Story: Sujan is a dreamer, who is misunderstood and thought to be insane by his family. When his nephew befriends him, uncomfortable family secrets tumble out
Despite Rituparno Ghosh’s exploration of alternative gender relations, third sex is a subject that remains taboo in Bengali movies. With Samantaral, Tollywood could have made a big leap from the closet with a bold take on alternative sexuality. But as it is commonly said, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
It is not that the actors could not perform up to the mark. Parambrata Chatterjee as Sujan, after a short hiatus, has put up a brilliant show. A dreamer, a mystic who refuses to draw a difference between what is, and what ought to be or what might have been is conveniently labelled ‘insane’ by his surroundings. His father (Soumitro Chatterjee), brothers (Kushal Chakraborty as Supriyo and Anindya Banerjee as Kaushik) and other family members are practically ashamed of him. In fact, his younger brother Kaushik and his wife (Tonushree Chakraborty) squirm at his sight. But he is loved by his nephew Arko (Riddhi Sen) who comes to his mamarbari for higher studies and becomes friendly with his mejomama, Sujan. Arko and his girlfriend, Titli (Surangana Bandyopadhyay), try to find the root of Sujan’s disbalance and finally reveal a discomforting truth from family history. The film also delves into the debate of sanity and insanity perceived by our society. While a ruthless, cunning and unkind character is recognised as a completely sane human being, an innocent and compassionate man is locked up as the depth of his mind remains untouched and often ignored.
Parambrata delivers a power-packed performance in the film. His rendition of some fantastic songs, including Khunji tare asman jomin, amare chinina ami, are some of the high point of the film. Besides Parambrata, Ridhhi as Arka has again proved his originality. In fact, despite not being the protagonist, he plays the leading character in the film. He is spontaneous and his urban street smartness blends perfectly with his character.
Surangana’s basic strength lies in her simplicity and her role in this film has given her full scope to reveal her powers. Anindya Banerjee as Kaushik is outstanding as the crooked younger brother, while Aparajita Auddy is lively and heart-warming. To cap it all, Soumitra Chatterjee plays the role of the old father who is sympathetic, if also pathetic, in his helplessness.
Notwithstanding such strong performances the film suffers from failure to communicate, and unfortunately, most of the blame rests with the script. The matter needed sensitive handling: tactful, graceful, thoughtful and most importantly delicate. But the film turns out to be a crude melodrama in parts, replete with stereotypical characters — the wicked younger brother and his scheming wife, the lecherous boss and his endless lust for flesh, the extreme mediocrity of the elder brother.
All said and done, the film leads to a Hitchcockian revelation. Just as the film touches some nuanced human emotions, it ends with another cliché. However, one might want to watch Samantaral for the super performances.