I often get to hear from fellow cinegoers that they have liked the first half of a movie but didn’t enjoy the second, or the other way round. Personally, I’ve never subscribed to such a fragmented perspective on films, which is essentially a holistic experience for me. Well, it was, until I watched Bapi Bari Ja last Thursday.
The film is directed by friend-cum-colleagues Abhijit Guha and Sudeshna Roy and stars two newcomers — Arjun Chakrabarty and Mimi Chakraborty, both of who had shown enough promise in their television outing together (STAR Jalsha’s Gaaner Opaare). It gets a trifle tricky when you end up not liking a film made by close acquaintances. Throughout the first nearly 40 minutes of the film, I was beginning to get increasingly apprehensive of the imminent awkwardness of confronting them at the end of the screening. But then, as if to save all of us from pretension or bitterness, Bapi Bari Ja picks up and presents us with a lovely, witty and almost lyrical second half.
The storyline is nothing supremely innovative but captures the eternal sweetness of a love story concerning young people. Bapi (Arjun) is a boy who’s just out of college, hails from a rather well-to-do Bengali family, plays computer games in his leisure, hangs out with friends at coffee shops, and like most of his male friends, is excited about sex but is yet to experience a fair share of it. To add to his misery, he discovers himself in love with his childhood friend Dola (Mimi). On trying to express his feelings to her, she politely rejects but promises to remain friends. And why does she reject him? Because for her Bapi is still that immature school pal, who is yet to become a “Man” who can satisfy a woman in all possible ways the term might suggest. Down in the dumps, Bapi gives in to his family’s attempts of getting him married off.
Enter Shiuli (rank newcomer Shalmi), the would-be-bride to Bapi. This apparently docile middle-class girl is actually a menace of sorts, who packs in a lot of punch within her compact appearance, and turns out to be miles ahead of Bapi in terms of worldly knowledge. Upon learning about his lovelorn state, she takes it upon herself to shake Bapi out of his safe familial slumber and turn him into a desirable ‘Man’.
Whether she succeeds, whether Bapi manages to win over Dola in the end or whether fate has other things in store for these kids is for the viewer to find out.
In the first half-an-hour when the premise and the characters are being established, the film adopts a sloppy pace. Despite an exciting opening sequence, the scenes which follow look erratically woven. The performers too in this section do not seem to gel with each other. Only Mimi with her effortlessness leaves a mark. The song Shohor haath bariye de, right after the rejection episode, with its jarring techno Latin beats adds to the disappointment.
But soon after, some kind of magic happens. From the scene in which Bapi tells his friends about agreeing to the marriage, through the next one at the would-be-bride’s house, the film turns around dramatically. The terrace scene, where Shiuli reveals her true self to Bapi, makes one sit up and take notice of the turning tide straightaway.
The second half involves the growing bonding between Bapi and Shiuli, the changes that Bapi undergoes, as perceived through the eyes of his friends, and Dola getting increasingly ill at ease with the situation. Very subtly, it also tries to capture the sexual awakening of these soon-to-be-mature young boys and girls. The song Sajna is a beautiful composition by Jeet Gannguli, rendered supremely by the maestro Ustad Rashid Khan, who is more than aptly accompanied by none other than Arpita Chatterjee! It is beautifully picturised against a sudden bout of rain in the city and the turmoil that these three characters are going through, and is a sign of the actual cinematic mettle of the director duo.
Even the writer Padmanabha Dasgupta rediscovers himself in this half! The comic moments become more genuine and the emotional sequences are given a strangely lyrical feel, blending in well with the overall treatment of the film.
Arjun and Mimi, one of the best aspects of the film, are consistent almost throughout and the chemistry between the two is great fun to watch. They surely are the big things of tomorrow! Shalmi manages to hold her ground in her first-ever outing on the big screen. From the friends’ gang, Anindya as Jijo seems to be a sheer natural.
All in all, Bapi Bari Ja is a cute love story, definitely worth watching at least once. If you want to watch some genuinely cinematic moments and a star couple of tomorrow in the making, ignore the first half hour of the film and wait for the rest of it. It will not leave you dissatisfied.
PS: The sequence with Shiuli and Bapi walking through the lights and the hustle of the rath-er mela is surely worth the wait.