My friend wouldn’t like it, but I’ll have to tell the truth; I did not like Antaheen (literally, endless). I found the film puerile, and romantic like a 16-year-old boy meditating on issues of life and love. It was slow and pretentious. But, one thing I must say, I am in love with the soundtrack (by Shantanu Moitra), it’s great, especially the last track — ‘Bhindeshi Tara.’ I am listening to it right now. And, I did not like the film.
Why I am stressing on the ‘I didn’t like’ part? The film came with high recommendation, and great lineage. The Bengali film directed by Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, starring Radhika Apte, Rahul Bose, Mita Vashisth, Aparna Sen and Sharmila Tagore won the best film award in the National Film Award, 2009; that’s the highest honour in Indian cinema, mind you. Second, a friend of mine gave me the film (she first gave me the soundtrack, which I absolutely adore), and insisted that I see the film. I did, after some struggle. First time I couldn’t concentrate at all, as the scenes started jumping from one thing to another without any apparent connection, and then, the show of blatant product placement — advertisement on the movie (the girl Brinda says she has flowing hair, because you see, she uses hair oil, and the camera dutifully zooms to her dressing table and lo, there’s a bottle of Nihar oil. The heroine tries to make a call, camera on the mobile phone, and yes, she has a Reliance connection, for everyone to see. (One review tells me there are more such instances, but I stopped counting).).
The second time, I took the film head on. It’s an award-winning film, how bad it can be, and there are some solid actors. The actors disappoint. But the visuals are top class, kudos to cinematographer Abhik Mukhopadhyay; you sit glued looking at those fantastic moving images, the city in the night, seen by someone who, like any true-blue Kolkatan, loves his city, and the interior shots, poetic, and the songs, Shreya Ghoshal’s magical voice crooning ‘Pherari Mon...’ ethereal.
Then you remember, you are seeing a film, not a music video. But where is the film? We are introduced to certain characters, all of them are lonely, despite being successful, and the film is ostensibly a meditation on love and relationship in the times of jet-setting lifestyle and of course, internet. But there is no concrete action to build on this mediation, and when the film ends, it does not say anything.
The story involves a hot-shot police officer, Abhik (Bose), and his interactions with his brother Ranju, sister-in-law Paro (Sen) and her colleague, a Barkha Dutt-in-making TV journalist, Brinda (Apte). And there’s a lonely unmarried pisi with whom Abhik lives (Tagore). Meanwhile, the policeman starts a blind date on the internet and finds a ‘soulmate’ in an username ‘raat jaga tata’. Cool. They spend half of the movie chatting, and we hear their conversations in voiceover. How interesting, How romantic! In between we meet the brother, sister-in-law, the pisi, all talking about how difficult it is to maintain relationships, in axioms, in flowery, romanticised dialogues, like Facebook posts, without ever stating what the real problem is. If that was not enough, we meet a big time builder and his mentally-unstable wife (Mita Vashisth in a wasted role; she is a fantastic actress) to ruminate more on the intricacies of relationship. In between, the lead pair chat some more, about birds and bees, losing and finding, all the romantic nonsense that a 18-year-old boy may write to his 16-year-old girlfriend. And the film ends, I must not say how, that’s the film’s only plot development. But we will surely guess it, if you can sit through it for an hour or so.
When you have actors like Bose, Sen, Tagore, you expect firecrackers. Unfortunately however, all of them appear lacklustre, the interactions between them drab, mundane — the word is humming. The drab script does not help either. Only the newcomer, Radhika Apte, shines with her effortless presence. The stage actress’s (I saw her perform in Lillete Dubey’s Kanyadaan) screen transformation is effortless. The dusky beauty plays a young, and probably a bit inexperience but committed to her job girl to perfection. She fits in the bit who may be hopelessly romantic and one who can still believe in blind dates on internet, unlike the Bose character, a serious police officer whiling away his time in front of his laptop, instead of chasing the arms dealers, a story thread with which the film opens.
Another major issue I had with the film are the dialogues, not the content, which are drab and mundane anyways, but how it is spoken. I may not speak Bengali very well, but I think I have an ear for languages, and its nuances. The language the characters speak, with heavy usage of English and Hindi, not a word or two in between, but sentences after sentences, sound broken and incongruous — spoken like a prabasi (expatriate) Bengali, not someone who lives in Kolkata. I understand this in case of Brinda’s character; she is after all from Jamshedpur and her father is probably a Malayalam, but what about the others?
Midway through the film, an almost love-lorn Bose asks his pisi Tagore if she had ever fallen in love, if she ever missed anyone. The pisi tells a story: One she had received a missed called. Instead of saying wrong number she started chatting up with the stranger because he had a lovely voice. Since then the stranger continued to call the pisi every day, and both talked about a lot of things, but never asked each other’s name and never wanted to meet. And one day, the calls stopped abruptly. That’s it. Before the internet, there was telephone. And the wait for love is endless, antaheen. And in the romantic vision of director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, it is also doomed. This is precisely what the film is. I agree in real life, life can be banal and ruthless, but in a narrative film, we seek a resolution, an answer, a stop, which Antaheen fails to provide.
The lyric of the song 'Bhindeshi Tara'
amar bhindeshi tara akaa rateri akashe
tumi bajale aktara amar chilekotahr pashe
thik shondhe namar mukhe
tomar naam dhore keu daake
mukh lukiye kaar buke tomar golpo bolo kaake
amar raat jaga tara tomar onno parae bari
amar bhoy pawa chehara ami adote anari ||
amar akaash dekha ghuri kichu mitthe bahaduri
amar chokh bedhe dao alo dao shanto shitol pati
tumi mayer moto bhalo ami aklati poth haati
amar bichiri ak tara tumi nao na kotah kaan e
tomar kisher ato tara
rasta paar hobe shabdhane
tomar gaye lagena dhulo
amar dumutho chal chulo
rakho shorir haat e jodi aar jol makho dui haat e
pls ghum hoye jao chokhe amar mon kharaper rat e
amar rat jaga tara amar akash choya bari
ami paina chute tomay amar akla laage bhari ||