Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Byomkesh Pawrbo (Byomkesh Episode)

This is second in my series of Byomkesh Bakshi’s stories turned into movies. First one was Sujoy Ghosh starrer Satyanweshi. Byomkesh Pawrbo is based on the story Amriter Mrityu by Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay.

This came as an episode “Amrit Ki Maut” in the Rajit Kapoor starrer TV series. You can find it on youtube https://youtu.be/UR7Vcm1G9P4.

Directed by Arindam Sil, Byomkesh Pawrbo stars Abir Chatterjee in the role of Byomkesh and Ritwick Chakraborty as Ajit Bandopadhyay.

Unfortunately, Indian cinema has not been successful in promoting its regional movies to the entire country. It’s quite woeful that aimless Hindi movies find mass market but good content from regional players never reaches an audience. With advent of Amazon Prime and Netflix, this is changing. According to this Forbes article,  Bengali movies have found an international audience – “Writer-director Arindam Sil’s Byomkesh Pawrbo, the latest in a series of films featuring cerebral Bengali sleuth Byomkesh Bakshi, has been acquired by Amazon for international markets, not just its soon-to-launch Indian service, in a multi-title deal with the producer Venkatesh Films.”

Hotstar while not advertised like the two above also has impressive regional content with subtitled movies.

Coming back to Byomkesh Pawrbo…

The movie starts with Byomkesh rescuing a minor girl from trafficking in Kolkatta while his wife Satyabati (Sohini Sarkar) believes he is giving a speech as a function organized by the writer’s guild. Soon Byomkesh is invited by the government to look into some smuggling of illegal arms, left by the British after WWII at Dooars. Byomkesh sets out to Dooars accompanied by Ajith and Satyabati.

The suspicion is on four prominent businessmen with the money and power to carry out these dealings namely Nafar Kundu, Badrinath Das, Biswanath Mallik and Jamuna Das Gangaram. Sukhomoy Samanta (Sumanta Mukherjee), the local head of police is to help them in their quest.

Once they reach the destination, Byomkesh and Ajith find the police head very unwelcoming and he also broadcasts the news of their arrival to all and sundry. This irritates the duo. Soon Byomkesh meets all the businessman and is unable to put his finger on the real culprit. All of them have something to hide. Amidst all this, a simpleton from the village Amrit is shot dead in the jungle. Amrit’s friends feel guilty as they sent him into the jungle and approach Byomkesh to take on the case. Before dying Amrit had claimed that he had seen a ghost in the form of a black rider atop a black horse in the jungle. Amrit dies near the house of a local quack Sadanand Sur and Byomkesh finds horse’s hoof prints near the back wall of his house. While he is investigating the area Sadanand who was away on business to Kolkatta turns up. As he is about to open the main gate of his house, there is a blast and he is killed.

Suspecting a relation between the two murders and the smuggling of black arms, Byomkesh enquires about who owns a horse and learns that all the four businessmen including the police chief owned a horse. This further complicates the matter.

The rest of the story is how Byomkesh entraps the actual smuggler and forces the truth out of him.

Arindam Sil has given a more macho look to his Byomkesh as compared to the original character. Sujoy Ghosh was much more intellectual in his approach, more reminiscent of the arm chair detective. Abir Chatterjee is more muscle and disguises and charm. I guess this makes him more relatable to the masses, my preference of course is the more laid back version 😉

Over all the movie managed to keep the suspense till the end, you can’t say for sure who is the culprit. The stories of Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay are more suited for a TV series. And that’s why you will find the TV series faster paced. However, the director has adapted this when well by introducing the various subplots and alternate lines of investigations. Some songs have been added to give mass appeal but they don’t really seem out of place.

I quite liked Ritwick Chakraborty as Ajit Bandopadhyay unlike Anindya Chatterjee as Ajit in Satyanweshi. Also, this version of Ajith was truer to the character and brings clarity for Byomkesh from his reading and writings. Abir Chatterjee as Byomkesh while not the best rendition for me, but still fits the bill. Some more chutzpa would have brought some colour to the more hands-on interpretation of Byomkesh. Sohini Sarkar as Satyabati doesn’t add any significance to the movie, but is unobtrusive and helps in adding precious minutes to the length.

It’s an interesting suspense drama which will keep you glued.

Do Watch.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Ennum Eppozhum (Forever and Always)

Manju Warrier and Mohanlal are two of my favourite actors. Few can replicate their talent as well as versatility.

Ennum Eppozhum is a simple story of a journalist Vineeth N Pillai (Mohanlal). He is a senior journalist with a women’s magazine. While he appears to be lazy, unkempt and late for everything, he is respected journalist with many path breaking stories to his credit. There are references to his mother who is portrayed as a larger than life, principled and well respected lady. Now no more, she was apparently also a friend\colleague of the owner of the magazine. The publication is now being headed by Kalyani (Reenu Mathews), the daughter of the owner. She is London educated and has a lot of new ideas for the success of the magazine. She and Vineeth don’t get along.

