The lives of a king (Sudipto) of a small domain, his curvy mistress (Ananya) and a disillusioned postman (Chandan) cross paths with those of a tightrope walker (Kajal) and her family, leading to an abrupt end to the king’s rule.
Tope is a more of a moving canvas than a film. Each frame is a metaphor, though a bit vague at times. And in this medley of colourful metaphors, the characters move the paces defined by the boundaries of the canvas. The result is a mesmerising series of artistic frames, which can be a tad difficult for audiences to connect to, as the underlying story is lost in the haze of colours.
It’s overly cerebral to say the least — not stuff that draws the masses. The film opens to a beautiful canvas of a lonely gramophone scratching out a melody from an old vinyl. The scene, which shows the instrument sitting on a hilltop behind a decorated doorframe, slowly unfolds to reveal a lone man (Sudipto) dancing around the instrument, albeit to a rhythm of his own. What follows is a series of scenes that are high on artistic framing, but low on logic. It’s almost as if you’re watching a thriller, waiting for the random images to make sense somewhere down the line. But that happens only in part. Despite beginning to make sense somewhere down the line, the lack of proper character sketches keeps gnawing at the back of your mind, making you wonder who is what? And why?
I’m still confused whether Ananya played the king’s wife or mistress. Moreover, the way her character behaves at the outset makes you infer that she’s mentally unsound. But then again, even Sudipto’s character seems worse off than the Mad Hatter. And everything is so full of metaphors — it’s unclear why Ananya gets so worked up looking through her binoculars or whether she commits suicide!
On the other hand, Chandan’s character — the postman who lives on a tree with monkeys — has a lot more clarity and even a back story. Though he seems delusional, his character does make sense. Others characters which are somewhat well-etched are those of the little tightrope walker (Kajal) and her parents. They use her as their source of livelihood, with her mother (Paoli) often voicing concern about what would happen to them after she’s married off.
Another prominent metaphor is water. It seems to be an intrinsic part of the lives (or their ends) of Ananya and Sudipto’s characters.
No actor has put in a spectacular performance, except maybe Chandan and Kajal to a certain extent. Or maybe the fact that their characters were livelier than the others made them stand out.
Tope is a film meant for a niche audience — those select few who can look beyond the mundane, everyday stuff, into the domain of imagination. So, if you’re not that interested in connecting the dots and just want to give your grey cells some exercise, go and watch it. It’s a piece of art. And art needn’t always make sense.