Bedtime thriller, zzzz

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 18.08.06

Bedtime thriller, zzzz

lady in the water

Director: Manoj Night Shyamalan
Cast: Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, Manoj Night Shyamalan, Sarita Chowdhury

If the lady is in the water, Manoj Night Shyamalan, known for his penchant for all things dark and supernatural, is in a deep soup. Though the lady manages to fly away into the stormy night sky on the back of a giant eagle, her knight in not-so-shining-armour may not be that lucky.

The guy, who broke BO records with a superbly directed Sixth Sense and followed it up with an equally promising Unbreakable, shows an unfathomable creative downslide with Lady, a journey that began with The Signs.

Why he chose a homespun fairytale to turn into a two-hour crashing bore of a movie is beyond his fans as well as his loyal studio, Disney, which turned down his script saying it was too confusing. And boy, is it confusing! Paul Giamatti, an affable caretaker of an apartment block in Philadelphia, finds a narf or a sea nymph (Ron Howard’s daughter Bryce Dallas Howard) in the swimming pool, who needs to be ‘rescued’ and ‘sent back home’. So far so good. But when this bedtime thriller involves a guardian, a healer, the guild and an interpreter, it is completely lost on the audience. So is the philosophy, if any. Sample this: the interpreter is a little boy who reads the signs by staring at a cupboard full of cereals. Disney knew what it was doing when it parted ways with the storyteller.

If a befuddling script wasn’t bad enough, Shyamalan chose to act in a pivotal role with a deadpan expression that would put even Suniel Shetty’s acting prowess to shame. The only bright spark is Sarita Chowdhury, a gutsy woman, as Shyamalan’s sister.

But all things said and done, a bedtime story does what it is meant to do: put people to sleep.

Pallabi Biswas

Laugh with the kids

asterix and the vikings

Director: Stefan Fjeldmark, Jesper Moller
Paul Giamatti, Brad Garrett, Sean Asten, Evan Rachel Wood, John DiMaggio, Greg Proops

This animation film is an adaptation of the Goscinny and Uderzo classic, Asterix and the Normans. Fjeldmark and Jean-Luc Goossens have adapted the all-time classic comic to add a touch of contemporariness. The Gaul village welcomes the chief’s nephew Justforkix who is to be trained to be a warrior. It falls on Asterix and Obelix to make a man out of this sissy, who has a bird called SMS to transmit messages to his love interests. While Obelix tries to make him carry menhirs and eat wild boar (he is used to organic vegetarian fare and loves to do a rock ’’ roll), far away in the North, the fearless Viking warriors try to know what it is to be fearful. So they kidnap Justforkix, the champion of fear, and Asterix and Obelix bring him back after a lot of fisticuffs and adventure. Catch it with your kiddies for a good laugh.

Anasuya Basu

Ghost of a hope

Manush Bhoot

Director: Ajay Sarkar
Debashree Roy, Shankar Chakraborty, Sabyasachi Chakraborty, Samir Biswas, Chandreyee Ghosh, Kalyani Mondal, Rajesh Sharma, Ramaprasad Banik, Arun Banerjee, Master Debkinkar

Manush Bhoot neither offers eye-dazzling, visual opulence nor gimmicky controversies. Just the irresistible charm of a simple story well told. The story, originally by Syed Mustafa Siraj, centres around a village in West Bengal. It’s a fight against superstitions and the darkness of ignorance. The abundant humour does much in making the message palatable. The character of Bata Master (Samir Biswas) is to be seen to be believed. Stalwarts like Sabyasachi and Debashree give convincing performances, but it’s Shankar as the coward son of the messianic father and Chandreyee as the low-caste girl labelled the village witch, who perhaps give off their best. Even the songs, which are a bit too many, are pleasing to the ear. It is strange though that even now, fighting against injustice calls for a Gandhian figure. All in all if this film does not get passed over, it has the potential of redefining ‘mainstream’ Bengali cinema.

Sunayani Ganguly

The Revolution and the digital change

Robibar BikAlbela

Director: Amit Dutt
Cast: Sudipta Chakraborty, Bhaswar Chatterjee, Gita Dey, Arun Mukherjee, Abir Chatterjee, Rumki Chatterjee, Mou Bhattacharya

There are many things going for Robibar Bikalbela, the most significant being that this is what we loosely call an ‘NRI film’; which here implies more than just that the producer (Sutapa Dutt) and director (Amit Dutt) are wife and husband, staying in the US. And the writer-backbone of the film is the producer’s brother-in-law, Joy Basu, and it is a ‘family film’. Conceived by the Dutts in the US, thanks to the Net, the whole project was coordinated with the writer and the creative team sitting here in the City of Joy, if you forgive the unintended pun. Most important, this is digital filmmaking at its best — the handy camera equipment brought into Calcutta. Subrata Sen’s Nil Nirjane was technically the pioneering effort in digital filmmaking, but if Robibar Bikalbela catches the fancy of the box-office, it could well unleash a movie medium of the future.

The first fear, that of cinematography quality, is immediately allayed with Soumitra Haldar’s work standing out as the clearest, sharpest aspect of the film. Set in the mid-70s, Bhaswar returns after a seven-year absence to find much has changed. His association with Sudipta, a “college girl” call girl, changes him, too.

There is a certain timidity in touching anything ‘political’, but the dialogues in a few scenes are insightful. If the film lacks in nip and pace, especially in the first half, it gets enough of a lift by the acting of Sudipta, who’s right up there.

Anil Grover