Monthly Archives: April 2012

Review on Gaurav Pandey’s ‘Shukno Lanka’


The Neglected Natural

Film: Shukno Lanka (Dry Red Chillies), 2010
Story and direction: Gaurav Pandey
Cinematographer: Mahesh Aney
Music: Debajyoti Misra
Editor: Mahadeb Shi
Art director: Indranil Ghosh
Cast: Mithun Chakraborty, Sabyasachi Chakraborty, Debasree Roy, Emma Brown, Shaheb Chatterjee, Angana Bose and the late Kunal Mitra
Rating: 8.2/10

People watching this film will fall in love with Kolkata even more, especially the Kolkata at night. At the outset we see a struggling extra, Chinu Nandy (played by Mithun Chakraborty), trudging his way to and back from a studio at Tollygunge. Since he lost his job at Coal India, he has been at his present selfsame job for three decades. He, too, once had dreams of making it big in the film industry. But, by nature’s preordained course he has ended up as a bit-role player in the industry. Suddenly comes the bolt from the blue! He is handpicked by a world-famous director, Joy Sundar Sen (played by Sabyasachi Chakraborty) to play the protagonist’s character in the film rendition of ‘Parashpathor’ authored by another noted film director, Ritwik Ghatak. Now comes his inhibition which grows at first as he has never left the cocoon of a 250-per-day-bit-actor for 30 years. He communes with God at night when his wife is fast asleep and we come to know that he never complained Him about his long-lost, unrealized dreams of becoming a superstar and a father to a child. But, avenues to dreams come to some in the most unexpected of ways. He has remained as a man without dreams, day in and day out with the support of his wife, a potato couch, a woman with nominal demands; with the support of his local youths, though in an indirect way, who rag him or, at times, cajole him to perform an act from a scene whenever they meet him on the way; and lastly, with the support of his self-satisfied instinct which grows to shelter oneself from the gnawing awareness of unrealized dreams. He, finally, garners up his strewn hopes and gets ready for the blast. But, his treatment at the hands of Joy Sundar Sen as a junior actor leads to his modest outburst which, in a way, humbles and imbues life in the self-aggrandized director.

A beautiful tonga ride on the roads of Kolkata at night with his wife, who pontificates on trifles, is one of his craved design to pour his heart out after Chinu Nandy has pulled off the role of a protagonist in a recent Joy Sundar classic. On that exotic and expressive ride he tells her what he has never said; forgives her misbehavior; shows his eternal love for her; and tells her the most important thing: his role as the protagonist of a film – his dream. Angana Bose, Chinu’s wife, is a discovery indeed. In flashbacks we are shown the under-the-skin realizations of Chinu and other sub-plots handled with equal finesse. His mistreatment at the hands of actors who dismiss him from a role on an impulse; directors who don’t pay him; and even the tea-boy who bypasses him with cups of tea forces out of him the words, ‘I shall show one day how I can act.’ But, when the time comes, he seeks solace in God without everyone’s notice. Even his new director looks down upon him as a junior actor though his performance is good till the penultimate scene. In the last scene he speaks his heart out when, even after 16 takes, he cannot perform accurately, as it were, and Joy Sundar wants to investigate the problem. A complaining, but imploring, Chinu says, ‘You are my problem. To everyone in this unit I am the protagonist, but not to you. You still regard me as a junior actor even after the film is almost finished. If you cannot change the way you look you will not find what you want in me. I am trying. Please change your eyes and see.’ Joy, enlightened by the extra, hugs him tightly and the film within the film becomes perfect. A dig at famous, but arrogant, directors has been made through this scene. In another scene where Chinu asks Joy, ‘Will the public accept me?’, Joy looks down upon the extra with a smile of omniscience. Joy’s rejoinder (‘Nope! They will accept me’) makes Chinu reflectively uncertain, but, just after that he says, ‘If they accept you, they will have to accept me. Isn’t it?’ Then, Joy’s reply, ‘Is that so?’ makes the extra submissively content. Chinu finds in Isabella (played by Emma Brown) a good friend and admirer – unlike others who shrug him off as an extra – who tells him, ‘Your face is a landscape of emotions.’ He stops her short saying, ‘It requires a lot of labour, ma’am’ to which she says that ‘It shows, you know.’ They discuss on life which he thinks to be a horse-race, but she thinks life to be ‘life’ itself. She even says that she can never forget him in any way: ‘You will always be remembered.’