One day there is a news about Advocate Deepa (Manju Warrier), who protested the bad state of roads after falling into a pothole which prompted the high court to question the government. She is applauded by all and Kalyani wants to do a cover story about Advocate Deepa. Against her wishes, her mother tasks Vineeth with this assignment.

Deepa is a conscientious lady who lives with her daughter, is a lawyer and dancer and stands up for what she believes is right. Her neighbour is retired postmaster Kariachan (Innocent) and his wife, who dote on her daughter and always look out for her. She is close to her friend Farah (Lena Abhilash) who visits her from Palakkad occasionally.

Vineeth tries to interview Deepa but she refuses repeatedly. This leads to a scuffle between Kalyani and Vineeth and he ends up resigning. Later he joins back after Kalyani’s mother intervenes. Meanwhile, Deepa and her daughter meet an accident while she is riding her scooter. Vineeth is near them at the moment and rushes them to the hospital. There Deepa receives a court notice from her ex-husband for being an irresponsible mother and the lawyer takes away her daughter.

Vineeth vows to help her. He by chance bumps into the taxi who had hit Deepa, and learns that this was all done at the behest of the ex-husband. Deepa takes it to court and regains the custody of her daughter.

Unfortunately, the movie hardly has any story. There is nothing wrong in telling the story of two ordinary people, but then for it to be worthwhile, they must be put in some extraordinary situation. Even though these roles are a forte of Manju Warrier, unfortunately here she fails to leave a mark mostly because there is no story. There are some comic moments but they are also half-hearted and fail to create an impact.

The director, Sathyan Anthikkad failed to utilize a stellar star cast and misses the mark completely. Music is good and there were a couple of songs I quite liked.

Not much to watch though except maybe for a feel-good time pass.


Can skip.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Dookudu (Daring)


I remember planning to watch this movie on big screen, somehow never got around to doing it. Finally saw it on Hotstar recently where its available with subtitles.

The movie starts with Shankar Narayana (Prakash Raj) who is a popular leader and an independent
MLA from Shankar Nagar (in Hyderabad) during the time of NTR. Shankar Narayan is an honest man who loves his people and has dedicated his life to them. He is a widower, lives with his son Ajay and his brother’s family. Shankar has three close followers namely Sivayya, Meka Narsingh Rao and Ambarpet Ganeshan and his close rival is the highly corrupt Mallesh Goud who vows to destroy him. One day while going for a function, he meets with an accident and is presumed dead along with his brother.

The timeline moves to the current time where we see the Police commissioner in Mumbai being questioned by media about the illegal activities of a local don Nayak (Sonu Sood). Here we see the entry of larger than life hero Ajay Kumar (Mahesh Babu), mercilessly beating up some goons. He is part of a task force charged with arresting Nayak, headed by Nassar (Murthy). Ajay’s identity has been hidden from the media for the success of the operation. To get to Nayak, Ajay captures Guru Talwar who is a close aide of Nayak. Since no one knows where Nayak is, Ajay learns that the way to get to Nayak is through his brother Bunty who is sometimes seen visiting his girlfriend in Istanbul, Turkey.

Ajay and his team go to Turkey. There he bumps into Prashanthi (Samantha Ruth Prabhu) and falls in love with her. Prashanthi, her mother and younger sister are in Turkey for a fashion designing competition which Prashanthi won.

Ajay successfully captures Bunty, and when Bunty calls Nayak, Ajay shoots him. Nayak believes Bunty to be dead. The team returns to India.

Meanwhile, we see that Shankar Narayan didn’t actually die in the accident, but has been in a coma ever since. He has a miraculous recovery and the doctor tells the family that he should be kept away from any shock and should stay happy to aid quick recovery. Shankar Narayan’s one desire was that his son should also stand with his people and be a leader like him.

To take care of his father, Ajay puts on a huge act. He rents his old house in Hyderabad and pretends to be the leader his father wanted him to be. Even the newspapers and TV shows are modified to reflect that his dad's beloved leader NTR is still alive and is the prime minister of the country. The entire act is quite hilarious. Ajay enlists an aspiring actor Padmasri (Brahmanandam) to help him with his drama. Padmasri believes that he is in a reality show being sponsored by Nagarjuna TV channel.

