Several films, made during the parallel cinema movement in the 1970s and 80s, achieved cult status over time. Saeed Akhtar Mirza’s 'Albert Pinto Ko Gussaa Kyun Aata Hai' is one of them. Not many would venture to remake these cult classics, but Soumitra Ranade has taken a plunge to reimagine and remake Naseeruddin-Shabana-Smita starrer 'Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyun Aata Hai' with Manav Kaul and Nandita Das.
Mirza’s realistic film depicted lives of a lower-middle class Christian family on the backdrop of the textile mill strike. The protagonist Albert (Naseeruddin), who works as a chief mechanic, ridicules his mill worker father for going on strike and tries hard to emulate his high class customers. His family –sister (Smita Patil), who limps but still works dedicatedly to contribute to the family, his brother who is a petty criminal, his mother who is trying to keep the family together, his principled father and his quiet but thinking girlfriend (Shabana Azmi) who bears the brunt of his anger most of the time. His journey of angst and frustration - initially directed towards the working class, becomes an even angrier realization of the class conflict and capitalist dominance by the end.
Ranade, who has made 'Jajantaram Mamantaram' earlier, says it was films like 'Albert' and 'Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron' that prompted his journey from JJ School of Arts to FTII. However, that is not the reason for this remake. “I was writing an independent film and I realised that my protagonist was responding to situations like Albert. So I rewrote the whole script with Albert Pinto as a title. I showed the script to Saeed Mirza. I was worried he would throw it out, but he said it was valid and asked me to go ahead with it. What we have taken from the original is the spirit of the film. The spirit being a common man, who is actually secure in his house, with family, job but some incident happens and it triggers him to start thinking out of himself. Social reality enters his house and then he changes over night.” Present day Albert is slightly better off and is from the middle class and not a mechanic, Ranade says.
If the trailer is anything to go by, this one is edgier, almost like a suspense thriller. “In the 80s the artistic cinema was associated with realism. Most of the actors came from theatre. So their style also lent to realism. I am not at all in that space. Manav Kaul looks very Kashmiri in an obvious way but I have still cast him as Albert Pinto, a Bombay Christian. This film operates at four realities – past, present, future and the hallucinations of his mind– all in the span of 92 minutes. It was a tough job for all of us.”
Much like the previous one, this one also holds a mirror to the society and raises socio-political questions, though the spotlight is on middle class unlike lower middle class in the previous one. Nandita Das, filmmaker and actor, who essays Stella in this film says: “There are two things that you get if you see the trailer that Albert is very angry. But also that it is a conceptual remake. The times are different, what the youth are getting angry about is different. The core may be the same but the manifestations are different. There was a political unrest when original Albert came, and in some way we are also at many cross roads. There are many divisive powers, unemployment and farmers’ suicides. There is some kind of angst and frustration and a growing anger that is simmering. In many ways it reflects that.”
Manav Kaul, who plays the titular role of Albert, says, “I understand Soumitra’s humour and edginess so it was easy to understand Albert through him. Also we did readings with Kundan Shah, Saeed Mirza so there was a lot of back and forth and that really helped. My interpretation was complete surrender because the project is so close to him. It is the anger and helplessness that we feel today is what we feel today.”