Sunday, 19 January 2014

#Jaatishwar ...... The legend of Anthony Firingee.

Bengali cinema is alive and kicking. And I am not speaking about the variety which is a copy of some South Indian blockbuster hurting your sensibilities to the core with the loud dialogue ,overacting, item numbers,crass jokes ,mindless violence or unrealistic action. From the debris of the existential compromises which the Bengali cinema has had to make over the last three decades, some good filmmakers have come ahead. And they are not of the typical intellectual variety.Rather they are good craftsmen who understand the idiom of cinema as an interactive medium. 

Srijit Mukherjee is one of them. One may find fault with his movies in a critical manner over his style of execution but not his ideas and his imagery. From the new breed of the filmmakers who are part of the revival in Bengali movies by attempting to make commercially viable intelligent movies , he has made his name. His choice of subjects has been varied and he has never bothered about the niceties of following the age old formula in his scripts. His latest offering, Jaatishwar is another attempt in this direction. And after the somewhat average Arabian adventure of Mishawr Rahasya, this time he has packed the killer punch in providing a wholesome entertainment without a well defined storyline , actually.

#Jaatishwar is the story which on the face value is a story about a split personality character who is a re incarnation of a historical Indo-Portugese person Anthony Kabial also known as Antony Firingee , who inspite of his European lineage adopted Bengal as his home and Bengali as his language to create folk songs and participate in competitions in the 18th Century , almost 150 years back. But this actually is just the platform of the movie which explores so much other contemporary facets of the Bengali life.

Srijit has shown in his earlier films that he has a keen sense of music and his song picturisations stand out in conceptualisation a nd execution. This time he is firmly on his territory and plays on his strength by tackling the subject of the reincarnation with music at the heart of the film. And that really pays dividend. the songs and their picturisations are the highpoint of this movie. The lyrical finesse of the songs and their rendition are superb. You take the songs with you as you leave the cinema hall.
The simple narrative of the movie actually brings forth a complex collage of events, past and present and brings forth the role of music and its evolution in the Bengali society in the last two centuries. It also is a story of love, lost and found. There is actually two stories that move parallely throughout the movie with a coterminus climax and a twist at the the end. But the suspense of the climax is maintained till the very end and this is the hallmark of a good director. The story itself moves forward and in some places, the director has used a documentary style and tried to follow the reality show type format by roping in famous contemporary music makers . All in all the experiments gel and are not jarring.

The excellent camera and editing helps the movie to move forward in an easy pace. After many days I found a title scene where the audience is compelled to follow the camera. The cast of actors led by Prosenjit have turned out a wonderful performance. His dual role play of an ordinary man with visions of reincarnation has been really good. And as Anthony Firingee , he has been able to overcome the strong association which cine goers have for this character with Uttam kumar. Swastika as the heroine has proved that she deserves better roles . But Jishu Sengupta is outstanding with his under acting . He really deserves more and more meaningful roles . He is the best surprise of the movie.

Movies like #Jaatishwar are to be seen and then criticised. But if you do not watch these movies then you are actually perpetuating the rule of crass commercial cinema bereft of intelligence. One thing is clear. Bollywood with its big budget and overhyped stars can never dream of making such movies. And this is not only for Bengalis . With a very good sub title , everybody can watch the movie . If not for the cultural package but for the technical brilliance and idea . The movie is bound to get a national award . But what it really needs is public support. Go and see Jaatishwar. You will not regret it if you understand Bengali.

Saturday, 4 January 2014


#ChanderPahad - I strongly recommend it to everybody, even for those who don't understand Bengali because 40% of the dialogue is in English and the entire movie is subtitled in English. If you have a kid at home,definitely take him . It is for them and instead of showing them crass mindlesss commercials like Dhoom 3, Chennai Express or Dabanng. Give them something which will open up their mind.

I myself felt like a kid spoilt with choice between Sholay 3D , Wolf of the Wall street and Chander Pahad . Then chose the last one only because I missed it last weekend and this story is associated with my childhood. And I don't regret my choice . Rather the movie betters my expectation in a grand manner . It is a brave attempt and a big gamble that has turned to be the perfect jackpot.

#ChanderPahad is supposed to be the costliest Bengali movie with a budget of Rs 15 Crs. Paltry by Bollywood standards. But the movie is far,far ahead of the top Bollywood grossers in content. And mind it its not a social or family drama with lot of intellectual subtleties which we associate with Bengali movies. It is a pure adventure story with the location set in Africa. Where the movie scores is in its truly international appeal . One should first applaud the producers for backing this project . Had they not supported the efforts , we would miss out on the visual treat and the celluloid translation of one of the most widely read adventure story in Bengali.

Chander Pahad is written by the late Bibhuti Bhushan Bandyopadhyay , who is more associated with Pather Panchali and Apur Sansar. People outside Bengali culture would remember him as the author of Ray's Apu trilogy. He wrote this novel for teenagers in the year 1937 and the settings of the novel was in Africa at the turn of the twentieth century. The anecdotal fact is that Bibhutibhushan never visited a foreign land but the way he has described the African adventure through the eyes of his imaginative creation is truly unparalleled. I first read the novel “Chander Pahad” when I was about 11-12 years old . And later many times. The last time I read the book was about 20 years back as a mature adult. But the thrill and joy which I felt reading the novel was always eternal. 

It is a very simple adventure story and linear in structure. But the beauty of Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhayay lies in his terrific sense of fiction which always makes the reader imagine about the scene depicted by him , thus making it a very interactive experience , all within the mind. Simplicity has been the hallmark of this great author . In this era of Nat Geo and BBC channels, no adventure story would look real. But to think of the setting of this story at the beginning of the previous century in the wilds of Africa, one will realize the romance of adventure and why Bengali teenagers have been a fan of this novel since the last 8 decades or so.

Coming to the movie itself, the movie has been well made , overall and does justice to the narrative, and the period portrayal is comparable with the Indiana Jones movies. It is much better than the average Bollywood adventure stories and leads them miles ahead . The photography is of high quality and it should have been so else the whole movie would look a cheap venture. The editing is slick and fast. the shots don't linger and the story moves ahead in a straight path without any convoluted distortions. The number of actors are very small and the total cast barring the main protagonist all are unknown to the Indian audience and are mostly foreign . 

Dev as the hero has tried his best to shed the baggage of his mainstream capers . He fits the role to a large extent and does justice to the role. It must have been physically a very challenging experience for him to essay the role and his deep commitment stands out.Full marks to the director, Kamaleshwar Mukhopadhyay for his venture and able support given to him by the camera crew and post production staff. To attempt a non pretentious adventure story without heroine, item numbers, murders, suspense and a large number of actors , by itself is a difficult proposition in this commercially minded cinema world. To finally make the product commercially viable is nothing short of a masterpiece by itself.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014


The mirror retains nothing;
 it just shows up everything
that is placed before it.
The fine lines of time that
slowly digs deep
into furrows on the face .
All the signs of age catching up;
they are not the mirror's concern.
The mirror remains crystal clear
even if the faces change.