Movie Review: Gumnaami by Srijit Mukherjiw
History is written by the victors, they say. The history books we are taught in school, thus tell us what the rulers of the day want us to know, what the account of what actually may have happened in the past. Heroes are made and heroes are forgotten – all thanks to history.
Subhas Chandra Bose is an icon for many, like me. We all know how valiantly he fought against the tyrannical British rule and worked towards creating an independent India. However, even after 74 years of the Taihoku ‘air crash’ we still do not know, for sure, whether he died in the accident, or staged a grand illusion to fight the British from the shadows.
While there is a general perception that he may have survived the crash, people are still divided on whether he returned to India as a ‘sage’ or whether he fled to Russia, where he was incarcerated till death. Believers of various theories hold their opinion as cast in stone. But till date, we have not seen empirical evidence that could sway our hearts and minds towards one theory.
Srijit Mukherji’s film Gumnaami courted controversy since inception because of the volatile subject the film is based on. Sections of the Bose family vociferously objected to the name of the film (which according to them suggested Netaji returned as Gumnaami Baba), cases were filed in court and no stones were left unturned to stall the making and release of this film. However, by the grace of Mahakaal, all hurdles were met with resilience.
Like ‘Ek Je Chilo Raja’ Gumnaami is also a court room drama which unravels in a non-linear narrative. The court here is the public hearing of the Mukherjee Commission whether an ace historian (played by Biplab Dasgupta) is pitted against an avid Netaji researcher (played by Anirban Bhattacharya). Chandrachur, Anirban’s character, is a journalist who is a cynical Bengali who does not believe in the cult of Netaji as an icon. But he is drawn to research on Netaji for an assignment, which then becomes his obsession.
He is of the firm opinion that Netaji returned to India as Bhagwanji (Gumnaami Baba) while the historian is a proponent of the air-crash theory (does it ring a bell?). The verbal duel between the two characters is a delight for the audience – specially the quirky one-liners by Chandrachur (a hallmark of Srijit Mukherji). Chandrachur’s obsession with Netaji affects his relationship with his wife – a track handled with sensitivity.
Anirban steals the show as Chandrachur – his eccentricity and passion for Netaji make you empathetic towards the character. There are sequences when his dialogues may fire up the ‘Netaji’ in you. Prosenjit Chatterjee will leave you awe-struck and dumbfounded with his portrayal of the great hero. Tanushree shines in her role too.
Somnath Kundu’s ‘almost real’ make-up brings Netaji back to life. Soumik Halder’s camera (specially the black and white sequences), accentuated by Indraadip Dasgupta’s score, will trigger a rush of emotions. The use of drones is a hallmark of Srijit Mukherji and he excels here too. The funeral scene at Faizabad would give anyone goosebumps.
However, the film feels a bit stretched, specially towards the end. The midnight dining table sequence (reminding one of Caesar’s ghost visiting Brutus) or the melodramatic ‘fiery’ climax were unnecessary additions to an otherwise well-researched film. Moreover, there are sequences where the branding/propaganda for ‘Mission Netaji’ would come across as eyesore. Also, we are only told about the links between Bhagwanji and Netaji, but few are actually shown. We are told the evidences have been submitted to the Commission. I wish we were shown hard evidence, instead of anecdotal references by witnesses at the hearing.
All said and done, does the film promote any conspiracy theory? No, it does not. Does it give a verdict on Netaji’s disappearance? To an extent, yes. The film is based on the Mukherjee Commission hearings. So, the final verdict of the Commission IS the verdict of the film, with a caveat.
October 2, 2019 will go down in history. The true liberator of India has finally got his due. The mystery behind his disappearance has finally been broken. History will finally be set right. 73 years after the country got her independence, the conversation about Netaji’s final days has become mainstream. And we have only Srijit Mukherji to thank for achieving this feat.
My Rating: 3/5 stars
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