Teenkahon stumbles somewhat in its presentation. Its first half is elating, the second, sombre and dark.
Three independent stories — Nabalok, Post Mortem and Telephone — explore the complexities of obsessive human relationships outside wedlock.
takes the cake when it comes to visuals and performances, but scores low on the subject meter. Its core theme — amorous relationships, especially extra-marital affairs — has been explored to death in Bengali films. But thankfully, this film touches only the emotional aspects of such relationships rather than the physical. And it does so through three stories, each set in a different cinematic era spread over a century.
The first story, Nabalok, is a visual and emotional treat that explores a tale of innocent love in the era of black and white cinema. The act opens with two friends — Sailen (Suman) and Radhanath (Kharaj) — waiting for two more buddies to join them for a game of 29 amidst torrential rain and load-shedding. Tarapada (Ratan) arrives, and soon Sailen reveals to the duo his tale of childhood love — of how, he, as an eight-year-old (Barshan) falls head over heels for the newly-wed 16-year-old Nayantara (Ananya). What follows is a nostalgic tete-a-tete with innocent possessiveness, as young Sailen does everything his eight-year-old mind and body are capable of to enjoy Nayantara's undivided attention. The icing on the cake, perhaps, is the letter he writes to her Kolkata-based husband, Akshay (Biswanath), pretending to be a ghost! And it's a treat throughout — be it the B/W Satyajit Ray-ish feel, to sterling performances by each and every actor, especially the young debutants, Ananya and Barshan. Young Barshan creates the perfect balance of innocence and aggression, nailing every expression and gesture. Nayantara complements him with elan as a young woman whose sole emotional support are the letters from her husband. Another performance that made a mark was that of Monu Mukhopadhyay, who played the perfect back-scratching, nasal-toned village Guru moshai.
The nostalgia trip gives way to the Technicolour one-room debate between Gyanesh Mitra (Sabyasachi) and Sukomol Basu Roy (Joy). Titled Post Mortem, this act is all about a bereaved middle-aged husband, Gyanesh, trying to unravel the circumstances that pushed his young wife to commit suicide the previous evening. He braves torrential rain to go and confront her lover, Sukomol. What ensues is a verbal duel that reveals various facets of the deceased woman's relationships with the two men. But, somehow, this tale fails to strike a chord despite great performances by both actors. Maybe the incredulous premise of the act renders it toothless. A man whose wife has committed suicide just a day ago, doesn't just rush off to confront her lover. And even if that does happen, the concluding shots of the act are confusing. The flooded morgue we can understand, but the role-reversal? Baffling.
The third act, Telephone, is again brimming with good performances, with Rituparna Sengupta and Ashish Vidyarthi doing a great job of playing a loveless couple — Anamika and Joydeb Guha. Even the support cast walk away with clean performances. But it's maybe the Roald Dahl-esque touch of dark emotions and surprise climax that kills the story. Telephone makes you walk out of the hall, shaking your head in disbelief. How can a film begin so beautifully and end on such a dark note? So, despite the great performances, camerawork, art direction, music and even direction, Teenkahon stumbles somewhat in its presentation. Its first half is elating, the second, sombre and dark. Maybe the director finds his own story so exciting that he saves it for last. But in doing so, he overlooks a basic human instinct — no one likes bitters after a plateful of sweets.