Meanwhile Bunty confesses about Nayak’s close associates to Ajay namely Mallesh Goud, Meka Narsingh Rao and Ambarpet Ganeshan (his father’s erstwhile followers). Ajay is quite unaware of his connection with these men. Nayak returns to Mumbai and kidnaps the police commissioner and sends a warning video to Ajay. Ajay brings Bunty to exchange for the PC. In the fight that ensues, Nayak escapes and Bunty is picked up by Shankar Narayan’s old aide Sivayya. Ajay recognizes Sivayya and runs after him while Bunty dies when he is hit by a train. Ajay captures Sivayya and learns that Sivayya was trying to kill Bunty to get to Nayak. He also learns, that is father was not injured in the car accident but was murdered in a conspiracy by Mallesh Goud and Nayak. Sivayya also learns that Shankar Narayan is alive and goes to meet him.

With this new-found knowledge, Ajay plans his revenge (what a coincidence that his personal and professional enemies are the same 😊). Ajay plans an intricate plot where he pretends to be a film director with some granite land to sell in Bellary. He tricks Meka’s PA and an aspiring actor Bokka Venkata Rao (M. S. Narayana) to get close to the trio of Mallesh Goud, Ganeshan and Meka. He kills the first two in encounter and Meka is later killed by Nayak himself.

Nayak is captured by Ajay and killed unknowingly by Shankar Narayan.

Ajay and Prashanthi also get married in between this revenge drama. Shankar Narayan learns the truth behind the deception and is happy that his son did all this to take care of him.

And they all live happily ever after.

As you can see, the story line of Dookudu is quite complex with many twists and turns. This I would 
say, is a huge differentiator for the movie. From a regular action revenge drama, the various subplots keep the movie lighthearted without compromising the main theme. The flipside is that the movie is way too long (almost quarter to three hours) and at times you just want the villain to come on to the screen quickly. A little crisper editing and fewer songs (songs are below average anyways) would have brought it under two and a half hours and it would have made all the difference.

Having said that, Dookudu is out and out full family entertainer and mostly credited to Mahesh Babu. He has a brilliant screen presence which is almost unassuming. This helps to keep it real in spite of larger than life action sequences. Supported well by Prakash Raj, Brahmanandam, M. S. Narayana and Sonu Sood. Samantha Ruth Prabhu as Prashanthi is ordinary bordering on irritating. You just want her scenes to be over quickly. Like I said music is nothing to write about and the movie could have done with fewer songs. Writer Director Srinu Vaitla definitely has the winning formula (much better than our own Rohit Shetty I must say).

All in all, if you need a lighthearted entertainer to watch with the entire family, this is the movie for you.


Do watch.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Swayamvaram (One’s Own Choice)


Since the time, I started watching Malyalam movies and did some research on great directors of our times, I have been trying to get my hands on Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s movies. And it’s as hard as it can get. While University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the United States has started a Adoor Gopalakrishnan Film Archive and Research Center, to get subtitled restored DVDs of his work in India is no mean feat.

I was ecstatic when I discovered the subtitled version of his first directorial debut Swayamvaram on YouTube. It’s a dream come true.

I sometimes rue the fact that it is so easy for us to get Kurosava or Fellini or Bergman in India but if we have to find restored and subtitled works of Adoor Gopalakrishnan or Ghatak or Padmarajan or K Balachander, its next to impossible.

Modern interpretation of Sita’s life and choice from Ramayana,
Swayamvaram is the story of a newlywed couple Vishwam and Sita who have eloped from their home town. The opening sequence is an almost five-minute sequence of a bus ride. Five minutes to convey the excitement of the love-struck couple, the hope for the future, to start the life together – nothing can come in their way, not a bother in the world. It will make all the those who have lived this moment at least once in their lifetime sigh. And all this is conveyed through mere expressions, ‘cause the only sounds you hear are the sounds of the bus.

The couple start their life in an upscale hotel. There is another almost eight-minute sequence with no dialogue, only the sounds of the sea as Vishwam and Sita lose themselves on the beach or the sounds of the train from a nearby track.

For a moment, it reminded me of Kurosava. Surprisingly, I couldn’t find any detailed critique of the movie on the internet. There are moments in this sequence which for me set the tone of the movie and which stay with you throughout the movie. It’s not just a couple strolling on a beach. This movie is as much about the craft making films as it is about the story, probably even more. For me, the ominous burden of the choice these two make in their lives start from here, especially for Sita.

Very soon the realities of life hit Vishwam and Sita and they move to an ordinary hotel. Vishwam is a struggling writer and has written a novel “Ecstasy”. He tries to get it serialized in a local daily, but is rejected. The dilapidated and shady condition of the hotel, makes the two move to a small house, almost a hut with an old widow and a prostitute as neighbours.

Vishwam after a few days of joblessness gets a job in a private tutorial college as a Zoology lecturer.
Life seems to get better but not for long. The owner of the tutorial is a fraud and very soon Vishwam finds himself again without work. You see Sita all this while settled, happy with her life, in love with her man supporting him through it all. She tries to find a job as a sales girl but is unable to as she cannot afford the Rs.1000 deposit they demand. Vishwam then gets a job as clerk in the nearby factory. His struggle for a job in shown with the lovely backdrop of the class struggle and communist undertones which probably made the political scene of Kerala at that time.