Running in an exact opposite direction is the life of Joy Sundar Sen, the director. He may be a director of world repute, but he is an imperfect husband and an arrogant man of few words. Gaurav Panday makes him his mouthpiece as Joy comments on films, criticizing American films, saying, ‘To be international you have to be intensely local.’ He further says, ‘My cinema is a rebellion against a form to which I have to conform, but cannot believe in.’ We see the flippant side of creativity at work through the character of Joy every time he pays no or little attention to his wife’s advances. But, quite amazingly, Gaurav Pandey does not turn Joy into an inhuman beast. Joy may neglect his wife and her overtures and amorous advances, but, then, Joy has outgrown the silly fripperies of romance. Jhilik (played by Debashree Roy) may be supportive and docile, but she has to suffer, like other wives of creative people, as a neglected and unhappy wife. Her acting, except inside the studio which seems rather forced, also makes for beautiful cinema. She envies Isabella, but Isabella does not, apparently, envy Jhilik. Isabella’s performance is well-controlled, low-key and subtle. When Joy, at the crossroads due to the fact that his producer has ‘vanished’ all of a sudden, call her and says, ‘Can you tell me something? Imagine a forest, a dense jungle. In the jungle the deer can go to cry, the hyena can go to cry, the pigs, the sheep, the birds, they can all go to cry. Where would the lion go to cry? Please tell me Isabella, can a lion not cry?’ She replies, ‘I’ll come.’ Such a beautiful relation – which goes far more distance than Jhilik’s keeping the clock of the house tick – and the fact that people at respectable positions, being afraid of being seen, cannot cry freely – which was also made vocal in William Wyler’s ‘Roman Holiday’ – are touched upon by Gaurav through this conversation between Joy and Isabella. The director shows that like-mindedness is very much needed between couples, be they creative or general. The director Joy, ensconced in the world of parallel films, has little time for his uncreative wife. His cloistered life gives him more food for thought. How whimsical creative people can be has been suggested by Gaurav. This is Tollywood, off the trodden path. These things are shown as flashbacks with the enchanting tonga ride as the mainstay. In an idyllic way the sound of the horses’ hoofs keeps time. When, at dawn, Chinu shows his wife his blow-up hoarding at the Metro theatre and says, ‘Do you want to see who I am? Look, up there, close to the skies, there. Tell me, does anything else matter? Isn’t it wonderful! Just wonderful, this leaving!’, we see pent-up dreams and concomitant emotions in the form of smiles and tears well out as volcanic eruptions from their face, eyes, mouth and body. Such a revelation calls for plaudits.

Other issues that have been discussed as passing references, relating to Tollywood and any other film industry in general, in the film are as follows: the rude behavior of the lead actors; the commercial inclination of directors and their rehashed stuff for films; the depravity of women trying to gain favour of the actors or directors; the self-lauded, south-Indian choreographers and their overbearing nature; the film industry with all its trappings of superfluous negativity and nominal positivity.

Mahesh Aney’s cinematography has made the Kolkata at night a heaven on earth. Such subtle use of colours and light is rarely seen in Bengali cinema. Debajyoti Misra has put in restrained music to let the scenes do the talking. Nominal usage of songs and their recurrence at several places in the film have aggravated the overall aura of the film. The art direction per se speaks volumes. Be it Chinu’s one-room abode or Joy’s sprawling apartment, Indranil Ghosh has again created plausible imagination on screen, as he often does. Above all, Mithun’s acting as Chinu is a treat to watch; he assays, and successfully achieves, his role as a common man – Chinu – till there is no Mithun left. Chinu grows on us as a man with dreams which he is afraid to dream of. Little do we find the vestiges of the actor Mithun at the end of the film as Chinu has become a part of us and, also, a projection of our unrealized selves.


