By Subhash K Jha
MUMBAI: On 13 September 2010, filmmakers Bedabrata Pain and Shonali Bose lost their elder son Ishan to a freak electrical accident. The boy was only 16. Back after his shocking defeat in LA , the bereaved and aggrieved father now prepares for a memorial screening of his film Chiitagong for son on October 3.
The couple fought a long and difficult court battle in a court in Los Angeles against the razor company whom the bereaved parents hold responsible accident.
Says Pain whose name seems rather prophetic, “Yes, we lost the case. The jury couldn’t come to the conclusion that the shaver was at fault. It was a shocking decision. But that’s life. For me it changes nothing. In going through the trial, and having had to review the evidence within the last two years I was even more convinced that the razor had produced the spark that caused the fire claiming Ishan’s life.”
While Bedo, as his friends call him, has come to terms with the LA court’s decision, his wife filmmaker Shonali Bose is very angry. The couple has moved to India temporarily with their younger son Vivan.
Says Bedo, “In some ways I’ve made peace with the court verdict, though I am more convinced than ever that it was the razor that killed my son. But then now I ask myself, what would happen even if we won the case? It wouldn’t bring Ishan back. I am going through very complicated emotions. I can’t really express it. However the callousness of the razor company just makes me so sad. Even after we informed them of the tragedy they didn’t make even one attempt at investigation. Instead, they started making all kinds of allegations against Ishan.”
Apparently, it was alleged in the American court that Ishan was on drugs and had deliberately set himself on fire!!
Says the father, “See, Ishan was a fantastic student and a really good boy. He never touched alcohol or cigarettes. They alleged that my boy was on drugs and set himself on fire. Can you believe this? Apparently kids in the US set themselves on fire after consuming some kinds of drugs. And this, mind you, when there was no evidence in the bathroom(where Ishan got burnt while shaving) of any fire-producing element anywhere.”
There was worse to come. The defence in the court actually insinuated that Bedo and his wife were better off now since they didn’t have to pay Ishan’s school fees.
With a mirthless laugh Bedo says, “They asked during the trial how much was my son’s annual school fees. Then they said, ‘Okay, so during the last two years you didn’t have to pay 58,000 dollars, right?’ Believe it or not, they were saying we’re better off since Ishan is not there. This is all on-record. These were the questions that my wife Shonali and I were asked. They then asked, “How much did you spend on your son’s clothes?…How much have your grocery bills come down by?’
Choking back his emotions, Bedo recalls, “Ishan was really really close to me. When he was born Shonali went to college for a course. So I had to be both a father and mother to Ishan. More than my second son Vivan , Ishan was very close to me. I dropped him to school every day. I made his dinner.We spoke about everything under the sun.In my heart I don’t think I’ve accepted his going. I feel he has gone away somewhere with his friends and will come back. Even when I was shooting Chittagong in the remote jungles I spoke to Ishan every single day on Skype because at that time he was doing his Chemistry course.”
Ishan’s mother is very angry. Says Bedo,“She is campaigning for the product to be taken off the market. I understand her indignance. But I can’t share it. Even if we had won the case what value could they’ve put on our boy’s life? She is in Delhi with my son Vivan who is now studying there. It was getting very difficult for my wife and son to stay in LA. So we’re now in India for the next two years.”
Bedo has still not come to terms with the tragedy. “I am still trying to figure out what to do with my life. How will I spend the rest of my life without my boy? For the last two years I’ve been focusing on the film. Whenever I’ve a free moment I’ve to fight back the guilt of knowing that I couldn’t save my son. If I wasn’t making the film then I’d have been in LA and maybe this tragedy wouldn’t have have happened.”
Bedo looks back on the journey since the bereavement with amazement. “I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have Chittagong to make.I’ve dedicated Chittagong to Ishan. Shonali and I wanted to cast Ishan as the main protagonist in Chittagong. The character suited him. Finally he didn’t play the role. But he was the film’s biggest supporter. No one could dare say anything bad about the film when he was around. The film ends with him. At the end I’ve sung a song titled ‘Ishan’ which Prasoon Joshi wrote.I had to sing for my boy.It fits in beautifully with the theme. Ishan in Bengali means that first storm in the summer that takes away all the decay and stagnancy.That’s what my film is about.When Prasoon sent us the lines I immediately decided to sing it. My composers Shankar Mahadevan encouraged me. He said no one had the right to sing it as much I did. I agree.”
Now there is a memorial screening of Chittagong for Ishan on October 3. “We wanted to do it on 13 September on Ishan’s death anniversary. But we aren’t ready. I’d like Mr Amitabh Bachchan , Jaya-di , Abhishek and Aishwarya to be present. When I had decided to make Chittagong I had gone to Jaya-di to seek her blessings. I am trying to live my life the way Ishan would have wanted me to. But it isn’t easy. Someone up there decided to take my surname (Pain) too seriously.”