Watching Avinash in Rickshawala was like deja vu for me : Nandita Puri

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Director Ram Kamal Mukherjee’s bilingual 50-minute film, “Rickshawala” seems to be gaining more popularity amongst film fraternity. Set in Kolkata, the film pays a tribute to Om Puri and his award-winning role in the City of Joy. Recently Nandita Puri, wife of late Om Puri and his son Ishaan Puri watched “Rickshawala”.

Nandita Puri and Om Puri
Nandita Puri and Om Puri first meeting during City Of Joy shooting

Talking about this film Nandita Puri shares, “I loved Ram Kamal’s Rickshawala. I thought his film was very touching. He succeeded in capturing the essence, emotions and nuances of hand-pulled rickshwalas in Kolkata in a subtle manner.”

After watching the film, Nandita got emotional, as she met Om Puri in Kolkata during the shoot of the City Of Joy, while she was working with a daily newspaper.

“The film took me to 1991 and the City of Joy sets in Calcutta (now Kolkata) where Om Puri essayed the role of Hasari Pal. He pulled a rickshaw with two passengers’ bare feet in the streets of Calcutta every morning for a month in preparation, losing 15kg! I remember Patrick Swayze and New York Times commended his performance Oscar-worthy,” she recollected.

This film marks debut of Bollywood actor Avinash Dwivedi in Bengali cinema.

Nandita couldn’t believe that being a Mumbai boy, Avinash managed to not only get the body language right, but also the dialect in Bengali and Bhojpuri. Avinash stayed in Kolkata for a week, practised rickshaw barefoot on the streets of Kolkata.

Nandita Puri and Ishaan Puri
Nandita Puri and Ishaan Puri

“I can vouch that Ram Kamal could not have decided on a better actor than Avinash. You could see his preparation for the role, he was perfect without overplaying it. He was in character especially since I am familiar with the role of the legendary Om Puri as Hasari Pal in the City of Joy. Watching Avinash in Rickshawala was deja vu for me,” added Nandita Puri.

Avinash Dwivedi, Ram Kamal Mukheree
Avinash Dwivedi with director Ram Kamal Mukheree

Om Puri Foundation joined hands with the film as a social cause partner.

Speaking about the association with the film she shares, “Hand-pulled rickshaws are almost extinct today except for a handful in Kolkata. But my childhood was spent riding on them. It is wonderful that Ram Kamal has captured this for posterity in a very mature manner also showing the lives of the pullers. What started with the City of Joy will continue with Rickshawala. And Om Puri Foundation is very happy to be a part of this journey,” she avers.

On that note, Ram Kamal Mukherjee says, “Nandita is a renowned author and a critic. I was very nervous before screening the film for Nandita and Ishaan Puri. I know them as outspoken individuals and they are blatant about their choices. When she liked the film it was an award by itself. She shared so many stories of Om Ji from the City of Joy and immediately agreed to lend Om Puri Foundation’s name with our film.”


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