Author Archives: Agnivo Niyogi

Web Series Review – REKKA

Femme Fatale – the phrase that strikes your mind after watching ‘Rabindranath Ekhane Kawkhano Khete Asenni’.

Mushkan Zuveri, the enigmatic, mysterious, esoteric protagonist of the novel by Md Nazimuddin, comes alive on screen. Azmeri Haque Badhon portrays Mushkan with élan, as if the character was penned for her to play. The owner of a restaurant in a quaint town of Sundarpur, she is known for (in)famous for her cooking skills. But she has more cards up her sleeves, than meets the eye. Investigator Nirupam Chanda’s (Nure Chhafa in the original) arrival in this small town ruffles up feathers and sets in motion incidents that disturb the ‘beauty’ of the idyllic suburb.

Whether you’ve read the original novel or not, you’d be hooked to this web-series directed by Srijit Mukherji from the word go. He has not only breathed life into the characters created by Mohd Nazimuddin, but made them his own, by adding the little eccentricities, and smart one-liners. To distil 400-odd pages of written text into nine episodes is no mean feat, but Srijit Da has successfully assimilated the flavour of the original work, with creative licenses of his own, making this a visual treat. Specially the sequence in the flashback, which I do not want to disclose to avoid giving out spoilers, will sicken you to the core – in a good way (such is the brilliance of Srijit Da’s craft).

Talking of visuals, one must acknowledge the brilliant ‘dark’ setting of this series, matching the ‘gothic horror’ theme of the plot. A mysterious lady who lives alone in a mansion, disappearance of male guests at an eatery, graves dug in advance, a pond full of crocodiles, foggy nights and nocturnal truth missions, idiosyncrasies of the police bureaucracy, and an uncomfortable truth at the heart of it all – REKKA makes for a wholesome meal of weekend binge.

Those who make it possible – Azmeri Haque Badhon, Rahul Bose, and Anirban Bhattacharya as Mushkan, Nirupam and Ator Ali respectively, live up to their characters to the T. Sequences where Badhon’s character sings Rabindranath’s songs – as if they were composed for precisely these moments, feel eerily magical, yet horrifying. She has an amicable charm, a fatal attraction in her manner, which makes her so enigmatic and powerful. Badhon carries REKKA on her shoulders with her fluid, natural performance.

Rahul Bose on the other hand is suave, stoic, serious. A departure from the original character in the book, who was more of a ‘gobechara’ officer. The final meeting between Nirupam and Mushkan was no less than David battling Goliath, no prizes for guessing, who took the laurels. Anirban, on the other hand, brings to life Ator Ali – the police informer, with his eccentric shenanigans. Not for a moment does it feel we are watching Anirban act. He embodies Ator Ali to the core.

Although Kharaj Khasnobish doesn’t have much space in REKKA, but in the sequel his character assumes a significant role, so where’s expecting Anjan Dutt to deliver his above-mediocrity level performance, as usual. Anirban Chakraborti, too, delivers as the OC of Sundarpur in his limited capacity in the scheme of things.

The man of the match is obviously Srijit Mukherji. Adapting a literary work is no child’s play, specially since comparisons with the original (damned if you deviate, damned if you don’t) are bound to come up. In REKKA, he has remained true to the text, but made the characters his own baby. More importantly, he has added the essence of Rabindranath, who was missing in the original text (apart from the title).

All I can say after watching REKKA is that it was a Friday well-spent. And I hope to catch the sequel soon. And may be we can actually have Chanchal Chowdhury in the cast (as the influential minister).

My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Book Review – Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri

Whereabouts – Jhumpa Lahiri (Image: Penguin)

Jhumpa Lahiri is my favourite contemporary author. From the day I picked up a copy of ‘The Namesake’ at College Street, I have been a fan of her work. The stories she tells resonate at a personal level with me. There is this unseen string that connects the reader in me with her characters. May be because she writes about predominant Bengali themes, or may be because her tales have a bearing on me as a person, because like her, I have also been on an eternal quest for rediscovering my roots.

In ‘Whereabouts’ I discovered a new Jhumpa. This is not the writer who described the pangs of Ashima trying to fit in, in a foreign country. Or, the tribulations of Nikhil/Gogol coming to terms with his ethno-migrant identity. The Jhumpa we are introduced to in ‘Whereabouts’ is not the same writer who celebrated relationships amidst the turbulent Naxal movement in ‘The Lowland’.

 ‘Whereabouts’ is about a lonely middle-aged woman who dreads her solitude. Reading this book gave me the feeling of guilt; it felt like prying into someone else’s life without their permission. Like laying your hands on someone’s personal diary. There is no ‘plot’ to this novel, yet the power of this piece lies in Jhumpa’s ability to weave magic into the mundane existence of life itself. The reader must invest their souls into reading this masterpiece, or be left bewildered while turning the pages – with absolutely nothing ‘happening’ in the narrative.

In an elegant, yet prosaic manner, Lahiri introduces us to the protagonist – her past, her present, workings of her mind, and most importantly how she views the world around her. The lyrical description of the tiniest details – like when the protagonist heads out to buy her daily needs from the store, or her journey from home to work through the piazza – it often feels like watching a European classic film unfold before your eyes, only in text instead of celluloid.

We are told that the protagonist enjoys her morning coffee at her regular barista, she feels awkward when she has to wait at the doctor’s chamber, she has a tiny office at her workplace, where no one makes a conversation with her. As we progress through these ‘journal entries’ time passes and seasons fly. And these fragments add up to a pattern of life. These vignettes are deeply personal, and the conversation is not even directed at the reader – they emerge as if the narrator is talking to herself.

It is only Jhumpa Lahiri who could distillate the daily drudgery of life to such brilliance, almost meditative, and most often intimate and personal. It is not just the musings of a woman coping with her loneliness, but also a deeper exploration of the human condition. At one point I can relate to the bouts of chronic depressive state of the protagonist, as I have been through that phase too.

And yes, the lingering theme of identity and migration, prevalent in all her books, encompasses the narrative in ‘Whereabouts’ too. Only, Jhumpa is asking a different question this time. It is not much about belonging, as much it is about fitting in. The vignettes told by an unnamed narrator in an unnamed city in an unnamed country, can be about anyone – you, me, or the migrant labourer who had to walk from his city of earning to his home in the native heartland during lockdown.

‘Whereabouts’ is a tale of possibilities, an experiment on understanding the existence. It is poignant, yet deeply cathartic, personal yet so universal. It is a narration of life as we experience it.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

DISCLAIMER: All Images In This Post Have Their Respective Copyrights

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