Hemlock Society

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By Though it could have done with a tighter pace, Mainak Bhaumik feels hemlock society is a laudable effort WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO ASK SRIJIT ABOUT HEMLOCK SOCIETY? TELL t2@abp.in
  • Published 25.06.12


Starring: Parambrata Chattopadhyay, Koel Mallick, Dipankar De, Roopa Ganguly, Shaheb Chatterjee, Anindita Basu
Directed by: Srijit Mukherji
Running time: 135 minutes

Back in 2008, I met a smart, ambitious young guy in a coffee shop, who had left his job, life and the whole world behind in the desperate desire to make it big in the movie business. Cut to 2010, he came with Autograph and rocked the industry, followed by 22shey Srabon that broke even bigger box-office records. And now we have his Hemlock Society, undoubtedly the most anticipated film of this year till now, and thanks to its path-breaking posters, audience expectations are sky-high.

It takes a mastermind like Srijit Mukherji to come up with a fantastic concept like a ‘suicide club’ and (pardon my French) ‘b*lls of steel’ to attempt to make a film out of it. Quite frankly, until Srijit announced the concept of his film, I and probably most people weren’t previously even aware that such a club actually existed — that is a club that aids you to successfully commit suicide, if you so wish.

Kudos to Bengali cinema’s current reigning queen Koel Mallick for venturing into this bracket of cinema. Once again, the idea of casting a mainstream cinema star opposite Parambrata Chattopadhyay, the leading face of alternative cinema, is fresh and unique. While Koel as Meghna Sarkar brings her heavyweight glam factor, Parambrata as Ananda Kar, the founder and head of Hemlock Society, rocks the screen with his impeccable comic timing and charismatic charm, right from the moment go, with his hilarious ‘CIA agent from Puddapukur’ routine right through to the end of the film.

(From top) Aparna Sen and her husband Kalyan Ray dropped in at Priya cinema on Friday evening to catch Hemlock Society; also spotted were the film’s lead pair Koel Mallick and Parambrata Chattopadhyay. (Above) Director Srijit Mukherji with Sohag Sen and DoP Soumik Halder. Pictures by Pabitra Das

Dipankar De gives a solid performance as Meghna’s negligent but caring father, while Roopa Ganguly brings an air of sophistication as the cool, modern-day stepmom. Performances by veterans like Sabyasachi Chakrabarty, Barun Chanda and Bratya Basu bring life to Hemlock Society, adding weight and entertainment with their cameo appearances as the professors who demonstrate the accurate methods to commit suicide.

Indraadip Dasgupta gives a grandiosity to the cinemascape with his score and the songs by Anupam Roy will undoubtedly match the popularity of his previous tracks with audiences and his vast existing fan base. Larger-than-life fantastic sets bring an out-of-the-box edge to the film, giving it a unique look.

I personally feel the film’s length and pacing could have been a lot tighter, to do better justice to its engaging story and plot.

But it goes without saying that the hero of the film, the man of the match, is undoubtedly the film’s dialogue. The quick, witty one-liners, jokes, film-within-a-film references and self-reflexive remarks are peppered throughout the film, giving audiences delightful moments of entertainment.

The theatrical elements and the use of them to cleverly portray difficult and disturbing ideas bring a unique dimension to the table. The film’s attempt to juxtapose realism with theatricality as a means to portray the real world outside the Hemlock Society and the dramatic world within it was an extremely ambitious task which, while brilliant in concept, perhaps might have been a bit of a hit-and-miss at times in terms of supporting the believability factor of the film’s universe as a whole. Having said that, just the mere attempt to bring such experimentation to Bengali cinema’s palette is brave and laudable, and that too by a hit director who has been working under the heavy pressure of having to live up to the tremendous success of his previous two films.

As a fellow filmmaker, friend and fan, I wish Srijit the best of luck with this film, and I’ve got my fingers crossed, hoping this time for a hat-trick.