Khela Jawkhon is a slowburner, which is also bottom-heavy. It’s like a prolonged foreplay of a seasoned lover that culminates in a plethora of orgasmic ecstasy. Only a very few directors from the Bengal film industry are capable of handling a detective story or a thriller, and Arindam Sil is the master of that game. He has proven it time and again with his Byomkesh and Shabor franchise films. Though my personal favourite is his Mahananda because of the subject and visual canvas and overall technical and creative quality. Khela Jawkhon is his latest creation, and he proves his mettle yet again. The film engages the audience from the very first sequence and they find themselves immersed in the world of Urmi, played by Mimi Chakraborty. As the film progresses, it deftly turns into a“who-dunnit” and “why-dunnit”.
It is very difficult to write about a thriller while carefully avoiding all the spoilers. The brief plotline goes like this. In a sleepy town in eastern India, Urmi tries to cope with her child’s death in a car accident where she was also in a comatose state for eight long months. Surrounded by a loving family and under medical care she is on her way to recovery. But she is haunted by strange visions of violence that have no place in her memories. And then one day she finds her dead child very much alive only to be told she is mistaken. Is she hallucinating and going mad? Who is keeping surveillance on her house? How are all these linked? Will she ever know the truth?
So many questions cast its web and we wait patiently as it unfurls one by one and all the cards lay bare in front of us at the end and we witness a crime of monumental proportions that span across several countries, delves deep into the world of terrorism and money laundering. We have seen stories of such magnitude in several international OTT shows or Originals but never in Bengali cinema.
Appreciation of the technical and aesthetics aspects of Khela Jawkhon has to be an acquired taste expected from a mature audience, who are exposed to international thrillers. It’s more psychological and intensely inner world than the cheap thrills after every 10 minutes. It brews like a well-cooked stew, served hot at the end. It challenges your analytical power and engages you till the very end like a true “who-dunnit” and “why-dunnit”. Script writers Arijit Biswas and the director himself do a swell job with the narrative pattern to tell the story with signature touches. Personally I felt some information was repetitive in the script and could have been avoided during the edit, but at the end the director is the storyteller and he only decides how to tell his story. And casting a web of such a complex mystery and untangling it as well within a span of two hours is not a mean task.
Mimi Chakraborty excels as Urmi aka... (… let it remain a mystery) and carries the film on her able shoulders all along. This is an author-backed character and she does justice to it. The subtle physical acting changes from the frail and naive Urmi to a trained killing machine is well portrayed by Mimi.
She portrays the helplessness and despair of a mother so profoundly that the audience feels the despair as well. Her chemistry with Arjun Chakrabarty (Sagnik) is one of the highlighting points of the movie and we crave for more. Many moons ago, Mimi and Arjun had started their journey together in this world of TV and films and have grown up to be assets to the industry.
In Khela Jawkhon Arjun portrays his character with all his subtle expressions of emotions, as well as physical acting when required with equal ease. He is one of the finest actors of this generation, barely used to his full potential by Tollywood as of now, barring a few projects. He’s my Apu, after all. Arno is an important and valuable addition to the cast, who has proven his acting power in theatre and in his short career span in films till date. Anindya Chatterjee, Barun Chanda, Alokananda, Harsh Chaya, Bulbuli Chaubey Panja, Jinia Pande, all were cast perfectly by the director and were able to do justice to their characters with their acting prowess. Karan Hariharan looked good in his brief but important cameo. But the list will remain incomplete if I do not mention Susmita Chatterjee (Apala) who looked so beautifully fresh and yet so mysterious. She has got the classical look and in time with more professional experience she will mature into a more skilled actor.
Technically the film is very well-crafted. Cinematographer Ayan Sil and colourist Debojyoti Ghosh teamed up under the guidance of Arindam Sil for the third time and created the low-key, high-gain images in cool colour palette to reflect the fogginess of the mind of Urmi and her constant inner dilemma of real and surreal.
The foggy images are juxtaposed with the bright images from the flashbacks. We have seen this pattern of images in many well-crafted European movies before but seldom in any Bengali film. As the mystery unfolds and the fogginess of her mind disappears, the brightness of the images enhance.
Bickram Ghosh also complemented the soundtrack with his low-key scoring extensively based on the genre of electronica. From the Byomkesh and Shabor films, Golondaaj to Mahananda, Avijatrik and now Khela Jawkhon, Bickram Ghosh is continuously re-inventing himself as a music director with every new film and experimenting with different types of soundscapes, without confining himself in his safe comfort zone.
In Khela Jawkhon, his scoring blends with the film and enhances and underlines the emotions whenever required. The song Raja rani, beautifully penned by Sugato Guha and sung by Trissha Chatterjee and Shovan Ganguly is lilting in nature and is juxtaposed with the overall edgy BGM as masterfully planned and crafted by Bickram Ghosh.
There are certain aspects of this film which could have been improved. First is the VFX and the second one is the gun-battle sequence. Both these require time and budget but sadly we do not have the luxury of those to implement. The climax is a tribute to Tarantino.
This film is like a wellcrafted test match, not a T20. It took the perseverance of the director to back this film which is not run of the mill, where the director dared to challenge the regular norm and stamped his footprint to tell a story in his own unique way. Overall Khela Jawkhon is a good watch, and an important addition to Arindam Sil, Bickram Ghosh, Mimi Chakraborty, Arjun Chakrabarty and Susmita Chatterjee’s filmography.