It was a lazy Sunday afternoon in Miami when I went to watch Bhooter Bhobishyot — the current sensation in Bengali films and the latest acquisition by DataBazaar Media Ventures for viewers in North America — at a friend’s place. At the end I was filled with immense pride that such a film has been made in our Tollywood.
Let me step back and give a bit of perspective as to where I come from. Post-Satyajit Ray and Tapan Sinha, I have always pondered one thing: where is the sense of humour in our films? Amongst his vast gamut of serious films, Ray has given us the legendary Goopi Gyne series, Hirak Rajar Deshe and Mahapurush, and Sinha has given us Golpo Holeo Shotyi, one of the best comedies that Bengali cinema has seen.
The few attempts at true comedy after them have fallen completely flat with their rib-tickling efforts and half-baked slapstick hotchpotch. Maybe some of them have worked at the box-office but they hardly made us proud as Bengali cine-lovers.
From that perspective, Bhooter Bhobishyot comes as a significant contribution to the history of Bengali cinema. Yes, I have no qualms in bracketing this film with the above-mentioned classics. Much has been written about the innovative concept and the smart script of Bhooter Bhobishyot, which I would gladly second.
It is immensely difficult to carry out an intelligent spoof, which only great filmmakers of the calibre of the Coen Brothers can pull off successfully. Anik Datta certainly deserves kudos for that, and what is endearing is that he does it in a totally Bengali style. That gives the film a very ingenuous feel.
And what an ability to tease out humour from seemingly normal names and things. Che Guevara can be interpreted as “Che Guye Bhora”! But what makes Bhooter Bhobishyot a classic is the combination of different aspects of cinema — cinematography, art direction, costumes and particularly the music. There was immense scope in this film and what a fantastic blend of music of all genres it is.
The ensemble cast is top-notch in their performance. It might be a travesty to name some and leave out some but after the demise of the great Bengali actors of this genre — namely Santosh Dutta, Rabi Ghosh, Anup Kumar and Bhanu Bandopadhyay — the logic that Bengali cinema has lost those who can carry out such comedy falls flat. We do have our own Paran Bandopadhyay, Biswajit Chakraborty, Kharaj Mukherjee, Mir and Sumit Samaddar (the find of this film). So the fault was with the filmmakers and not the actors. Datta has shown that through Bhooter Bhobishyot.
Well, to Saswata Chatterjee I have a question when I meet him next: “Apuda, what other tricks do you have up your sleeve?” In the past two months, he has probably featured in almost all of the major releases and each time he comes up with a different character with different shades. Saswata’s talent is really spooky, much like Bob Biswas, though in this case pleasantly so!
I loved the interaction between Parambrata Chattopadhyay and Sabyasachi Chakrabarty. Their presence provided the perfect base from which the hilarious plot springs. And Swastika, you can really be nyaka! Her looks and acting style as the yesteryear actress were marvellous. It was great to see George Baker in a wonderful role after so many years. Samadarshi and Mumtaz Sorcar’s characters brought a youthful vivaciousness to the plot.
All in all, it brought out the best in Bengali cinema. It was all there, it just needed an acute eye like Datta’s. In Bhooter Bhobishyot, the aspiring filmmaker in the form of Parambrata — self-referential, given Datta’s background in ad films and him being not able to make a feature for 20 years — gets the blessings of Sabyasachi’s ‘bhoot’ in order to make his first film. I am sure the ‘bhoot’ of another gentleman looms over Datta. A certain Mr Ray’s ‘bhoot’ would have been smiling in appreciation and satisfaction that such a film has come out from his protégé — well, maybe not his protégé in the real world, but who cares about the real world when the world of ghosts has been able to fascinate cinema lovers so much!