both are women centric film, where the protagonist draws a line. Those, who are comparing Anaarkali with Pink, need to understand that in my film, its the protagonist who will directly confront her nemesis. However, in Pink it was a man, who was fighting for the women and that’s what makes my film different from it,” explains Avinash.

He then adds, “My film would have released much ahead of Pink, had we not had some major hiccups. Our leading lady, Richa Chadda, backed out even after having rehearsed with us. There were some other issues too, that forced us to delay the film.”

How did Swara fit in? Was it difficult to have roped her especially, after leading had walked out of the film? Answering that he says, with a laugh, “I guess, Swara was destined to play the lead of this film. I had talked to her about the film and she had loved the plot, but then somehow, I had roped in Richa, So, when things did not work out, I approached Swara as I was sure that she would say yes to it. Luckily, despite having tasted success, she did not throw any tantrums and said yes to my film.”

Speaking about the shooting and his first brush with directing established actors, he reveals, “Luckily, when it comes to communications, I am good at it. So, communicating with actors about what I wanted from them was not a big deal on the sets. Also, the stars never made me suffer from any unnecessary tantrums.” After a pause he adds, “I am really grateful to have Swara on board. She is such a dedicated actor. She spent almost a month in Aarah to learn what’s it like to be a person from that area.”

Shifting a little of his focus from his film, Avinash, who has over an experience of over two decades in journalism feels that it was films that he had always wanted to make. “I am from Darbhanga and I always wanted to make a cinema hall in my town. I was always fascinated with films. But saddled with responsibilities, I could not pursue my passion till now.” He says with a laugh, “Now my wife is having a really stable job, so I told her, if not now, then I will never be able to pursue my passion. Luckily she understood my position and gave me a few years to pursue my dreams and look luckily, things have fallen in place.”

Coming back to his film, he reveals, that it was during his days with NDTV, that he had seen a video of Tara Bano Faizabadi, an erotic singer, that he had decided to make a film on such erotic singers. He says, “The blank expression and ease with which she was singing such an erotic number, somehow hit me hard. Later another such singer called Baby had actually taken on the Vice Chancellor of Jaiprakash Narayan Vidyalaya, for miss behaving with her during an event. And the VC had to resign. In a way, Swara’s character, you can say, is very much an amalgamation of these two ladies.”

But, if the film has so much to do with women, then why is it not being released on March 8, International Women’s Day? To that he says, “Film release date has a lot of technicalities involved. We didn”t want the film to clash with any big film, but despite all care, the film is still going to clash with Phillauri.” He then adds, “I have seen the film’s promo its great. But since, our films of different genre, I think there wont be a major clash. I feel that both the films will be doing well at the box office.”

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