‘Uma’ Review : A rich tale of expensive wish-fulfillment!

When this movie was announced, the trailer was launched, all eyes were on its director – Srijit Mukherji, was going through a period of time in his career, where nothing clicked for him. His usual cast ensemble, his high-profile scripts, and even literature adaptations couldn’t help his cause. All that wasted/un-used talent was stored somewhere maybe, all this while – until here, where he just uses a tiny spoon-full from his store-house, picks out a real-story for his plot, adapts it in his style.
Here basic human emotions, common parental feelings and cliched Bengali sentiments are dealt with, but with a difference – this is essentially a rich man’s expensive emotions, we are talking about. Srijit drives away the “mass”, with the upper class structure he creates, yet we all feel accomodated, irrespective of how fat our back-pockets are, mainly due to the fact that the crux is a basic father-child relationship – the struggles of a failed marriage, the responsibilities of a single parent, the melancholy of a dying child and the fulfillment of an immature, childish bucket-list.
Based on the life and death of Evan Leversage of Canada, for whom, a whole city celebrated Christmas, earlier than scheduled, as Evan’s last wish. Here, Srijit uses this story as per his need. He celebrates parenthood, childhood, he plays in the delicate corners of anticiapted sorrowful endings and he mixes all of these with the ultimate glorification of “Cinema” – as a life-saving drug, through one of the most beautifully pictured metatheatres of Bengali Cinema history. It is marvelous to see the courage he has to include a sub-plot too many.
Uma wishes to see a Durga Puja, of which she has only heard of, from her single parent, her NRI father. She has 3 months to live, and so (Jishu U Sengupta) Himadri decides to set an alternative reality, where Durga Puja will be celebrated, in April-May.
Without revealing any further, lets just know that, here enters Anjan Dutta, as Brahmananda – an once famous, failed director, who just needs one last chance to redeem himself – to create a master-piece. His sub-plot of a failed family and marriage co-incides with Himadri’s and here lies Srijit’s brilliance in merging plots, into one, making each coherent to other.
The antagonist named as Mohitosh Sur (Anirban) works by suggestion. “Sur” and “Mahisasur” – you understand, don’t you? Infact, this isn’t all of it – every name used, every scene shown has so much of symbolism filled into it. The director (Brahmananda) as God, the father as God, Uma as God – all bow to their creator, Srijit, when at the last scene, there happens a pure cinematic ecstasy, a highly-satisfying poetic justice. All may seem a bit super-imposed, but then, this is a movie about happy-endings to the ultimate tragedy.
The movie’s problem lies, in its celebration – much paradoxically. There is too much of everything, the completion of the bucket-list, defies all imagination, reality and practicality. Though Srijit dedicates this movie to all fathers, everywhere in the world, but there certainly will be a difficulty in identification with Himadri’s character – because he is ‘out-of-the-world’ rich and can grant a wish, too much. There are stretched out scenes, un-necessary dialogues and boring scenes.
Anjan Dutta grabs the movie by its collar, and like the character he plays, gives it, his all. Stunning, fantastic, dream performance from a fading away legend. You pray for his justice, you wish for his masterpiece to be successful, you sympathise him, you glorify him. Jishu U Sengupta enjoys a spell of Midas’ touch. His breakdowns, his joys, his satisfactions in all his impending tragedy almost speaks as a character. Anirban is as usually fantastic as he is, with that voice. At times, he mistakes the cinema for a stage, but he makes all that up in his final revelation. Rudranil and Neel are obviously delightful with Rudranil playing the comic relief. Sayantika appears and disappears before you see her, and fortunately so. Srabanti is little but very aptly used. And now comes the star – Sara Sengupta in and as Uma. What a fine performance from the little girl. Every scene she is in, is a delight. Her expressions, her ease of facing the camera, her diction, her dialogue-delivery, her body language makes her the soul of the film. I personally, never have seen a better child actor in Bengal, before. She is already a star, a long glorious path infront of her, and we wish her all the very best.
Mukherji’s use of surrealism twice, both very much related in parallel context is very successfully attempted. He always has the luxury of a star-studded cast line, a never-ending budget and a brand name – he, only can dream and achieve this project. This isn’t a common man’s movie. The plot isn’t ordinary – but the context is, hence you love it. Uma isn’t just about a terminally ill child’s wish fulfillment, it is about what human beings can attain with the power of love (rich human beings). Share the space with a pitiful father, watch him bring down the moon for her daughter. Share the space with the industry’s little intricacies, watch Brahmananda serve a poetic justice. Share the space with Uma – relive your Durga Puja memories, satisfy your Saptami-Ostomi hunger, for this religion is that of the human, where God plays a puppet.