Review on Satyajit Ray’s ‘Aranyer Din Ratri’

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Life Elusive Captured in Frames!

Film: Aranyer Din Ratri (Days and Nights in the Forest), 1970
Story: Sunil Gangopadhyay, Direction: Satyajit Ray
Cinematographer: Purnendu Bose
Music: Satyajit Ray
Editor: Dulal Dutta
Art director: Ashoke Bose, Bansi Chandragupta
Cast: Sharmila Tagore, Kaberi Bose, Simi Garewal, Soumitra Chatterjee, Subhendu Chatterjee, Robi Ghosh, Samit Bhanja, Aparna Sen, Pahadi Sanyal and others
Rating: 8.7/10

Adapted form Sunil Ganguly’s story, the film zooms in on the vagaries and vicissitudes of the then bourgeoisie and their disillusionment with their state of affairs. A motley quartet ventures into the woods of Palamau to spend some days in order to extricate themselves from the trammels of their ordered social and city life. Culled from the various strata in the middle class the four characters reflect completely different attitudes bound by a thread of friendship. ‘Breaking the rules’, they drop anchor at a government forest bungalow without the required permission, consequently browbeating, and finally bribing the chowkidar, putting his job at stake. They remain unshaven, exchange diatribes at a local arrack shop and indulge in a drunken twist causing problem to vehicles. Their behaviour with and indifference (frequently found among the bourgeois people) of the lower orders of the society and their suffering, quite often verging on brutality, may make them, for the time being, unlikeable; but their innocent and ignorant self-esteem doing them in at last draws back our sympathy once again. Ashim (as Soumitra Chatterji) loses his self-confidence finally after the memory game; Sanjoy (as Subhendu Chatterji) finds himself hollow as a man in front of a seductive Jaya; Hari himself mislays his wallet but beats the local boy Lakhai which rebounds on him at last; Shekhar (as Rabi Ghosh) is only the man who escapes much of the humiliation because of his hilarious nature.

Their unexpected spotting, one morning, of two ladies of their social stratum within the tribal village brings them back, somewhat, to their superficial selves and they try to meet them in person and try their own hands at flirting. Though a forging of relationships is on the way under the hammer-blows of a set of consecutive meetings between the opposite sexes, yet each of the conceited quartet is blown to bits as the women come up trumps. Each of the quartet is chastened in their own way near the end of the film, and the women, winners in the beginning, appear to be pale, gloomy and their voices plangent beneath their jocund exterior and mellifluous chatter and pithy elicitation.

Like in most of Ray’s films, here also, the characters smile, but they find it rather painful to laugh. Though it is a matter of pity that a film of this momentousness received a lukewarm response form the native audience and critics when it was screened, yet it, then, was, and still is, a surefire narration of epic dimensions and the film’s aura doesn’t seem to dim even though it is watched over and over again. Unfortunately, they, who search for a single and simple theme in a film like this, will not be able to comprehend herein the interplay of various themes. Ray once said regretfully in a Sight & Sound interview, “The film is about so many things, that’s the trouble. People want just one theme, which they can hold in their hands.” He likened the structure of the film to a fugue, where disparate elements appear, develop interwoven, transformed pitted in a balanced way against each other.

Lastly, the memory game sequence in the forest is as much psychological as it is appealing. Ray’s astute handling of the mise-en-scene surpasses every character study heretofore attempted. Aparna pulls out when only Aparna and Ashim are left in the fray. Sexual undercurrents and each one’s mental preferences are reflected during the game. With the forest as the setting the visitors engage in a primitive game of dethroning the other with one’s mental might. The mysterious forest exudes revelations of the highest order at once perceivable and profound to be taken into, absorbed and preserved for perennial use by the unfortunate and innocent souls, who often get consumed with the fire of self-esteem and self-satisfaction thereby closing doors to experience and knowledge that’s omniscience in it’s vastness and immanence.

