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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 5.07.13

C/O Sir may not be the most ambitious or serious film Kaushik (Ganguly) has made. It lacks the heartrending anguish and moral dilemma of Aarekti Premer Galpo, the burning intensity of Shabdo, or the dark brooding presence of fate in Laptop. But what C/O Sir has is a new-found maturity and confidence that perhaps wasn’t there before. It’s as if Kaushik has now realised his true potential as a director and is close to reaching the high noon of his cinematic powers.

To take the storyline of C/O Sir, you can view it simply as Kaushik calls it a romantic thriller. But then, there are layers within layers in C/O Sir. So, you can view it as a morality play with the forces of good and evil coming into open conflict.

Then, there’s Kaushik’s pre-occupation with the fear of blindness. We have witnessed this gut-emptying feeling in Laptop, and to an extent in Shabdo. But, here in C/O Sir, blindness takes centre stage, eclipsing everything else. And you can see the entire film as a story of people with eyes to see but essentially bereft of vision, and a blind person, endowed with deep inner perception that we perhaps lack in ourselves. That’s not all. The film poses disturbing questions on the true function of a teacher in society. Is it just a vocation? Or, is it something more, a passion for excellence, for teaching kids moral uprightness so that they could shape the destiny of the world tomorrow? All these elements come into play in C/O Sir without in any way disturbing the symmetry or texture of the film. What is specially heartening to see is Kaushik’s increasing mastery over all the different aspects of filmmaking. He’s experimented with the editing style, deliberately breaking the smooth flow of the narrative with punched-in discordant shots. But he’s done it with restraint and selectively. He has used music with rapier-like precision, to build up the tempo of a scene or to create a climax. And one can see a series of such climaxes taking place through the movie.

Kaushik has used dialogue to create an impact, not just convey emotions. One of them, spoken by the headmaster of the school, sticks in your mind. It’s got to do with ‘threat’— as in ‘this is not a threat’. ‘This is a threat’ and ‘eta kintu anurodh’. He’s used humour unexpectedly to break the tension of a scene. Jayabrata’s (Saswata) throwing the basketball, for instance.

Now a special word on photography. In cricket there’s an expression called ‘hand-eye co-ordination’. In C/O Sir it’s ‘perfect brain-eye co-ordination’ between Kaushik and Shirsha Roy (DoP). It’s taken them time to build the team. But now it’s there. Different colours used — black-and-white, sepia, or colour to denote specific mood swings in the film. The duo are responsible for some really memorable scenes. Lace curtains slowly filling up the entire screen. The shadow of a curtain tapestried on Meghna’s (Sudipta) face. The stillness of the bungalow amidst gathering fog. The jostling bustle of the hilly roads. The red sun dipping into a grave of massive dark clouds — all this you remember long after the film is over.

Now to acting. The two women in the movie you could happily fall in love with. Reshmi-alias-Sushmita-alias-Susmita (Raima Sen) for her utter vulnerability, and Meghna (Sudipta ) for her restrained uprightness. While Raima exudes her customary charm, it’s Sudipta that your heart cries out for. Here’s a talented actress, relegated to bits-and-pieces roles that come her way — the odd role in Bariwali or in Goynar Baksho. But in C/O Sir her talents are in full display, specially so because it’s so delicately underplayed.

A special feature of C/O Sir is the uniformly high standard of acting. It’s so good to see Arunda (Arun Mukherjee) as Mr Das after so many years. Indraneil (Sengupta) as Ranabir, Kunal Padhi as Mr Ghosh and Sabyasachi (Chakrabarty) as the headmaster are their usual polished selves. But the person who specially catches your eye is the other Arunda (Guha Thakurata). An asset in the film industry as an assistant director, Arunda has been flexing his muscles of late as an actor (remember Shabdo?), doing a ‘Bob Biswas’ job here with supreme aplomb. As for the original ‘BB’, what can you say about him? If his Bob Biswas was flamboyant, and Meghe Dhaka Tara full of inner turmoil, here in C/O Sir, he’s calm, unperturbed. He’s arrived. He’s stopped acting. He’s Jayabrata Ray.

All this is on the credit side. On the debit side, one feels the second half of the movie could perhaps been tighter. A full song could have been shortened. Certain elements could have been eliminated. It’s a thriller, after all.

C/O Sir is the most commercial film Kaushik has made so far. It has drama, lust, greed, corruption, as also a whiff of love. There is crime and punishment. But there’s also the hope of redemption. And we’ll live with that.

Watchable? As ‘Chopsie’, Priyanka Chopra would have said in the Pepsi commercial — Oh yes!