For those who read the reviews I write, compare this with the trivialised Bangladesh liberation struggle which partly forms the backdrop of Aparna Sen’s Goynar Baksho. There its almost forced to be part of the story, it has no place in while in Swayamvaram it forms an unobtrusive backdrop, merely a reflection of the times the story is set in.

Sita is soon pregnant and life seems to go on predictably for a while. Sita has a dream while sleeping one of the nights. (the subtitles were basic, so not sure if my interpretation is correct) Someone is trying to pull her down a pond when she bends down to pick some flowers. She thinks it’s her father. She tries to look for Vishwam but is unable to find her anywhere. For me this again grounds the viewer to the fact that all is not well and somewhere Sita already feels the burden of her choice.

Sita and Vishwam have a baby girl. Sita as a pregnant lady is one of the most realistic rendition I have seen on screen. In fact, it was applauded by many master filmmakers. The way she sits and pick up the pot after filling it with water, her gait when she walks, it’s as if she is living the character not just playing it on screen.

Unfortunately, Vishwam falls critically ill. By the time, Sita could call a doctor he dies. Everyone around her tells her to go to her parents, an old colleague of Vishwam invites her to come and live with his family. Sita steadfastly refuses. In the closing sequence, we see Sita looking at the picture of proverbial Sita from Ramayana and a closed door, resolute in the choices she made.

This movie also reminds me of Deepti Naval’s Ankahee (a must watch) where the last dialogue in the movie summarizes it all – Zindagi har kadam par aadmi ka apna chunaav hai…

There is a thing about great film makers, they make you live the movie not just watch in onscreen. Every frame tells the story. Swayamvaram hardly has any dialogues, it’s the sounds that carry the movie forward. This technique was used for the first time in Malayalam cinema where ambient sounds formed the leitmotif for the life of Vishwam and Sita.

Madhu (Vishwam) and Sharada (Sita) have done a stupendous job in bringing Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s characters to life. For me, Sharad as Sita especially stands out. You can see she literally lived the character. She hardly has any dialogues, but then she doesn’t need any. Her expressions and eyed and body language convey it all. Sharada is a delight to watch as Sita.

I know this movie is not everyone’s cup of tea. But for those who love the craft of filmmaking should watch this for the sheer perfection the movie is.


Must watch.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Goynar Baksho (The Jewellery Box)

While I am still deciding if I want to write the review of Bahubali, I ended up watching this Bengali movie on Amazon Prime.

Directed by Aparna Sen Goynar baksho includes a stellar star-cast of Moushami Chatterjee, Konkona Sen Sharma, Srabanti Chatterjee, Saswat Chatterjee amongst others.

The movie is the story of Somlata (Konkona), her husband’s aunt Rashmoni (Moushami) and her daughter Chatali (Srabanti).


The story starts pre-independence where at eleven, Rashmoni is wed to a middle-aged man who soon dies leaving her a widow at age twelve. As were the customs, she must wear a white sari, cut her hair and eat bland vegetarian food. Being a child still all Rashmoni has is her jewellery box with 5000 grams of gold. She lives with her brothers and their family who have now moved to West Bengal from Faridpur, now in Pakistan.

The men in the house are good for nothing with no work. On top of it the two brothers have an ongoing court case to decide which family will inherit the house. Debts start mounting given the fact that men have mistresses and gamble.

Somlata who is a newlywed in the house, accidently discovers that Rashmoni has died while sleeping. In a hilarious turn of event, she sees Pishima’s ghost who instructs her to steal the jewellery box and hide it so that no one can find it. Pishima who is foul mouth, vile and bitchy ghost scares the simple Somlata to no ends.

Soon the family is on brink of poverty and none of the men in the house do any work. Heeding her mother-in-law’s advice, Somlata encourages her husband to start a saree shop. She pawns some jewellery from Pishima’s box for the business capital. Pishima’s ghost creates havoc for that and keeps on haunting and scaring Somlata. She only steps down when she realizes that Somlata has named the store “Rashmoni Saree house” after her. She guides and advises Somlata on various business affairs to help her run the store. In a humorous almost lyrical sequence, Somlata’s in-laws are haranguing her to find out how she got the capital to start her business, when “the ghost” Pishima whispers their weaknesses in their ears and they back off. I wish Aparna Sen had continued in the same way for the rest of the movie – it would have been a master piece. In another sequence, a man besotted by Somlata follows her every day and Rashmoni eggs her on to take on a lover. Finally, the store does well and all is settled. We see the jewellery box passed on to Somlata’s daughter Chaitali (played by the same actor who plays the young Rashmoni). She is in love with the son of an erstwhile house-help whose grandfather was once in love with Rashmoni. She ultimately gives off the jewels to the cause of Bangladesh liberation.