My rating :- 3.5/5.

Article by :- Anish Banerjee.

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Mayurakshi : The symphony of matured melancholy!

This movie is of the oxymorons of life. This movie is about the pleasured and treasured burdens of everyday relations. This is a story of going back to your roots, to find a place to anchor your worries. This is “a tale told by an idiot” – of the last of the seven stages of man, and his futile tomorrows envelop and enroach you, so much so, that you can’t help but think about the most basic formulae of life – very simple, very sweet.
An age old father, in his “nerve illness” keeps on forgetting the mundanes of life on a stage. He though, being a history teacher, cannot even remember the death anniversary of his wife. He is a man living in the past, who can quote Jimi Hendrix or Gladstone with ease, but can’t remember what he had for lunch that day. A person who can, by one glance, understand that his son is suffering from a mental drabness, but can’t remember that his son is no longer a kid playing for Bengal in the Ranji Trophy, but a grown up man with a grown up stature of being a boss at a MNC, in Chicago. He gets irritated like a child, his desires are childish, his eighty-four years of earthly existence, have bundled up into a delicate frenzy of immature actions. And you know where the irony lies ? It lies in the relief that he cannot quite ‘re-member’ – otherwise he may have not survived the modern day wasteland.
Then there is the son, who finds time in his ‘busy’ schedule to visit his father at a tough time of this illness. He, himself has two failed marriages and cannot risk a third. He, himself finds himself in a mental illness – “Or Mon Bhalo Nei”. And that he comes to attempt a rescue of bringing back his father to normalcy, is his curing of himself with the realisation that, “tomorrow is yet another day” and he has to continue the race.
Now comes the acting part – who else in this huge industry could have done these two roles with so much control that it seems that they were born to act in this movie. Soumitra Chatterjee, in his all of grandfatherly poise and admiration will make you adore him. This isn’t acting behind a rigid set of cameras – this is just an overflow of emotions, irrespective of whether that is for the reel or the real. The way he shouts for nothing, the way he asks his son in the hospital, “amay niye jabi toh aj, bhulbina toh?” – fills your heart with an aching joy – the joy of seeing the beginning – the ache because this beginning is that of the end. He is no longer someone of tollywood and worldly fame – he is just as your grandfather or father, perhaps, would have been at that age. Simplicity redefined.
Then comes Prosenjit Chatterjee, with his baggage full of cinema experience and plays out a set of full 102 minutes in one single identity of being the son and no-one else. The rigidity of the self, shown throughout and his burdens, proven on his face. He can understand his father perfectly, as there has been a role reversal. He plays the guardian. Very calm, sorrowful, matured and graceful. He, on the other hand, dreads his past – not only because they were futile, but also because they are lost with the approaching winged chariot of time. Hence, he cannot shave off his tired beard, even after applying the cream.
The father, as he lives in the past, cannot even remember that his son has left him again, for the western shores, and the son, as he lives in his fatigues, cannot even get the basic humane warmth – Mayurakshi is what could have been, Mayurakshi is the inconclusiveness that life provides. She might have been the best “ashray” for Aryanil and Sushovan knew that – but life won’t give him the second chance, anyway – and she has to die, in the mind.
Sudipta Chakraborty and Indrani Halder play the necessary chords, with Sudipta playing the more important one of being the mother, the care-taker, the daughter to Sushovan. Beautiful dialogue interplay and a wonderful selection of Tagore’s melancholic music helps to stir the soup of over-flowing feelings. When the street-hawker asks Aryanil, “barite purono kichu ache?” – there is a gusto of rushing, crowded thoughts.
On the whole, the film goes nowhere, it is a tale of few fleeting moments of a parent-son relationship, which has no beginning and no end. But this “nowhere”, maybe is the message that Atanu Ghosh wanted to convey. Yet, this movie hurts you where it matters – it pleads with you, begs with you to give time, some time to respect the relations you are into. This film is an orchestra of symphonic heart-aches. If you haven’t watched this, then you should. The pain and the sorrow are necessary for your heart, maybe, for the bigger realisation to happen.
My rating – 4/5.

