The way it shows that all dreams in the real world first turn unreal, then surreal and finally into a nightmare. So why bother?
Choktars (dark magic practitioners) and Fyatarus (flying humans) join hands to wage a war against the communist government in Bengal. When flying chaktis hit you from nowhere and spades, axes and even s**t get thrown at you from the skies, is there an escape
Suman Mukhopadhyay descends into the netherworld — literally and figuratively — with his adaptation of Nabarun Bhattacharya's
. The novella is a masterpiece on anarchy and subverts the Communist trope of the glorious revolution. On screen, Suman translates it into a lurid, nightmarish depiction of the underclasses, rife with penile jokes, expletives, squalor, hopelessness... all of it touched by a humour as black as the Adi Ganga stream that forms a central motif in the film.
There's nowhere to run from the knife-edge questions of
. Everything about the film — the characters, language and the theme — will jerk the multiplex-going, popcorn-eating audience out of its comfort zone. It's a world steeped in magic realism. Bhodi (Kaushik Ganguly), a
, plans a guerrilla war against the establishment with the help of wife Bechamoni (Kamalika), associates Sarkhel, Nalen, Golap and the three Fyatarus. They're mentored by Dandabayash, the primordial talking crow (Kabir Suman) and the ghost of Begum Johnson (Miss Jojo).
Together, these characters form a vigorous opposition to the establishment, represented by the police commissioner, chief minister and the party boss. Mind you, the strugglers aren't white knights. For a livelihood, they lie, cheat, abuse, get drunk. Their arms for the revolution are a small, ancient cannon (
), and 'unsophisticated' weapons like spades, daggers, kitchen knives and broken furniture. But they have supernatural help in the form of miniature flying saucers that behead the police commissioner. He promptly has his head attached back to his body. But, of course!
But Nabarun's 2003 is not Suman's 2013. In a decade, Bengal has seen some changes. Keeping time with them, Suman shows the change in government. Also, the Fyatarus and Choktars — the faces of rebellion — become new faces of the establishment, opting for power, recognition and financial security. But does that mean a better future? As Dandabayash says, '
jaari roilo... eta toh samoyik
Suman, being a veteran Nabarun loyalist, stays close to the original text. When almost every filmmaker is busy with relationship conflicts of Sec-A people, Suman has given the Fyatarus — and his imagination — the whole sky to fly in. The comrades, with whom he fights the war, are brilliant in their own way. Kaushik Ganguly as Bhodi, Dibyendu as DS, Jojo as Begum Johnson and Dilip Sarkar as Sarkhel are unparalleled. But Kamalika and Ushasie fall short of expectations. Dandabayash's dry wit and his outlook to society go so well with Kabir Suman's personality that it feels the role is custom-made for him. But his song, Jhinchak and its tacky picturization disappoints.
The narrative feels disjointed at times. If there is a grouse, it's that the bizarreness of the original gets somewhat muted on celluloid. Suman has made much of the censor cuts and how the scene showing Mamata Banerjee's swearing-in had to be lopped off. But the book trashes every element of the establishment — including a print and media behemoth. Why does Suman leave that out? A conscious ploy? Here's a thought: why not release the uncut version on DVD for the world to judge?
But for that, there's every reason to watch this film. For the way it shows that all dreams in the real world first turn unreal, then surreal and finally into a nightmare. So why bother? As Purandar would've said: '
Prasad gatre mutia bhangibo aain
Fyat fyat... shnai