“What is a film all about? It is all about capturing fleeting moments” – Rituparno Ghosh had famously told us through one of his characters. Watching Chander Pahar on the silver screen, mind bleeding to death, i was thanking God that Ritu Da is dead. Passionate about films and Bengali literature that he is, i doubt if he could digest the inhuman savagery of a novel that any Bengali kid (well, once upon a time when smartphones were not the order of the day) would grow up with. Book and film are two different media to communicate ideas. But a common thread of creativity and imagination runs through both of them. If a product lacks the soul the original creator had infused into it, it is bound to fail.
I didn’t quite like Urochithi (the director’s first film). Kamaleshwar seemed promising. He took the art of film-making to a whole new level with Meghe Dhaka Tara. And suddenly, Chander Pahar makes me hate him. No, his direction is brilliant. He takes Bengali cinema to a new height with breathtaking depiction of Africa. Soumik Haldar’r cinematography is flawless. But was this film supposed to be a documentary on Africa, with a clown in the lead? The answer is a resounding NO.
I have nothing against Dev. It is not his fault that he has good looks, a body to flaunt. It is not his fault that directors use his charm to sell unsaleable, meaningless films. He should never have been in the film business. Sadly, he is. And even sadder, the director of the film thought him competent enough to play Shankar. Every Bengali has a Shankar in them, but definitely not Dev. Even the lion gave better expressions than him.
An actor should prepare himself for a role he is supposed to play. Specially when it is a magnum opus like Chander Pahar. Dev’s Bangla accent is more 2013 North Kolkata rock-style than 1909 mufassil. He speaks English the American way, although it baffles me how a small town boy from a British colony could master that. The very first scene, where he makes a “grand” entry on the screen, looks like he is not running away from an elephant, but running after Koel Mullick in Paglu!
Chander Pahar may be the grandest film ever made in Bengali film industry, but it lacked the simplicity, soulfulness and the imagination that a novel written decades ago by Bibhutibhushan had. Bibhutibhushan’s Africa is more beautiful than Kamaleshwar’s Africa.
One can only pray to prospective film-makers not to even think of making a movie on Aranyak. Some works cannot be translated from one medium to another. A docu-drama on Africa can never be passed off as Chander Pahar, no matter how professional or technically brilliant the film is.
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