Article by :- Anish Banerjee.

AMAZON OBHIJAAN Review : Bengali Cinema’s new visual landmark! 

These 140 minutes are very new to Bengali Cinema –  very brave in Bengali Cinema and very spectacular for even world cinema. Kamaleshwar Mukherjee takes upon a huge task – a task of taking a group of bengalis for a jaw-dropping tour, where every scene is an ecstasy of places of which you have only read about or fantasized visiting. This is a setting of a new benchmark – the dimensions of this film are huge, the grandeur is marvelous – the adventure is exciting.
At a time when Tollywood is on a roll with gems being produced one after another – Mukherjee takes up the challenge of taking his hero back to where he left him at “Chander Pahaar”. This time, a tribute and penned by the director himself, Amazon Obhijaan is both a worthy sequel and a noble tribute to Bibhuti Bhusan Bandyopadhyay. This is one of those movies, where the attempt matters more than the product. He puts his faith on Dev, and except the pronunciations here and there, Dev doesn’t disappoint much (with his recent touch of form). The story is no less an epic, but is nagging – it is slow and very detailed. Kamaleshwar with his own voice as an omnipresent narrator, helps to build up the pace but at certain points, the travel is hectic, and you start longing to reach the destination rather than enjoying the journey. Half of the words are lost in translation – either because foreigners speaking in awful Bengali or Dev speaking in a pretty bad english accent.
Coming to the story, this surely took a lot of time planning the whole map out – once the ship sails out, it was all in the hands of Mukherjee – there was great freedom in the movements and he could have taken this anywhere. But he takes Shankar for a pre-planned trip to the rain-forests of Amazon, for an exploration of an imaginary ‘gold’ city  – yes, for real for the reel. Shot extensively across Brazil, this is the first Indian movie to be attempted there. This is a visual treat for Christmas and Mukherjee is the Santa! Dev, returning as Shankar, is very much at home. An actor with a meteoric rise by his side, is on a golden touch. Fighting the trolls and the memes of the social media, he performs where it matters. Its time, we start acknowledging his efforts now. His pronunciation still needs a lot of improvement, but he has moved away from “plabian” show of muscles to a classy show of hard-work.
It is sad how directors take it for granted that Bengali audience will not be able to understand english – and hence you see foreigners speaking in a cliched disgusting bengali tongue and Shankar speaking bengali in even, Brazil and translating every other english word  to bengali. Background score is gorgeous, it perhaps plays as a character – enhancing the feel of the whole building up. There are over-stretched scenes, unnecessary conversations and is 20 minutes too long. For the side cast, Svetlana Gulakova is brilliant and David James is bit too dramatic. Amazon Obhijaan is one of its kind – with a better use of CGI and VFX, this would have ranked amongst the best, but this is no less – it misses the mark in some areas, but the courage to bring this out in a regional film is brilliant, and there is where, Mukherjee will win hearts and hall collections.
Just at the right time, when the city starts celebrating and you are in an year ending mood, you will love this extravaganza to the El Dorado. You will see visuals which will stir you, frighten you and pump you up for the right kind of winter. This is movie making in a state of hyperbole. The winds and the tides are in favour now – board the boat, raise the sails of Bengali cinema, and sail away into a delightful embroidery of a stunning journey. Accompany Shankar and Co. to a fantasy – the dream may flatter, but the motive will not falter.

My Rating 3/5.

Article by :- Anish Banerjee.

