Thursday, March 15, 2012

Baise Sraban

A serial killer is on prowl in Kolkata. How do we know it’s a serial killer? Because, after killing his victim, he leaves a poem next to the body, printed in the same font, and the poem somehow explains the way the victim is hacked. For example, a Sonagachi hooker is killed and next to her lays a few lines from Jibanananda Das’s ‘Banalata Sen’. You know the poem by heart: “…aami klanto pran ek… aamar ayi shanti diyechilo Natore’s Banalata Sen…” If you don’t know the poem, you’re not a true Bengali. Whatever!

Anyway, there’s has been four murders in eight months or something like that, and the police are in a fix. The in charge in the case is a bright young chap, Abhijit, perhaps a little hot-headed when it comes to his love life, but he cannot find a lead in the case. This is how the Bangla film 'Baishe Sraban' (22nd Sraban, 2011) begins.

We learn that there’s only person who can solve the case. He is Probir, a disgraced cop, who was suspended and now is reduced to be a drunk. Finally, the top brass in the police gives in and Probir is called back, after much cajoling, where he is given the total freedom how he is going to solve the case, and Abhi is asked to assist the man, who is charming and megalomaniac at the same time.

He is played by Prosenjit, once the heartthrob of the Bengali cinema, with charisma and overwhelming presence. When he is on screen, you don’t want to look elsewhere. Young Parambrata Chatterjee, who has recently found national recognition after playing the good cop helping Vidya Bagchi find her missing husband in ‘Kahaani’, is earnest and believable. But, in front of Prosenjit’s towering personality, he just looks like a meek schoolboy.

The super cop is predictably smart. Soon, he and his assistant discover the pattern in the killings. This guy kills his victims on the day of a particular poet’s death anniversary, and leaves a poem by that particular poet with the body. They also figure out that the next possible date for the killer to strike again is the anniversary of Michael Madhusudhan Dutta. They are ready to catch their killer.

Meanwhile, we get to hear a lot of poetry, by several well known Bangla poets, some of them badly recited. We also get to hear some original poetry by a struggling poet, Nibaran, who may or may not be mad. He is played by the filmmaker Gautam Ghosh, who also recites his one poems, including a particularly moving recital in a deserted railway platform. He is frustrated because nobody would publish his poems. He behaves in a peculiar way, of course. But, is he the serial killer? Ghost plays him with such ambivalence that we cannot enter his mind, though we do sympathize with him.

Before we solve the problem, we are also introduced to a love triangle involving Abhi, his girlfriend and her best male friend. And they fight a lot, on issues like how there’s no ‘f’ sound in Bangla to utter the world “fatafati”. Really?

Since this is a thriller, I cannot tell you more without spoiling the big twist in the end, other than the fact that they solve the case, and the poor poet, Nibaran, is dead. And everyone else is happy, including Probir, who gets his job back.

Wait, there’s still 19 minutes to go in this 2 hours and 19 minutes film. Here comes the twist, which may not be really surprising, but satisfactory in a way. And, Prosenjit gets to recite some more poems and show off his acting skills. He acts like he is in a Jatra, in front of a live audience. Never mind that, Prosenjit is impressive. So is Parambrata. Watch out for him. He is made for bigger things.

If you like Bangla poetry, you should like this movie. The combination of poetry and murder is ingenious, and it works, almost. Since it’s a Bangla film, you can ignore the melodrama.

My only problem was the film is long, and the whole love triangle sub plot was redundant. We did not really care about it, despite the presence of lovely Raima Sen.

The title refers to June 22, the death anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore, the day when the mystery is finally unlocked, and you guessed it right, it rains at the end. After all, it’s sraban, the monsoon season.

The film is written and directed by Srijit Mukherji, who also directed the superhit 'Autograph' (2010), which features a superb soundtrack, including Anupam Roy's hauntingly beautiful, 'Amake aamr moto thakte dao."

More on the film here.
More on Srijit Mukherji here.
More on Prosenjit here.

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