The movie starts off on a humorous light-hearted note. Moushami Chatterjee as the cursing, foul mouthed tricking ghost of Pishima is par excellence. Treated unfairly because she was widowed at such a young age, she spares no one. In her old age, everyone suffers her only because they eye her jewellery box. Once dead, the ghost realizes that there is no sin or virtue and come back to help and haunt Somlata. This take on unfairness in the way the world treats men and women differently is light hearted yet hard hitting.

Unfortunately, after the first half Aparna Sen loses her way. The story becomes disjointed with too many lose ends. The story of Rafiq, the man besotted with Somlata is left with no conclusion. The liberation war is unnecessary backdrop and Chaitali’s role in it is hardly convincing with no screen time.

Konkona Sen has played Somlata with a lot of restraint and panache at the same time. Srabanti is much more convincing as young Rashmoni then as Chaitali. Saswat Chatterjee, the cheating no-good husband of Somlata fails to leave a mark.

The movie belonged to Moushami Chatterjee as Pishima’s ghost 😊

While a tighter script and crisper editing would have made a huge difference, still can be worth a 
watch.

Can Watch.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Marupakkam (The Other Side)

I stumbled on this movie on Amazon Prime. I absolutely love the way Amazon and Netflix are not just bringing international content at our doorstep but are also making local content more accessible. With subtitled versions of regional cinema, I do hope many more people understand and appreciate this form of art.

A Tamil movie after a long time. I like watching Tamil movies because of all the South Indian languages, I am most familiar with Tamil.

Marupakkam is directed by K. S. Sethumadhavan who is actually a Malayalam director. He is a winner of ten national awards with a lot of critical acclaim as well for many of his movies. I hope I get my hands on some more of his movies in the future.

Marupakkam is based on a story by Indira Parthasarthy. The story starts with Ambi (Sekar), son of an orthodox Tamil Brahmin Vembu Iyer (Sivakumar), who is visiting his hometown with his newly wed Christian bride. Unfortunately, they are not welcomed by his father. Four years later, we see Ambi returning alone to his native on learning of his father’s illness. His father once an erudite brahmin, has now lost most of his movement and doesn’t speak. He hardly recognizes anyone. Apparently, he learnt of Ambi’s separation from his wife and that shocked him into this state.

Through bits and pieces, Ambi realizes that his father has a guilty conscience regarding his first wife Avayam (Radha), and even in this semi-conscious state keeps on repeating her name. Avayam was an accomplished dancer and singer. Vembu Iyer’s mother did not approve of her dancing and forced him to divorce Avayam. He was unable to support his wife and probably realized his hypocrisy once he learned that father’s sins were being repeated by the son.

Through Vembu Iyer’s reminiscences, we see just how much he was in love with Avayam and secretly encouraged her. Unfortunately, he couldn’t stand his ground when it came to supporting her in front of his widowed mother who strongly disapproved of the fine arts. A learned philosopher like Vembu Iyer was unable to answer Avayam when she asked the reason for his objections – do you have conviction? This formed the root cause of his guilt ridden vegetative state.

Sivakumar as Vembu Iyer will make you introspect your own choices in life. Jayabharthi who plays Ambi’s mother and Vembu Iyer’s second wife Janaki, does deserve a mention. A loving mother, dutiful wife, she grew up believing that Avayam was of loose character. However, in the last scene when she sees Avayam while Vembu Iyer is on his deathbed, we see a new understanding dawning on her face. In one stroke, she understood her husband’s guilty conscience.

It’s a simple movie, apparently shot in 14 days with a budget of 12 lacs. Yet it delves on the complex issues of right and wrong. Does it matter being learned if you are unable to stand for the truth? At the same time, how do you kindly oppose someone’s unflinching orthodox views, especially when that someone is your mother.

I would say, very relevant in today’s world. How do we embrace our past and ethos without inheriting senseless prejudices?

Maybe the movie will strike a chord in you.


Do watch.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Satyanweshi (The Truth Seeker)

When a movie is based on a book, how do you review it? Should you watch it just as a standalone movie with an independent screenplay or should you compare it to the actual story? If two people review it, one who has seen the movie directly and one who has read the book followed by the movie then which one to follow. It’s a dilemma.
I recently ended up watching Rituparno Gosh’s Satyanweshi which is one from the Byomkesh Bakshi series. In the Hindi speaking diaspora, this character was made famous by Rajit Kapoor when he starred as Byomkesh Bakshi in Basu Chatterjee’s series aired on Doordarshan.

Originally this detective was created by the Bengali writer Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay.
Satyanweshi is based on the story “Chorabali” or Quicksand. So, I saw the movie first, then I saw the Rajit Kapoor episode and then I read the translated story in English. Humphhh…a tad obsessive you might say.

