The reason Shakespeare's Hamlet lends itself to such an extensive range of cinematic adaptations is that it is intrinsically multivalent. This complex play has been interpreted over and over again and all these interpretations coexist without invalidating each other. Given the range of the colossal adaptations, Hemanta — Anjan Dutt's interpretation of the Bard's work — does not add much, intellectually.
Yet, the movie is an important discourse on so many levels. First, even considering the oeuvre of films made by the greats in Bengal, Shakespeare adaptations have been extremely limited and Hemanta could be considered as one of the smartest efforts.
Second, the cinegoers of Kolkata will remember the astonishing performance of both Parambrata Chatterjee as Hemanta (Hamlet) and Jisshu Sengupta as Hirak (Horatio). The chemistry, the conflict, the sizzling camaraderie and their intense affection for each other are etched on our minds.
Denmark is Agradoot Pictures — a massive, Kolkata-based production house — in the film. And something is rotten in the state of Agradoot. Hemanta — the wake-and-bake prince of Agradoot and a director in New York — gives up the offer of directing Woody Harrelson and flies back to his dynasty to find the rot — the mysterious death of his father and financial irregularities within the production house. Moreover, after his father 'committed suicide' three years ago, Hemanta's mother Gayatri Sen (Gertrude/ Gargee Roy Chowdhury) — the ravishing yesteryear actress — finally decides to marry Hemanta's uncle, Kalyan (Claudius/Saswata Chatterjee). Seething at his mother's involvement with his uncle, Hemanta decides to avenge his father's death, which he believes is murder. His childhood friend and now a journalist, Hirak, joins him despite his initial scepticism.
Saswata is comfortable in his skin and plays the role of Kalyan with elan. Gargee looks gorgeous in the film, but is loud at times. Olypriya (Ophelia/Paayel Sarkar) lacks the conflict of character and comes across as a damsel in distress seeking validation of her emotional investment towards Hemanta.
However, performances delivered by two actors must be mentioned here. The first is Yuri (Subhra Sourav Das). The actor, who had tremendous scope to prove his mettle as the geeky male friend of Hirak, is wasted by being somewhat confused and untrue to his dopey self. Hemanta induces insecurity in his life but the jealousy falls flat with loud acting.
The second is Raju (Rosencrantz/ Sagnik Chatterjee). Despite limited scope, he manages to deliver an outstanding performance.
But Mr Director, what is Hamlet without the ghost of Hamlet's father? You had everything. From large deserted studios to mystic lights to palatial bungalows of the Agradoot dynasty. And yet you decided to replace the spirit electronically? Please note, at least one member of the audience was thoroughly sad because of this replacement. Grigori Kozintsev, while making his legendary Gamlet, showed in detail why the ghost's presence is imminent for the theatrics, as centre to his theory of 'winged realism'. This reviewer expected the ghost's theatrics from the movie. Disappointment also crept in as the film culminated into an insipid ending.
Despite all this, what will be remembered of the film are the beautiful encounters between Hemanta and his mother, Gayatri. The complex expectations from each other, the pathos in their relation and the fantastic theatrics presented by both of them are breathtaking. And Mr Lyricist, we grew up with your songs - the blues and the jazz. We cried with Mr Hall and fell in love with Haripada. Where have all the lyrics gone? The lyrics of Sokolei jaane is not half as smart as the movie.