Muktodhara review and premiere
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- Published 6.08.12
Superlatives, in course of time, get cliched. Words are shorn of their kernel. We are ourselves responsible for it, responsible for rendering them meaningless. So, one will try and not use superlatives to describe Muktodhara.
But here is a movie that, one could say without hesitation, is an intensely moving spectacle, where reality and fiction coalesce seamlessly, where the larger-than-life drama of crime and punishment, expiation of sins and resurrection, all unfold in front of your very eyes and you are moved to tears, you laugh and cry shamelessly, sometimes all at the same time and it doesn’t seem to matter. It’s as if suddenly Tolstoy had temporarily quit writing and taken to the camera.
The remarkable thing about Muktodhara is if you are viewing it the night after watching Ichche, as I did, you would suddenly wonder... how could one achieve this transformation? How could one, after making a minimalistic painting like Ichche, create a movie which is as enormous as the ceilings of the Sistine Chapel in its breadth and range of content? But there it is. We are discussing Muktodhara, the movie.
The story: Muktodhara is basically about a criminal and the story of his reformation. And there is a lady, a famous danseuse who acts as a catalyst. She goes to an infamous jail, filled with hardcore criminals, whose collective list of crimes is large enough to fill a book. And there she achieves the impossible. With these criminals she successfully mounts Tagore’s dance drama, Balmiki Pratibha. This, in itself, is highly symbolic for don’t we all know that Balmiki himself was a notorious robber, named Ratnakar, before he made his famous turnaround and became Balmiki, the saint? And, believe it or not, it’s all based on stark reality.
There is a former convict named Nigel. And there is a real-life Alokananda Roy, a famous dancer. There is a senior police officer who felt demoted when he was assigned the unenviable task of reforming and rehabilitating a bunch of hardcore criminals. And the staging of these hardened criminals did take place, not once, but several times because of its burgeoning fame.
So, what you get to see in reel life is actually real life. Of course, fictional elements have been brought in too. But they all fit into the larger scheme of things. That’s the beauty of Muktodhara.
Direction: Messrs. Nandita Roy and Shiboprosad Mukhopadhyay deserve plaudits for arriving on the scene with such aplomb. Nandita, for her wonderful storytelling power. And Shiboprosad, for his deft handling of a vast number of characters and a complex storyline to make such a compelling film. And, surprise, surprise, he makes a handsome contribution with a brilliant portrayal of one of the inmates of the jail, Happy Singh.
Technical team: Music is one of the most important elements that gives the movie its larger-than-life presence. And Joy Sarkar and Surojit Chatterjee (remember, he composed music for Ichche too) get a big round of applause for accomplishing their job so magnificently, and for their ability to inspire this talented team of singers — Lopamudra Mitra, Sasha, Rupam Islam, Shaheb Chatterjee, Mir and others of his ilk to excel themselves. This is not to ignore Rituparna and her lovely singing voice, though.
DoP Anil Singh and his camera crew help make the film the sumptuous visual feast that it is. Art direction is spot on, specially the jail scenes, so that you aren’t quite sure which is the real Dum Dum jail and which isn’t. Malay Laha’s deft editing never lets you realise the length of the film, close to two-and-a-half hours.
Acting: One has reserved acting for the very last because it’s here that the film scores its highest. Nigel Akkara as Yusuf Mohammad Khan casts his brooding presence over the entire film, facilitated no doubt by the skillful use of low-angle shots that make him look larger than life. But then, it’s not every day that you get a real-life convict performing as one on screen. Rituparna, as the danseuse Niharika Chatterjee, is memorable for her controlled performance, accentuated by her beautifully moulded voice.
But it is Bratya Basu, as Niharika’s hardboiled criminal lawyer husband Arindam Chatterjee, who really steals the show. One marvels at the consummate ease with which Bratya transits from stage to cinema, his economy of movements, impressive voice and impeccable timing, making him an actor’s delight.
And then appears an array of powerful character actors who make a lasting impression in the film. Debshankar Halder for his polished portrayal of the IG of police; Kharaj as the utterly convincing, foul-mouthed union leader of the police force in Dum Dum jail; Arun Mukhopadhyay as the seemingly disarming gardener Rashid Mian; Biswajit Chakraborty, as a senior bureaucrat, cynicism pouring from every pore of his face... the list could go on.
Muktodhara is a beautifully crafted film where all aspects of movie-making come togther as a homogenous entity. It’s a must, must-see film for the cineaste and commoner alike. With directors like Nandita and Shiboprosad bursting in on the scene, and a bunch of talented directors like Srijit Mukherji, Kaushik Ganguly, Anik Datta, Atanu Ghosh and Bappaditya Bandopadhyay, amongst others, to keep him company, the future of Bengali movies is in good hands.