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Priya Motiani

IWB Blogger

Hugh Grant Fans, Do You Know About His Debut Movie Shot In Kolkata?

  • IWB Post
  •  December 5, 2015


Did you know that the super-renowned and super-loved actor Hugh Grant began his career with a little-known movie called ‘La Nuit Bengali’?

As the name suggests, the movie has a French origin but was filmed in our very own Kolkata in the year 1987. What’s more? Hugh played the lead guy amongst the gorgeous and evergreen Indian actresses – Shabana Azmi, Supriya Pathak and Soumitra Chatterjee.

Oh, by the way, the title of the movie translates to ‘The Bengali Night’ in English.

Wondering why the movie is so little heard of despite its mega-loaded star cast? Well, it was well-released and well-welcomed in France, but in India, the film landed in the claws of court-kachehri!

There’s an interesting story that runs behind this controversy.

Apparently, the film is based on Mircea Eliade’s Romanian-language novel Bengali Nights which was published in 1933. The French director Klotz contacted the author’s widow, Christinale Eliade, for the rights.

The novel is a story about a white guy falling in love with an Indian girl while residing at her house. The revelation of this forbidden love leads to a series of not-so-pleasant events. As expected.

Anyway, here’s the twist. This story is supposedly based on the author’s affair with a Bengali poet and novelist Maitreyi Devi. That’s not just it. Maitreyi wrote her side of the story in 1974 in a Bengali novel Na Hanyate.

On discerning that a movie was being made out of the very private life of her and was being shot in Kolkata itself, Maitreyi felt betrayed and went on to write in 1988, “Christinale has hurt me very badly. She gave permission to a French company to film La Nuit Bengali (French translation, 1950). They came to Calcutta for shooting and gave huge publicity pointing at me as the heroine.”

Amidst all this hassle, Maitreyi put forward a claim that Mircea Eliade had breached his promise to never allow the book to be published in English during Maitreyi Devi’s lifetime, let alone permit a film made on it. She sued the producer, Philippe Diaz, on the grounds of the film having anti-Hindu and pornographic content.

And now we know why we don’t know about the movie.

Well, here’s the whole film, if anybody’s interested.

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