Consequently, I have seen two versions of the same story before writing the review and have also read the original story. Now, I can’t quiet decide what road to take for the review.

Let me try.

First, the Rajit Kapoor episode is a word by word reproduction from the story. When I read the story, I could hear Rajit kapoor’s voice in my ears. Hence, we can bundle up the two for the purpose of this review. Very scientific eh! A=B.

The movie Satyanweshi, follows the basic plot of the story. It is set in much earlier times though, of kings and queens and not just Zamindars. Himangshu is the king of Balbantpur and invites Byomkesh Bakshi and his companion Ajit for a hunting holiday. On reaching the estate they immediately realize something is grossly wrong. They learn that the librarian, Harinath has disappeared and the queen blames the king.  We see, there are many divergent plots which are not there in the original story. First, two conditions by Himangshu’s father for him to fulfil, if he is to inherit the kingdom - Himangshu cannot marry a non-Hindu girl, and must produce a legitimate heir within three years of his marriage. Second, while Dewan is kali worshipper Kaligati in the original story, here these are two separate characters. Kaligati is the family physician and has a young daughter. He is initially shown fleeing with two daughters from some other kingdom and one of the daughter mysteriously dies on the way. He lands up at Himangshu’s father’s doorstep and asks for shelter. Himangshu’s father realizes that Kaligati belongs to special sect of people who can mimic any animal and gives him special place in his palace. Third is introduction of the queen and one of the motive’s for Himangshu to harm Harinath. Alka, Himangshu’s wife and the queen is very close friends with Harinath. Harinath was particularly erudite in literature and was an accomplished vocalist. Alka, herself a singer and an aspiring actress in her single days greatly admires Harinath and finds solace in his company. Another angle to the whole plot is the mystery surrounding the name Balbantpur, which very frankly was a little far-fetched for me.

Unfortunately to write anything meaningful about the movie I will have to reveal the plot. So, if you haven’t seen the movie, proceed with caution.

In the original plot, Harinath who is the math tutor for Himangshu’s daughter, has supposedly disappeared with some account books and some cash. Byomkesh over the course of his investigation realizes that Harinath has succumbed to some evil plot and is dead. Kaligati is the old dewan of Himangshu who can mimic various animals. There is an old hut near the edge of the estate, it has the jungle on one side and a sand towards the backdoor. As luck would have it, Byomkesh and Ajit discover that the sand is actually quicksand. Byomkesh lays a trap and Kaligati is killed by Himangshu. It is revealed that Kaligati was embezzling from Himangshu and when Harinath discovered his treachery, Kaligati lured him to the hut and he drowned in quicksand.

In Satyanweshi, there is a completely different twist in the plot. Alka, has sexual aversion and has no interest in consummating her marriage and as a result cannot provide an heir to Himanghu to fulfil his father’s conditions. She sends Leela, Kaligati’s daughter with Himangshu for a hunting trip resulting in Leela getting pregnant. Kaligati hides the pregnancy from everyone and sends Leela away. Harinath is in love with Leela. One day he follows Kaligati and ends up at a dilapidated hut in the jungle. To his surprise, he finds Leela there with a newborn. He decides to marry Leela there and then. Kaligati arrives and is surprised to find Harinath with Leela. He learns of their marriage and promises to get Leela to the temple the next day. He directs Harinath to follow a path so that no one knows of his meeting Leela (to safeguard her honour) and Harinath falls into the quicksand and dies.

Kaligati wanted to live his last days as kings’ son’s grandfather instead of just a commoner and hence this deception.

Overall the movie had me glued to the screen. For someone who doesn’t know the story there is enough suspense. I quite liked Sujoy Ghosh, as Byomkesh Bakshi. He looks intellectual and a thinker but quick on his feet. Anindya Chatterjee as Ajit very frankly looked like a baboon. Apologies for such a harsh critique, but he smiled and acted like one too. Indraneil Sengupta as Himangshu looks the part. However, his portrayal of a worried husband, falsely accused by his wife was very one dimensional. Some shades of grey, which made you doubt his innocence would have added some much-needed gumption to the movie. There were no hair-raising moments and while you couldn’t pinpoint the motive, Kaligati remains the only suspect throughout. Arpita Chatterjee as Aloka as frail hopeless wife played the part. I wish her character was better defined. There was no real need for her to be frigid. It served no purpose in the movie. Similarly, the fact that Kaligati could mimic a tiger and a mould of tiger paw is found in his suitcase again remained a loose end.

This movie was the last movie directed by Rituparno Ghosh before his death. While he had finished most of the shooting, the remaining parts and post production was done by his team. I am not sure if the movie would have looked the same if it was released in Rituparno Ghosh's lifetime.