Posto : Cinema’s gift to grandparents on Mothers’ Day!

Posto” on the dish, on the screen –  it is the same beautiful taste which the Bengalis are addicted to. This is a movie straight from the dining table of Bengali Households. All its emotions, feelings, sentiments are rooted in one soil – The Bengali family! This is a movie about matters of the heart – your childhood replayed, your family matters discussed, your love for two special persons on Earth, relished. This is  Nandita-Shiboprosad’s return gift to those extraordinary relations of Dadu and Thamma and how they overpower, eventually, every other relation (even that of parents) at the end.

“This is the most regressive case, I have ever seen in my career” – says the lawyer at a point of the movie. Ironically, this movie is all about “being progressive” and its “fake realities” pointed to you one by one. A simple story of grandparents who don’t want to give up their grandchild to his biological parents as they do not believe that they are responsible enough, or will have enough “quality time” to spend with him, out of their “working parents’ schedule”. This takes you for a toss – you switch sides often, but you will never question either side, as who knows, the screen is a mirror maybe. An incredible use of court-room drama with no unnecessary “tarikhs after tarikhs” – there may be no suspense in this court about who wins – Jashoda or Devaki – but there will be a simultaneous pity for modern society, a flooding of emotions for your aged parents or your grandparents, and plentiful of love for the Modern Gopal – who has been left in a choice of either stealing “makhan” (growing up in nature) or playing on a smartphone (in the city or in the UK).

So many actors have graced the industry (including Uttam Kumar) – yet one man, in his eighties, is standing strong there, with his perfect grandfatherly poise and a delicacy of acting touch. Soumitra Chattopadhyaya removes Posto from the realms of a movie to occurrences of everyday realities. You want to hug him, play with him, cuddle him – those who have been blessed by getting a grandpa’s love – will take him to another loving dadu just opposite of the screen. Lily Chakraborty is composed as a grandparent who loves her grandson more than any one else, yet is a mother and knows all about the pains of her sons. Jishu U Sengupta gets back in his grove – though belittled by the presence of Chatterjee, he makes full use of what he gets – the scene where he goes to hit his son for a crime of his own and understands the fault – is acting done brilliantly. Mimi is highly under-utilized and sometimes is barred off screen space even. Yet does, a commendable job. Another veteran, who has remained the pillar of Tollywood – Paran Bandyapadhyaya is as grand as ever.  His awe is magnificent. The little boy as Posto is saved by post shooting techniques, and could have been better in choice – but that flaw can be totally overlooked as he is restless, lovable, cute.
Sohini as the lawyer is over dramatic, and hasn’t been able to leave her stage to the camera. She forgets that this is not theatre. The Music department isn’t great either and the “Home Shanti Home” song is unnecessary and very badly placed.

Nonetheless, this is that once in a year outings with your family, to a place very well known, yet so vivid. The characters are from the next door, yet there is a longing to see them there. This is those once in a year times, when your mother tongue’s sentiments are in full flow. This is those once in a year times, when being a Bengali, really matters. This is the once in a year times, when the best director duo gifts Bengal with a special dish.

Go, enjoy being a Bengali, enjoy what your grandparents have done for you, love your parents more – have this specially made item in a restaurant, I mean cinema, near you. The taste will last long, you will come out fully serving your appetite.
My Rating : 4/5.

Article by : Anish Banerjee.

