Even as speculations are rife about Pooja Bhatt returning to the screen with Sanjay Dutt and ‘Sadak 2’, Mirror has learnt that the actress-filmmaker has got the rights of Abheek Barua‘s debut novel, ‘City of Death’. She will play the female lead, a disgraced ex-crime branch investigator.   Now a pill-popping alcoholic cop in Kolkata, she is planning a suicidal vacation to Goa, when she gets a call from the Chief Minister’s office and is asked to investigate the murder of Ahona Chatterjee, the daughter of an industrialist, who is found naked, with her head severed. Her partner on the case, Arjun Sinha, is 10 years younger, has just lost his wife and child and is suffering from survivor’s guilt.   Arjun lives with his father in festering silence and harbours a death wish. As the murders, all involving women with issues from incest to a homosexual husband and father-in-law wanting to continue with the bloodline -multiply, the duo has to push personal demons aside to nab the serial killer before he strikes too close to home.   “My friend Kaustav Narayan Niyogi (director of Cabaret), recommended the book and even as I was reading it, I wanted to get back on the set to play this character. This came as an electric shock because that part of my life was no longer a priority. I called my dad (Mahesh Bhatt) to make this guilty confession and he assured me that it was a good feeling, as did my producer-partner, Sheel Kumar,” said Pooja, excited about this inept, 46-year old cop who, unlike Rani Mukerji’s cop in ‘Mardaani’, huffs and puffs when chasing criminals and mixes vodka in her tea to stop her hands from shaking.   After convincing Abheek to give her the rights, Pooja asked her LA-based friend Digvijay Sisodia, whose film ‘Maya’ (about the practise of giving a girl to the village priest to deflower once she hits puberty) was banned, to read the book. Now, he will be directing ‘City of Death’. He has been working on the script and some changes have crept in.   Arjun’s character, yet to be cast, has become darker and edgier, while the Bengali cop, Sohini Sen, has been turned into an Anglo-Indian, Rita Brown, so Pooja can go back to her roots. “My grandmother, Betty Bertha Bright, lived in the Armenian block in Kolkata. After 36 Chowringhee Lane, we haven’t seen that part of the city in films, she points out, planning to kick off the film by the year end in Kolkata during Christmas, when the number of suicides go up in the area. It’s a beautiful but decaying city and its crumbling facade serves as a visual metaphor for what the characters are going through, juxtaposing the moral decay against the physical decay to expose the family unit as the biggest enemy through an overindulgent father, a depressive mother, a sex addict brother, and a lover with a past.”   Always one to break rules, Pooja who has never believed in Botox shots to defy age, is happy to play a woman in her forties who wouldn’t usually find a place in our cinema, with all her scars and flaws. She goes a step further with this older woman younger man relationship to show a sizzling chemistry between Rita and Arjun that blossoms as the investigations progress. “Arjun deals with his pain by becoming promiscuous while Rita turns judgemental, unwilling to admit to herself that she is also attracted to him,” she points out, adding that these two broken people come together to heal each other.  ‘City of Death’, she said, has the potential to turn into a franchise, moving to a different city and new characters to show the different worlds of India through crimes of passion. “The joke is that I’m making a comeback as an alcoholic cop after I have decided to quit alcohol,” Pooja signs off with a laugh.   The Times  of  India : 19th. June,17


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