Just for that.

Can watch.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Royal Bengal Rahasya

Yay!

I am super thrilled. Amazon Prime has finally added subtitles to its Bengali movies and that includes the Feluda and Byomkesh Bakshi series.

Disclaimer: I have read the entire Feluda series earlier and absolutely love the detective.

For those who do not know Feluda - Prodosh Chandra Mitra or popularly known as Feluda is an investigative detective. He along with his nephew Topshe and a popular writer Jatayu (joined in the later series) frequently get invited to solve mysteries. This series was written by Satyajit Ray who also directed some of the episodes initially. Later Sandip Ray took up the direction.

Royal Bengal Rahasya is a thriller based on the Feluda series with same name. Here Feluda is invited by Mahitosh Singha Ray to help him with some urgent matter. Ray is a known tiger hunter and lives in the jungles of West Bengal. On their arrival, they are greeted by the young secretary who assists Ray.

Feluda learns that Ray found an old puzzle amongst his great grandfather’s letters and wants Feluda to solve it. Feluda surmises that the riddle gives the location of a hidden treasure. Soon the secretary or Tarit Sengupta is found dead in the jungle as if eaten by a man eater tiger. Coupled with the mysterious childhood friend Shashank and the mad older brother Debotosh, the plot will keep you guessing.

I will not write more about the story because it has been adapted with most of the plot intact. Except I do like the fact that there is a lesser reference to hunting and boasting about it. When the novel was written, hunting was probably still a royal sport which does give it a gruesome outline in the modern context.

I do like Sabyasachi Chakrabarty as Feluda. He looks the part without being overly dramatic though I must say, he is not a patch on Soumitra Chatterjee. I had seen the initial Feluda films starring Soumitra Chatterjee quite some time back. Bibhu Bhattacharya is fabulous as Jatayu and provides the comic relief much like the character in the books. In this particular title, Paran Bandyopadhyay who plays the mad brother Debotosh Singha Ray has done an excellent rendition of a mad man. No theatrics, just slight twitch and the look in the eyes. Saheb Bhattacharya as Topshe is just there nodding his head.

The movie itself maintains the suspense, and doesn’t divulge the details before time. Though I feel it needed some more hair-raising moments.


Can Watch.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Nammal Thammil

Amongst all these great movies I also managed to see Nammal Thammil, primarily for Prithviraj. But I must confess, after about fifteen minutes into the movie, I absolutely couldn't take it any more. Barely managed to watch the movie in fast forward.

For the basic plot, please visit -
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nammal_Thammil

Rather, I will suggest don't bother. Much better stuff to do if you have time at hand, even doing nothing will be worth more.

As you can guess,

Do skip.

Aparan (The Other)

So, I saw another Padmarajan movie 😊

This one is also a mystery\thriller. Unfortunately, the print I had, had very sketchy subtitles. This did ruin the movie a little bit. It’s a little distracting when you are not able to understand what the people are saying on the screen. Despite that I hope I can do justice to this review.

Vishwanathan (Jayaram) is a young man in a small Kerala village. He lives with his parents and sister and is looking for jobs. Apparently, he has been to quite a few interviews but without any success. The family who is waiting to get the younger daughter married, is eagerly waiting for Vishwanathan to find a job.

He gets an interview call for a job in Kochi. While there, he steps into a restaurant for some tea and is accosted by two goons. They accuse him of stealing money and start beating him. Vishwanathan begs them and tries to explain that they are mistaking him for someone else but they don’t pay any heed. Eventually the police arrive. They arrest Vishwanathan and accuse him of being an infamous fraudster. Fortunately, the chief of that police station turns out to be George Kutty (Mukesh) an old classmate of Vishwanathan and he releases him.  

It turns out that there is a doppelganger of Vishwanathan who is a criminal. Even police have limited knowledge of his background and identity. Eventually Vishwanathan joins the company in Kochi. There he meets Ambili (Shobhana) and falls in love with her. One fine day, Ambili accuses Vishwanathan of abusing her in an auto. Thankfully, he was in office with his boss at that time and manages to convince Ambili of this doppelganger. Soon, people start coming up to him accusing him of cheating them, so much so that his sister’s betrothal breaks because the uncle of the groom accuses him of pickpocketing. In a similar misunderstanding with his boss, he also ends up losing his job.  

Vishwanathan decides to find out about this lookalike and bring him to justice. With the help of George, he finds out his background and learns that he was an orphan and a little older than him. He decides to impersonate the evil doppelganger and starts hanging out at his frequented places. Eventually someone mistakes him for the criminal and takes him to a remote location. Another man ends up paying him 1 Lakh for killing someone and another 50K for a second murder.

Vishwanathan comes back and decides to run away with the money. He is about to go to his native village when a phone call comes for him. This is the evil lookalike. He demands his money.

