Rich man, poor man

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By Why Sekhar Das's necklace is a social satire with a soul ARIJIT BHATTACHARYA
  • Published 7.02.11

Starring: Rituparna Sengupta, Ritwick Bhattacharya, Locket Chatterjee, Rudranil Ghosh and Dipankar De

Directed by:Sekhar Das

The premiere people
Shirsha Roy and Sekhar Das
Rudranil and Ritwick at Priya cinema for the premiere of Necklace
Moon Moon Sen. Pictures by Aranya Sen

The conflict of urban sensibilities and rural social mores has been Sekhar Das’s primary preoccupation in his first three films — the trilogy Mehulbonir Sereng, Krantikaal and Kaler Rakhal. And though he decided to change track in his fourth film with an “urban comedy”, Necklace is heavily laced with the theme of class divide — it’s the rich versus the poor here — and the friction that arises when the two worlds clash and collide.

Das, of course, should be credited for walking a thin line — he injects the introspective into the comic and turns it into a social satire with a soul.

An abnormal situation disrupting everyday life is the premise of Necklace. Here’s a thief, Kesta (Rudranil), who breaks into a rich man’s house at night and when cornered by the houseowner, corporate executive Biswanath Roy (Ritwick), Kesta tries to escape by jumping off the second-floor balcony. Biswanath and his wife Sikha (Rituparna) are caught off-guard when Kesta’s wife Kanakchapa (Locket) pops up from nowhere and accuses Biswanath of assaulting her man.

Desperate to not let the matter get out of hand, the upper-class couple try to resolve it by admitting Kesta to hospital and taking Kanakchapa in with them. With that, the normal life of the Roys goes for a toss. As Biswanath rushes off to work, Sikha is left home to take care of Kanak.

Surrounded by luxuries she has never seen before, the thief's wife is determined to have the time of her life. But lavish breakfasts and expensive clothes are not enough, Kanakchapa has her sights set on the gold necklace that Biswanath has bought Sikha.

While retaining the comedy as the mainstay, Das also plays up the thriller element and the irony that lends a hint of darkness to the story. His four main actors do the rest.

Rituparna and Ritwick are a perfect caricature of a modern-day couple left out of their depth by the change in their circumstances. Locket stands out as the de-glamourised slumdweller — awestruck by all that money can buy at one moment, manipulative and scheming at another. Her Kanakchapa has Sikha on a tight leash, yet there are moments when the poor woman’s tender side comes to the fore. The sequence where Kanakchapa entertains Sikha singing and dancing to Raat akeli hai underlines the bond that the women discover in the bizarre situation.

Without being preachy, Das manages to project the two starkly different worlds and also emphasise the need for a more inclusive cityspace. The setting shifts back and forth from the apartment blocks to the slum shacks, the corporate office space to the night streets of Calcutta, Sikha’s upscale neighbours to the flautist and the prostitute (Chandreyee Ghosh) who share Kesta’s night-time halt under a flyover. Shirsha Roy’s camerawork goes a long way in bringing out the contrasts.

The only drawback is the imbalance in the screen time given to these two sections. The rich man’s world gets more frames than the poor man’s world, the comic element sometimes being overdone with not-so-important urban characters who could have been easily edited out.

The background score by Gaurab Chatterjee (Gabu of Bangla band Lakkhichhara) — a blend of Western classical and rock elements — is interesting.

Whose acting did you like the best in Necklace? Tell