Out Of Theatre

Meghe Dhaka Tara

Out Of Theatre
14 Jun, 2013 2 hrs 32 mins U/A
Saswata Chatterjee, Ananya Chatterjee, Abir Chatterjee
Saswata Chatterjee, Ananya Chatterjee, Abir Chatterjee
Kamaleswar Mukherjee
Synopsis
With Meghe Dhaka Tara, Kamaleswar has thrown a challenge to the audience. It’s not an easy film.
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  • Critic's Review
  • Times of India
With Meghe Dhaka Tara , Kamaleswar has thrown a challenge to the audience. It's not an easy film.

Part-tribute, part-biopic, part-myth — Meghe Dhaka Tara is a film that's standing at the crossroads of Bengali cinema. And there are paths leading in all directions: for the film itself, its maker and even for Tollywood. For, director Kamaleswar Mukherjee — as he deals with the raw matter of Ritwik Ghatak's life, which he's fictionlised — poses pertinent questions about his art form. They were important to Ritwik; they're important to him too. What is good cinema? Is all cinema political? How does a filmmaker negotiate the audience's rejection? How does a filmmaker choose to be remembered?

The answers are not easy to come by. But then, Meghe Dhaka Tara is not an easy film. Neither was Ritwik an easygoing filmmaker. Kamaleswar uses a footnote from his life, when Ritwik had to be admitted to an asylum in 1969 for alcohol detoxification, as the springboard to explore his genius through the protagonist of the film, Nilkantha Bagchi (Saswata). Though the character is fictional, the reference to J ukti Tokko Aar Goppo is obvious. Ritwik's last film was autobiographical; its protagonist, played by Ritwik himself, was also Nilkantha Bagchi.

Weaving a stream-of-consciousness narrative with elements of theatre, dance, folk art and music, Kamaleswar embarks on a journey into Nilkantha's mind. Dr Mukherjee (Abir) at the asylum is the sutradhar for the audience, as he questions and probes the hidden recesses of the filmmaker's thoughtspace. There's no linear progression, as the story — if you can call it that — travels back and forth, with Nilkantha recalling the tumultuous pre- and post-Partition period in Bengal. The social tumult of those years — Tebhaga, Second World War, the Bengal famine, Independence, Partition — mirrors Nilkantha's internal struggles. He joins IPTA, debates the direction of the Left movement, quits theatre for cinema. As his films are rejected one by one, his marriage to Durga (Ananya) suffers and Nilkantha turns into an alcoholic.

However, the story of Ritwik's life is well-known. What's interesting here is what Kamaleswar does in its fictional retelling. First the medium. The entire film, but for the last few minutes, is in black and white. This is a masterstroke, as Kamaleswar fully uses the shadows, half-lit spaces and stark contrasts of b/w as a metaphor for the darkness of Nilkantha's mind.

The script is well-researched to a fault, weaving in real-life characters — Bijon Bhattacharya, Supriya Devi, Sobha Sen, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Mrinal Sen — who had an influence on Ritwik. Kamaleswar's earlier association with the stage shines through, whether in the brilliant set pieces or the elaborately choreographed dance sequence at the end. But yes, if the historical references were fewer, the film would probably appeal to a larger cross-section of the audience.

In a writer-backed role, Saswata brings the passions and follies of Ritwik to life. Self-destructive geniuses like Ritwik are tinged somewhere deep within by madness. Saswata's eyes — blazing at the hint of opposition — captures this brilliantly. But Ananya stands on an equal pedestal in a deliberately understated role. She has fewer lines, but is superb in portraying the turmoil and heartburn of being the wife of a flawed genius. Abir is steady and clinically calm — just as the doctor ordered. A host of Tollywood veterans, too many to name here, shine in small, but superbly etched-out roles. Debajyoti Mishra's score is path-breaking as he weaves in everything from Beethoven to baul and ganasangeet to explore Nilkantha's vast mind.

And then, it's back to the crossroads. With Meghe Dhaka Tara , Kamaleswar has thrown a challenge to the audience. It's not an easy film. Do people — fed on a diet of popcorn-candyfloss movies — still watch a film without a proper narrative? Can a Meghe Dhaka Tara run alongside a Man of Steel? Can Bengalis — recently mourning the untimely loss of a great filmmaker at the age 52 — still be interested in another genius who left us before his time when he was just 51?
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Avg Users’ Rating 4.2/5 ( 17 users )
M
Mauli Agarwal
nice
P
Palash Karmaker
Just superb. A trendsetter in Bengali rather in Indian Film craft
V
Vijay Bali
very good movie
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