There are small jerks in an otherwise seamless narrative complemented by smart direction, crisp editing and some lovable characters
Much rather would I be an Arab bedouin...
Hitching a camel ride in the Sahara, as the desert's vastness hits Santu, making him feel like a dot in the sea of sand, this is what Kakababu's college-going nephew feels in Sunil Ganguly's novella. And that's a fair sum-up of Srijit Mukherji's film, which at once satiates Bengalis' wanderlust and is also a throwback to holidays when one would eagerly await
on DD. When a film would spark off a quizzing session, with a family elder asking, what's the box that holds a mummy? Sarcophagus, pat would come the reply. When life would be all about living from one Pujabarshiki to another.
Srijit, who attempts to innervate Kakababu — a mentor who would handhold every child into the world of adventure — is bang on with his choice of story. Replete with long shots of the sun-kissed desert (take a bow, cinematographer Soumik Halder),
is as much a tour video as an adventure tale. And making it even more contemporary is the timeless saga of revolution. The book, written years back, mentions the murder of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, while the film was shot as Egypt went through another cycle of political tumult. Uncanny?
As seen here, Kakababu is approached by Arab businessman Al Mamun to decipher the drawings of leader Mufti Mohammad. But what is put on paper in a dreamlike stupor, is not a will, Kakababu finds out. Neither is it a message to his followers. Through hieroglyphics, Mohammad shares a historic event. But before the world gets to know about it, Kakababu must run a check. So begins the journey to the tomb of Queen Hetapheres. Soon after touching down on the desert soil, he meets with his nemesis, Al Mamun's biggest rival — Hani Alkadi. A gun-toting Tagore lover, Alkadi is a bundle of contradictions. Part-ready with his third book of poetry, he can kill without twitching a single facial muscle and trains children in the art of weaponry. Indraneil Sengupta as Alkadi not just goes a notch up on his Autograph avatar, he is intrigue personified. Wonder when was the last time a man was made to look so beautiful in a Bengali film!
Srijit, while taking several cinematic liberties with the storyline, has introduced a love angle between Santu and family friend Snigdha's sister Rini. But the film is not entirely without incongruencies. Right after Kakababu is kidnapped in Egypt, Snigdha and her IFS husband Siddhartha discuss a dinner menu before moving Santu to a safer haven. In Delhi, after a murder attempt on him, Kakababu is seen lying in a pool of blood. But the next scene shows him updating Twitter! In Alkadi's den, as Kakababu recites
Chitto jetha bhoy shunyo
, his tormentor pitches in with the next few lines. But before that, in Kolkata, Kakababu boards a bus in the absence of his car. Does one who sponsor his own Egypt trip also travel by bus?
But these are small jerks in an otherwise seamless narrative complemented by smart direction, crisp editing and some lovable characters. Aryann as Santu is a far cry from the usual nonchalant sidekicks. Sharing an easy camaraderie with Kakababu, he at times demands the viewers' attention in his own right. Newcomer Tridha as Rini has little to offer, but lights up the screen every time she appears. Swastika Mukherjee as Snigdha is part-funny, part-annoying, while Sujan Mukherjee as Siddhartha manages to elicit a few laughs. His camel-riding scene reminds you of Jatayu in
. Rajit Kapur is every bit the Al Mamun the author had written about. Cast aside, what holds the narrative together is music by Indraadip Das Gupta. He successfully blurs the regional-national divide with a lovely Hindi number.
Finally, Kakababu. Srijit has updated the character, making him adaptable and therefore, relatable in today's times. He has also — deliberately or otherwise — added some superhuman qualities to this one-among-us sleuth, which might come in handy when the franchise develops. Prosenjit Chatterjee impresses with both his acting chops and difficult-to-adapt body language. But even in a different setup, he is our quintessential Bengali hero. After the murder attempt, he posts on Twitter: First day in Delhi, having a blast. He shows a quirky sense of humour — on the verge of being kidnapped, he tells the goons, 'uno momento', changes into a smart outfit and gets going. He also croons to himself in his enemy's lair and despite the crutch, is unstoppable on all occasions. This Kakababu is no ordinary man. They say, neither was Sunil Ganguly.