Bijan Bose, a celebrated painter, goes blind in his old age. He retires from life at a small village in Bengal. However, when he is offered a large sum of money to create a mural for a restaurant, he agrees and comes out of retirement. The film deals with his last piece of work and his subsequent disillusionment with life, money and art.
Inspired by the lives of Indian painter Binod Bihari Mukherjee and American painter Mark Rothko, Chitrokar makes for a good afternoon watch. It has the potential to make the prime-time slot, but falls just short due to the inherent nature of the theme — art.
The story is simple enough. A blind painter, portrayed with style and sincerity by Dhritiman Chatterjee, is tasked with a well-paying job to create a large mural for a city restaurant. In this, he is assisted by Tithi, portrayed by Arpita Chatterjee, a struggling young artist whose art exhibition has just flopped. Bijan is hostile towards Tithi at first, not trusting her motives, capabilities or age. But slowly, as he warms up to her, he realises she is perfect for the job.
The two argue over whose generation is better, the emotions colours invoke, celebrated painters and their bodies of work. They present to us the tension between artistic endeavour and commercial reality. Director Saibal Mitra presents both sides of the equation with thought and without bias. He is also creative in his presentation of scenes. Live frames transform into paintings of Binod Bihari Mukherjee and vice versa. The characters seamlessly blend into these two spaces. They walk through the paintings literally — giving the viewer a sense of cinematic surrealism.
The director also intersperses scenes with shots of the paintings the protagonist is talking about at that moment — bringing into sharp focus the abstract themes and concepts the film deals with. Bijan is also visited by death, who warns him that his time on earth is coming to close. But Bijan shoos him away, saying that his work is still not finished. These scenes are handled sensitively, but the treatment, especially the lighting, makes one think this would have made for a great play. The dialogues, colours, lighting and art direction are all just perfect for theatre.
Overall, the film doesn’t disappoint. It treads a fine line between arthouse and commercial cinema. Which is great, as the theme too tries to balance the puritanical streak of the painter with the commercial reality. It questions whether art has value and purpose over and above its inherent artistic nature. Give this film a shot.
— Srijoy Mukherjee