Vishwanathan still manages to run away to his native with the criminal in pursuit. After making sure that he has evaded the criminal, he makes his way to his home only to see his family crying near a dead body. Apparently, its him.

This movie could easily have passed off for a Hitchcock. In fact, mistaken identity is the theme of “North by Northwest”. But that’s where the similarity in the plot ends, and it is as riveting as any Hitchcock. It will keep you riveted to your seat.

The fact is that you never really see the evil doppelganger, and only hear him once through the phone call. You still end up hating this faceless, nameless criminal. You feel sorry for the poor protagonist, who for no fault of his is caught up in this web. You pray and wish that the criminal is caught and pays dearly for the trouble he has caused. This is no small feat in movie making.

Building a persona just in our minds, is a work of pure genius. Additionally, at times you don’t really know who is who. Given the circumstances, can Vishwanathan also become his doppelganger, especially when he is trying to impersonate him. The duality keeps you on edge throughout the second half.

In the last scene when you see Vishwanathan smirking, you aren’t really sure, if it’s him or his doppelganger or if he has actually become the criminal.

Jayaram has done full justice to the role. From an innocent village boy to a desperate man defeated by this unknown lookalike and then to man on a mission to find the one who has tortured him, he slips into these personas with ease. Shobhana hardly has any screen time and rest of the cast doesn’t leave an impression. But then it is not their story, it is the story of Vishwanathan and "the other".

Do watch.


Friday, March 31, 2017

Koodevide (Where is your nest?)

After watching Padmarajan’s Kariyilakkattu Pole, I just couldn’t wait to get my hands on the rest of his movies. Then my friend reminded me that he had given me a whole lot of them (with subtitles) earlier. So, I am in movie heaven 😊

I love such real life paced movies. Koodevide is set in Ooty, where Alice (Suhasini) teaches in a boarding school. She lives with her brother who is in the army along with Captain Thomas (Mammootty). Alice and Captain Thomas like each other.

A local MP’s son gets transferred to the school where Alice teaches mid-term. He had been shunted across various schools and was taken in by the Principal only because of the MP’s pressure. Ravi (Rahman) is a troublemaker from the word go. He gets caught in Alice’s class and is sent to the Principal’s office for a warning. Principal instructs Alice to be strict with him and not give him any leeway. Infact he can’t wait to throw Ravi out of the school. Alice feels sorry for the boy. In a heartfelt moment, she notes – what is the hope for the boy when the entire world is waiting for him to become a criminal.

From then on, Alice starts paying special attention to him, giving him responsibility and encouraging him. She also learns that his mother died at a young age. In her own way, she tries to be the motherly figure for Ravi. Soon we see remarkable progress in Ravi.

Meanwhile, in an unfortunate training accident Alice’s brother dies. Bereft, she decides to focus more on her work. She and Capt. Thomas also come close and decide to tie the knot soon.

One of the evenings Ravi comes to Alice’s house to give her something when Captain is also there. He does not like Ravi at all and suspects his intentions. Alice ends up seeing a very angry and jealous Thomas. Till now, with her brother, he had always been jolly and easy-going, albeit prone to too much drinking. Alice is a little surprised to see this side of Thomas and tries to reason with him.

Soon after this, Thomas starts objecting to Alice meeting Ravi and throws violent fits of anger whenever he sees them together. He ends up drunk at her house at midnight and creates a storm.

Alice starts revisiting her decision to marry Thomas which further enrages him.

In an inebriated state, Thomas comes looking for Alice, and not finding her goes to various places she is likely to be found. He bumps into Ravi and starts abusing and hitting him. A fight ensues and Ravi is accidentally killed.

Repentant, Thomas surrenders to the army police.

This is one of those reviews where the summary will not do justice to the movie. It is next to impossible to capture various nuances in the movie.

The scenes from the boarding school and the teenage love of Ravi for a fellow student will instantly take you back to your school days. And we all have that one teacher who guided and mentored us.

For me the movie belonged to Mammootty. His transformation from a brother’s friend into a jealous and irrational lover and gradual and riveting. From periods of sanity and regret to violently laying his claim on “his woman” – Mammootty is par excellence.

This is the kind of movie I wish, the international film festivals for critically acclaimed cinema saw. At par with Fellini and Bergman. Human emotions in their most complex form shown ever so subtly.

Rahman has done a good job as a teenage boy embroiled in situations outside his comprehension.

Padmarajan is a director par excellence. His kind of movies is the reason I started this blog. In my own small way to make people aware of the great cinema that India has.

Must watch.


Byomkesh Pawrbo (Byomkesh Episode)

This is second in my series of Byomkesh Bakshi’s stories turned into movies. First one was Sujoy Ghosh starrer Satyanweshi . Byomkesh Pa...