Review on Kamaleswar Mukherjee’s ‘Uro Chithi’

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Life in a Metro:

Aniket, working with an IT company, now on suspension, on a lovely resort takes the initiative to delete the messages in his inbox. On the process, every story connected with the messages flashes before his eyes and it gets shown to us. His fling with Lilette and his divorce; his friend’s plight and his wife’s desperate attempts to earn money; another friend and his ‘partner’s’ decision of aborting their child; Aniket’s company’s sudden decision of layoff; stakes in shares; so on and so forth are the building blocks of the film. A man, in a city, running after lucre and love returns back to a broken family. He may have money, but no solace; may have a house, but no proper place; may have a father, but not his closeness; may have a lover, but short-lived; may have an excellent job profile, but a hollow and uncertain future. The portion of the film that explores office politics and the trauma and travails of being a private-office worker bears resemblance with Satyajit Ray’s ‘Seemabaddha’. The city of Joy, Kolkata, only torments. Urban fallacies are at play at every nook and cranny of the city. Their veneer may entice, only to climb on you like a Poison Ivy and strangle like a Boa constrictor. Every lurking grain for sadness and gloom appear as a sweet seed of a glorious and top-drawer future position.

The light and it’s interplay with the respective emotional scenes are, more or less, acceptable. The music is also, mostly, along the proper lines. There are a few characters that appear without exactness and bloom. This, then, is life which is not supposed to, always, please and be perfect. Even initial right moves in life’s important moments may appear a wrong step in the end. Such is life: a butterfly of attractive colours and patterns, but it’s uncertain on which leaf or which bough or on whose hand or dress it will rest.

Review on Aparna Sen’s ‘Iti ‘Mrinalini’: An Unfinished Letter…’

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It is Mental Ditty!:

Yet once again, Aparna Sen’s ‘Iti ‘Mrinalini’: An Unfinished Letter…’ has created poetry on screen. Though some criticisms – by the famous ‘The Hollywood Reporter’ and the like – have wrongly assessed the film without even minutely watching it, yet a wrong critique cannot, in any way, mar the film’s extensive appeal to the true movie buffs and cineastes. The film has been wrongly called ‘melodramatic’ and even some self-proclaimed critics have blunderingly named some characters. After all this is not expected in relation to such films as of Sen’s.

Now, leaving behind my correctional and cautionary discussion above directed to some self-proclaimed film critics, I shall come down to the real and unbiased critique of the film. After having watched Sen’s quite a few films with rapt attention one can easily find a familiar colour and superficial calmness pitted against an inner turmoil in the film. The characters think and move just as we do – naturally. There is even no over-emphasis on unnatural music and unnatural gestures. The backdrop of each character in every emotional condition seems to complement the unknown and known thoughts of the viewer finding himself/herself easily identifiable with the characters at several moments in life. Instances of Pathetic Fallacy abound in the film, though with artistic restraint so that some even go unheeded. The best moment of love in most films taken together is the scene where Chintan Nair (Kaushik Sen) and young Mrinalini Mitra (Konkona Sen Sharma) discuss the aspects of love that frees oneself and is without expectations. The meteoric rise of an actress and her gradual, but desperate, search for satisfying love in the actually lonely and mercenary world of glamour are what the film shows in a glaring light, though various other themes overrun the film’s expanse. References to Shakti Chattopadhyay’s, Vladimir Mayakovsky’s and W.B. Yeats’s poems can be found. Passing references to François Truffaut, Ingmar Bergman and Jean-Luc Godard are also there. Art direction, as in Sen’s other films, has been very well carried out. Only one song – sung by the younger Mrinalini at a party – seemed incongruous in the whole movie, coupled with some minor anachronisms.

A letter – a suicide note bearing exculpatory indication on the part of others with whom Mrinalini was, has been and is linked – being written along the entire film gives the older Mrinalni flashbacks by dint of which the whole story gets told and seen. But, ironically the letter remains unfinished and finally discarded by Mrinalini when touched by a ray of hope form Chintan’s message. Yet, the first rays of the morning sun has something in it’s store. She dies a silent death. And the way the camera moves vertically up keeping the focus on her dead body bears parallels with a scene in ‘Inglourious Basterds’ where the twin murder takes place inside the room from where a film is projected on screen. To sum up, Sen’s movie is a product of curious toil and astute storytelling that is characteristic of all her films. And lastly, one must watch the film observingly before commenting pedantically on it for just the sake of commenting.