GALPO HOLEO SOTTI – AN UNCANNY REVELATION

During 1966 Bengali film industry witnessed some milestone movie works. Over the decades, movies like Nayak, Atithi, Galpo holeo Sotti, have still remained as one of the most discussed films around the table. And these genius works preceded some even greater works to appear on silver screen and helped Bengali movies get recognized in a wider scale fraternity.
While Ray created a benchmark with the reels of Nayak, not just a mere story of the name but of fame and the struggle to retain the fame which comes with the name that follows; Galpa Holeo Sotti was a complete contrast with its household comedy. Apparently the movie have been watched over and over again as the story of a family with its deformed inner stress, where out of nowhere a strange young man appears to work as a servant. Throughout the film the identity of this man (Dhononjoy) remains a mystery. And it is to be revealed by the film how this man reforms the family by helping each one of them finding their happiness in togetherness and silently working as their inspiration for fulfillment.
The movie was written and directed by Tapan Sinha, and the major characters were played by famous contemporary actors like Ravi Ghosh(Dhononjoy), Chaya Devi(BoroBou), Prashad Mukhopadhyay(borokhoka), Bhanu Bandhopadhyay(chotokhoka), Chinmoy Roy(thief) etc. this movie stirred such a huge appreciation that later a Bollywood movie Bawarchi(1972) was adopted and produced from this story.
The joint family culture was typical of a Bengali household, and the main theme of the comedy is generated from the mess and internal tension of this Haldar family, where everyone is seen quarrelling over minimalistic things. Each relationship of this family are shown to be highly codependent yet all of them are in complete denial of it.
The segregated condition in each rooms of the house show them being miles away from each other inside this tiny little rooms. They do not have any regard for each other’s profession or beliefs. Their own works are more of a baggage than a responsibility as they fail to understand Dhononjoy’s rendition of Swami Vivekananda- “jar jekhane kaj, sekhanei tar mukti(one’s liberation through his works)”. The family is infested with differences. All of the members are called by their relations like- boro khoka, choto khoka, and baba and so on. Ironically they were too unaware to recognize the weight of the title they were called by. Some may also find the family as the symbolic portrayal of the nation in its socio-economic and political adversities during the post-independence era. But the real excellence of the plot is in showing how the problems and their solutions are closely knit.
From the very first appearance to the very last Dhononjoy emerged in and out from fog, which is fully symbolic of an unconscious mind coming in surface to the conscious mind. As he introduced himself to be coming from an Ashram where they provide happiness and settle a peaceful environment into a family through their service. A tinge of fishiness is added to the atmosphere as Dhononjoy starts working himself into the family revealing a startling side to the story. Apparently Dhononjoy seems as an angel, a working-class representative trying to fit in the conception of Tapan Sinha’s romantic reformist. Thus he prepares food, runs errands and coaxes the family to come together. But if analyzed closely the hue of Dhononjoy’s character can be recognized as an outcome figure of human’s subconscious. As if he came as an angel to grant them boons and filling their interpersonal emotional gaps with his honesty.
Before Dhononjoy’s arrival, no servants could stick with working in this family. They are highly inconsiderate of one’s ability and they pour their own frustration over the household maids. The scene where this one maid is protesting against their ritualistic inability to come to vantage point about her wage may seem pretty comical with all the hassle and bustle but it is a sheer reflection of their middle class moralities. The movie walks us through a marvelous experience of life, keeping us less aware of the fact that this could be a “golpo” (tale) yet “shotti” (truth).
The master screenplay helps to bring out the perfect works of all the legendary actors. It is indeed a startling scene when a child is singing a song, taught by Dhononjoy which says “shukh bole otho shari ghumayona ar … ejibon gele fire ashena abar”(life is only given to you once, wake up don’t stay asleep) and the elderly members are in an awe. One servant has changed their thoughts and beliefs which led come to an inner peace with themselves.
The climax arrives when the family is seen standing beside themselves both literally and metaphorically. The box of jewelry represents their old clinging to material obsession. And the way they toss it from one to another depicts that they have overcome their own shackles of possessiveness. Krishna gains her identity for the very first time. But as Dhononjoy fades away in the fog we are left to question ourselves why is he going? When will he come back? But soon the director proves his genius once again by keeping the man in the khaki as a mouthpiece- “amar ashar ar dorkar-I hobe na”(I don’t need to come back anymore). The renowned famous director Srijit Mukherji perceives the movie as “After Ray, Tapan Sinha is one of my favorite directors especially his music. I think it was a perfectly structured screenplay that was impeccably written.It had a fantastic performance by Rabi Ghosh and it’s the finest example of the road cinema in Bengal. It is story telling at its effortless best.” I watched the movie nearly 50 times and it still is like the first time I watched it. I give the movie 5/5 believing that more people of our generation watch it.