uplifts you and crashlands you in parts
So, dear reader, what do you want to know about
? Do you care about the acting, the direction, the screenplay? Do you wish to share Doyel Mitra's agony, as fate rolls the dice that sends her life into a tailspin? Or do you only want to know if Swastika really goes topless in the film?
The way you see
will depend on the questions you ask. Because Mainak Bhaumik's fifth film operates at many levels — relationship tale, subversive allegory and sensational metacinema. In fact, leading up to the release, as Swastika's pictures in various states of deshabille were splashed in the media, there was a real danger that the 'sensational' bit would wipe out all other debates about the film's merit. Whether it was publicity gone horribly wrong — or right — is not something a review should discuss. So we won't discuss it.
I am controversy's favourite child: Swastika Mukherjee
But once you cut to the chase,
uplifts you and crashlands you in parts. Mainak mixes reel with real rather well here, using the story of Paoli's travails during the shooting of
as the film's jumping-off point. Just as Paoli's intimate shots from the film had gone viral, actress Doyel Mitra (Swastika) does a sex scene in a foreign film that raises a storm at home. The debate gets even more heated — and ironic — since Doyel's next film has her playing a modern interpretation of Sita. Her one act on screen becomes the touchstone for people to judge her character, her motherhood, her integrity — indeed, her life.
Daughter stars with Swastika in Take One (In Pics)
In an author-backed dream role, Swastika is quite simply the heart of the mandala in
. She dips into her vast pools of emotional reserves and past experience, breathing life into Doyel's character. There are lines of power — like her gradual breakdown as she repeats to herself and to the world: "I am her mother"— but what works even better are her silences, which sweep over Doyel in waves of grief. Her languid, grey eyes speak volumes and she's often seen reflected on surfaces — mirrors, metal, glass — each adding a new dimension to her many roles: mother, daughter, actress, seductress.
Again, reel meets real here as Tushi, Doyel's daughter, is played by Anwesha, Swastika's own daughter. Together on screen, both are effortless, bubbling with laughter and energy. As mother cuddles and hugs daughter, you wonder who the two of them are, Swastika-Anwesha or Doyel-Tushi?
suffers is in its storytelling. In building up Doyel's conflicts, Mainak loses the plot, as it were. The film stays gloomy and turgid from scene one to the end credits. There is no real build-up, no effective denouement. You get to see so little of Doyel's back story. Does she miss her dead husband? Aren't there any friends in her life? Is she ever insecure about her career? Maybe some answers would have helped. In contrast, some of the smaller characters — Arindam Sil as the loudmouth director, Rita Koyral as Rahul's mother — are sharply etched out despite their bit roles.
For a film that looks to explore the role of the media,
messes up the research. Abhik (Rahul), the freelance journalist chasing Doyel for an interview, is called to a newsroom that resembles a corporate boardroom and has — hold your breath — a solitary journalist sitting there. In case you missed the point, behind him is a whiteboard with 'breaking news' written in two languages, Bengali and English! But what's unpardonable is what happens when Abhik finally gets the interview. This is built up as the cathartic point: Doyel will open up to the world and Abhik will fulfil his unrealized dreams. But on screen, the climactic interview turns into a two-minute Bong channel discussion, where Abhik sits in as Doyel's conscience keeper. I mean, it was his interview, for Chrissake!
But these are blips. You get over them and realize that the film holds its own because in choosing his subject, Mainak has broken new ground. Swastika is fearless, dropping even the minimum layer of makeup for much of the movie. And soaring above the drama, on wings of beauty, is the film's music. Mayookh Bhaumik take a bow!