Thunder clouds in the sky; a boat draws up to
the jetty. The awed bystanders see that the
boat is dominated by the portrait of a woman in
a crown, a larger than life portrait that towers
over the boatmen with almost threatening power,
casting a cloud darker than the weather...
The year is 1878. Queen Victoria
has been declared Empress of India for over a
year and her power casts a long shadow over the
subcontinent. So long that reaches into a remote
village in the backwoods of Bengal. There,
Bhubaneswar Chowdhury (Jackie Shroff) rules as
zamindar, tyrannical, whimsical, the last of his
line. A man obsessed by the desire for power
and the desire for an heir.
He has a pet cat, an English painter acquired
along the way and two wives (Riama Sen and
Soha Ali Khan). He decides that the best way
to augment his power and rise in esteem among
the British rulers of India is to celebrate
Durga Puja with a difference. To shape the
goddess in the image of Queen Victoria. He
therefore orders the portrait from Kolkata and
brings a Hindustani sculptor (Abhishek
Bachchan) into the House to shape the image.
All this while his own portrait is being painted
by the English artist. And while he feverishly
labours to impregnate his younger wife.
In the context of 19th century Bengal, the
situation is unnatural in more ways than one. It
bodes violence and jealousy. A vortex builds and
begins to spin out of control.
Antarmahal is a story about the
corruption of power and sexual jealousy. A very
Indian story about the lengths to which
superstition and despair will drive a man.