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Nishant, a young Indian writer living in Paris, is journeying down the Ganges, from its source in the Himalayas to the sea. Haunted by the fantasy, or the memory, of a beautiful Parisian woman called Jaya, he plans to write a book around his voyage.

On the banks of the turquoise Ganges, one morning, he chances upon Zehra, an irresistible poetess-dancing girl in the tradition of the great courtesans, who performs in a nearby brothel. Zehra resurrects the memory of Jaya. As love casts its spell once again on Nishant, he asks Zehra to join him on his journey, but her illusory freedom is shadowed by a formidable network of the brothel's spies. Nonetheless, Nishant manages to make Zehra flee from the brothel, and join him on his journey. Romance takes over. A new life begins for Zehra as Nishant would like her to accompany him back to Paris.

Half way down the river, at the height of their romance, Nishant receives a telegram. Zehra soon realises how Nishant's fantasy of a half-real half-unreal woman could transform her life into a journey of ambiguous surprises...

Smriti MishraSmriti Mishra

Shooting Locations:

Gomukh, the source of the river Ganges







Director's Statement

Ganga has become a strange obsession in me. I do not know the hows and whys of it, all I know is that Ganga is a beautiful woman inhabiting my mind: she plays, she smiles, she dances, she cries... I bow before her delightful might.

I visited the Ganges many years ago as a child. My mother took me to Rishikesh, a beautiful, ancient town on the banks of the river, at the foothill of the Himalayas. It was still night. A little later, as the dawn rose, I saw a wide, rippling sheet of turquoise water, slipping out endlessly from beneath the feet of the Himalayas. "Gangama," sighed my mother. Maybe that was the birth of this Gangetic obsession.

Thirty years later, in 1985, I paid homage to this childhood dream by writing Jaya Ganga, a novel based around a six-month long journey down the river. Strangely, rather than diluting my Ganga-fixation, the book only seemed to have compounded it. Ganga was like a solid, shifting, throbbing foetus who had taken birth only to live inside the womb. For many years I tried to forget the Ganga, I wrote other books, of a very different genre, but the river-woman continued to haunt me - seducing, tempting, wafting...

A decade after Jaya Ganga, the book, I thought of burying the Ganga-dream once for all by making a film on the novel. The film is today in cans, a lot of sweat and toil and money has been wasted in making it, but the obsession unfortunately seems to linger on... To make an honest confession, my sincere desire now is to make, a few years later, another film around the same river and a similar story. And if I still enjoy the favour of life, I would like to complete this trilogy with a final Jaya Ganga. What a preposterous midnight reverie from a man who does not believe in linear time! But I know, Time lies better than any of us can...

Before intruding into the world of cinema, I had always thought that writing, as compared with cinema, was more magical, more meditative, more fulfilling for the soul. I no longer feel quite the same. The difference probably is that writing is more private: everything takes place in a tiny space, in silence, in isolation. On the set, a film director is as naked as a bird: everything takes place out in the open, on the surging waters of a Ganga, on the maddening ghats of Benares, in the midst of five thousand people vying to catch a glimpse of the shoot while you are trying to film a silent tear-drop. So the meditation is the same: a writer meditates in isolation, a director does it in the midst of a clamouring crowd...


Vijay Singh

Renu Saluja

Piyush Shah

Eric Thomas
Philippe Blanche

Vanraj Bhatia
(with the theme melodies based on original compositions by Eric Piederrière and Smriti Mishra)

Bhanu Singh

Bernard Leroux

Ashok Bhagat

Shahnaz Vahanvaty

Salim Arif (India)
Partho Sen Gupta (Paris)

Mandakini Narain

Silhouette Films

Soda Peraga, Paris    Kismet Talkies, USA    NFDC, Bombay
with the indispensable participation of GTC Labs, Paris

Processed and Printed at GTC Laboratories, Paris

Year of production : 1996

Duration: 85'

Language : Hindi (with English sub-titles)

35 mm  Colour

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