Review on Satyajit Ray’s ‘Nayak: The Hero’

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In Search of Rhymes in a Blank-versed Life:

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon ’em,” William Shakespeare once said. We find the second category in work in this movie. But, we also find, if noted carefully, the other two categories having passing references at several points of the film. Caught in this mesh of the warp and woof of various threads of ‘greatness’ is a man, a putative ‘Hero’, searching for rhymes in a life riddled with blank verse. Shuttling between illusion and reality, he finds some rhyming notes, as it were, in Aditi – a journalist – who at first disregards him for she thinks actors are over-worshipped and unreal. Being in such a high position he has none to confide in as doing that may play havoc with his films and fan-base. Timely flashbacks, which concrete the base of his character and adds to the film a surreal tinge, tell upon his persona as a ‘Hero’ and he hits the bottle. An often-worshipped and ever-lauded ‘Hero’ becomes a flesh-and-blood layman to be cared for and sympathised with. Though the train journey has brought the ‘Hero’ close to a small part of his ‘public’, yet the journey has its end; and with it ends the contact with reality, ends the friend to be confided in, ends the haunting retrospection. What lies ahead is a sea of fans at the gate with their unquestioning acceptance of and devotion to their unreal ‘Hero’ and for him again a life of illusion and hero-worship. Parallelly moving with this main plot are some subtly woven sub-plots which show the idiosyncrasies of the characters on board the train along with the ‘Hero.’ The characters contained in the microcosm of life, reflective of the macrocosm, on the train act as Ray’s mouthpieces to drive home some wrongly-held notions, regarding life and films, by the ‘public’ and the ‘Hero.’

Review on Aparna Sen’s ‘The Japanese Wife’

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Lyricism in Love:

The malleability of the plausible emotions of the lead characters of the film under the director’s realistic hammer blows is one of the features which makes ‘The Japanese Wife’ a treat to watch. The slow pace touches upon the various chords of a sensible heart. The two star-crossed spouses residing in far-off places fall in love and eventually marry without actually meeting each other in person, yet their love is far more loyal and inextricable than those lovers or spouses who stay together. But, their simple lifestyle and righteousness do them in at last. Poetic justice is not meted out and this makes the plot all the more plausible. Given the profound dynamism and the many facets of human emotions that run crisscross along the length & breadth of the movie, one is sure to identify with the pristine humanity of the characters. Minimalism in music and natural, yet far from being a dime a dozen, musically lyrical words and sentences coupled with a haunting silence of death touch up the aggravating pathos of the characters till the very end.

Review on Sanjoy Nag’s ‘Memories in March’

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Straightforward Narration of So-called Aberration:

The very inception of the film gives a feeling of it being ghost- directed by Rituparno Ghosh. But, the germs of it being the first film of a director under Rituparno’s tutelage can be made out after one has gone through a considerable portion of the film. Excepting these discussions, what we glean from movie is a so-called aberrant sexuality which, it says, is not to be looked down upon by the fortunate heterosexuals of this world. Arati (Deepti Naval) – the mother, finding it hard to come to terms with and to switch her emotions between her son’s sudden death and his homosexuality hitherto unknown to her – at first detests Ornub (Rituparno), but subsequently starts cherishing his company taking him to be her dead son’s ‘special’ someone or her another alive son. Another relation, between Sahana (Raima Sen) and Arati, is also a very pleasant one founded on honesty and respect. Arati, during her short stay at her dead son’s house, learns about certain grim truths about this world which, heretofore even her grey hair has not shown her. When she leaves, she leaves with a bagful of warm closeness she has unknowingly amassed within these few days from both Ornub and Sahana and leaves behind with them ‘a bit of’ herself and her dead son. The background melody and the nominal songs accentuate the situations. To draw the conclusion we can say that ‘Memories in March’ is a good attempt at narration, though with a profusion of Rituparnovian touches.