If there is one regret that Mahanagar@Kolkata can grip the viewer, it is about how Indian film-makers chose to overlook a powerhouse of talent like Arun Mukhopadhyay and not work with him in the recent years.
It is tad sad that it took his director son, Suman Mukhopadhyay, to cast him as the unassuming Biren in M@K. But for the film-going audience, this too is a bonus. From mannerisms to dialogue delivery (especially, the way he uses slangs), Arun Mukhopadhyay gets it delightfully right and also brings along a sense of quirkiness in the second story that otherwise seems like a dark tale of a man suffering from paranoia.
Arun Mukhopadhyay's character is also the thread that stitches together the other two stories of the film's narrative. The first story is about a night on the premises of a state hospital where a relative of his employer, played by Anjan Dutt, has been admitted. This relative, played by Chandan Roy Sanyal, turns out to be the protagonist of the third story that deals with the urban fear of being trapped in a loveless marriage. In a surprising twist of fate, Chandan is also the same guy who drives in an injured goal-keeper to the hospital where the latter's father (Biplab Chatterjee) goes on to befriend Dutt when he is waiting for Chandan to recover.
What makes M@K exciting as a film is the way the director interconnects three different stories of Nabarun Bhattacharya — Ek Tukro Nyloner Dori, Amar Kono Bhoy Nei To? and Aangshik Chandragrahan. The first two stories have an organic connect effortlessly blend into each other. Both in terms of form and content, the third story follows a slightly standalone model. Too many elements come into the fore and the director, consciously or otherwise, exposes the fact that he is grappling with a form where he has to constantly shuttle between the real and the surreal. From Bergman and Nandigram to Sati Daho and theory of suicides, this section of the film bleeds with a heavy burden of knowledge. In the process, the hallucinating Chandan stops just short of reaching a height that could have been attained to express the real and surreal texture of all the characters in the film, and in extension, our Mahanagar too.
Music, however, does ample justice to the film. In his first outing as a film music composer, Fossils frontman Rupam Islam is impressive. The edgy sound of his numbers goes well with the feel, texture and the cadence of the film. The new-age title of the film with the @ sign tucked in between Ray's Mahanagar and Suman's Kolkata comes alive as the end credits roll with Rupam singing his first Bangla rap! At a time when Bengali cinema is riding high partly on remakes, M@K shows promise. Those who love Suman's style of film-making will leave home appreciating his eye for detail that contextualises the film in contemporary times where sex traffic, mafia wars, menace of bird flu are as endemic reasons for phobia as the stress of crumbling relationships where out-of-love couples are also incapable of having tiffs to sort out their differences.