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Movie Review – Vinci Da by Srijit Mukherji

 

The Übermensch (meaning super-human) is a concept developed by philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. In his book ‘Thus Spake Zaruthastra’ Nietzsche describes how God is dead and it is up to the Übermensch to set the world in order, for a better future. Srijit Mukherji borrows this concept in his latest venture ‘Vinci Da’ – a psychological thriller that questions the very concept of what is good and evil.

Vinci Da is the story of a mentally-deranged man Adi Bose, who considers himself Nietzsche’s Übermensch. A ‘lawyer’ by choice, Adi had a troubled childhood (having murdered his own father, just half an hour before turning 18; thus avoiding capital punishment) – more of that later. Adi Bose is law unto himself, who does not care about a few ‘collateral damages’ in this war against law-breakers who escape justice because of the corrupt system.

To bring his ‘noble cause’ to fruition, Adi Bose hires the services of a prosthetics make-up artist in Tollywood – Vinci Da. A Leonardo Da Vinci fanatic, Vinci Da finds it hard to find work in Tolly-para because of his uprightness and refusal to budge from the righteous stand. Inadvertently, his artistic acumen suffers as he is forced to earn a livelihood by working for local drama companies. It is not a surprise that he laps up the proposal of a challenging work from Adi Bose, which will demonstrate to the world the wonders he has up his sleeves.

What follows is an intense Ken and Abel-esque clash between two ideas. Vinci Da is torn between his artistic enterprises and the hapless suffering the innocent ‘collaterals’ have to bear. Adi Bose, on the other hand, metamorphoses from the vigilante who wants to rid the society from law-breakers into a shrewd, manipulative, power-hungry villain who would stop at nothing. In signature-Srijit Mukherji style, the duel enters the final act with a bang and curtains fall with a dramatic twist. Fate has the artist imprisoned in his own work.

‘Vinci Da’ may not be Srijit Mukherji’s best work, but surely is among the front-runners to qualify as his best five films. With power-packed performances by the two leading actors, hard-hitting dialogues (a forte of Srijit Mukherji), spellbinding art direction, foot-tapping music by Anupam Roy and the brilliant use of lighting in some scenes, Vinci Da easily makes an impact. The chemistry that Ritwick Chakraborty (Adi Bose) and Rudranil Ghosh (Vinci Da) share would remind one of Feluda and Maganlal Meghraj.

There are scenes in the film, which stay with you. The dream sequence where Leonardo Da Vinci is painting Mona Lisa – with Rudranil and Sohini’s voiceovers, or the sequence before the interval where Adi Bose demolishes Vinci Da’s reverence from Da Vinci, are truly of international standards. And then, there is the gruesome murder sequence in the beginning of the film. Riddhi Sen hits the ball out of the stadium as young Adi Bose.

Alas, after all the memes and videos on DCDD Poddar, one had to satisfy themselves with a scene or two of the enigmatic character – forever in pursuit of Bose and Vinci Da. Even in his short presence on screen, Anirban Bhattacharya is a beacon that shines bright. As does Sohini Sarkar as Vinci Da’s love interest, and a pivotal character who significantly influences the game of nerves between Adi Bose and Vinci Da. The hasty climax and jarring background score in some scenes are the only sore-points in an otherwise Srijit-esque thriller.

As I had said in my immediate reaction on Facebook after watching the film, Vinci Da is more psychological than thriller. The film provokes you to think and question your belief-systems. Notwithstanding Nietzsche and Übermensch, Vinci Da is also a socio-political commentary on the daily mockery of democracy in our country, that has become the mainstay.

May be, our very own Übermensch will rise from within.

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

DISCLAIMER: All Images Used In This Post Have Their Respective Copyrights

Movie Review – Uma by Srijit Mukherjee

 

It is no secret now that Uma is based on the real life story of Evan Leversage, a terminally ill Canadian boy whose wish to see another Christmas prompted his townspeople to bring the festivities forward by months. In the film, Uma is a terminally-ill Bengali girl, who lives with her father in Switzerland. Having heard tales of the grandeur of Durga Pujo in Kolkata, she has been yearning to visit the city of her roots to immerse herself in the autumnal festive fervour.

Having ignored this wish for years, Uma’s father finally gives in to her wish when he learns she only has two more months to survive. But Durga Pujo is a festival held in October. And Uma may not survive beyond May or June. So, her father moves mountains so that her dying wish can be fulfilled. Uma is the story of this journey, where a father, determined to gift his daughter all the happiness in the world, battles all odds to create ‘Durga Pujo’ in April.

Rituparno Ghosh had adapted a western novel into a Bengali setting so well in ‘Shubho Mahurat’ that I had decided it was the ultimate benchmark of internalisation of a concept into our culture. Srijit Mukherjee not only matches that standard, but outdoes his ‘Sir’ with élan. Imagining Christmas as Durga Pujo is just the tip of the iceberg. The beauty of his intricate detailing lies in the names of the characters. Uma’s parents are named Himadri and Menoka. The director who takes charge of creating the grand Pujo illusion is named Brahmananda. His art director is Bishwakarma, the person responsible for crowds is Lokeshwari and the light management is the forte of Arka Ray.

Then there is Himadri’s friend Barun, who creates artificial rain in one scene. His wife is aptly named Neera. There is a ‘guest’ actor who plays an errant officer of CESC, responsible for electricity. No prizes for guessing, his name is Indro. Then there is Gajanan, who’s penned an entire ‘Mahabharat’ for the script and Gobindo, who takes care of all arrangements. The icing on the cake – the anti-hero, Hindu fundamentalist who tries to foil the preparations is named Mahitosh Sur. Only a brilliant mind could fit in the entire Hindu mythology associated with Durga Pujo, into the 2018 setting.

Srijit Da’s detailing is even more enunciated in the introductory scene of Brahmananda. On the walls of his home hang posters of films he directed – Nirbashito (signifying the exile he is in), Meghe Dhaka Tara (the unrequited talent) and Autograph (which was a film about an eclipsed film star trying to make a mark). In fact, this film belongs as much to Brahmananda, as it does to Uma and her father. Anjan Dutt outdoes his performance in Nirbaak and Chitrangada to make us realise what a talent Bengali directors have wasted all these years.

Sara Sengupta mesmerises in her debut performance. She has the quirky persona of her mother and the gravitas of her father. A new star is born. Her chemistry with her (on and off-screen) father Jisshu, makes you yearn to go give your parents a big hug, and say ‘thank you’.

Uma has an ensemble cast that packs a powerful performance throughout. Rudrnail Ghosh, Ambarish Bhattacharya, Abhijit Guha, Neel Mukherjee are all clogs of the giant wheel – the ten hands of Maa Durga, who make anything happen, just for the smile on Uma’s face. And despite the personal dislike for Babul Supriyo, the politician, I have no qualms admitting that he shines as the Bihari goonda, who has a change of heart ultimately (specially so, because his only record of acting is in a terrible remake of Uttam Kumar’s last film).

Anirban Bhattacharya deserves credit for his stern, hate-filled, bigoted act that melts in a moment of emotional transformation into a loving father-figure. Just like Mahisasur had surrendered himself to Durga, just before the Goddess slayed the buffalo demon. Srabanti, who plays Mariam, an actor roped in to play mother to Uma, when she returns to Kolkata, is her usual best. Uma’s real mother, played by Sayantika, struck a chord in the few scenes she appeared.

Supporting the cast in equal measure were the songs composed by Anupam Roy and the background score by Neel Dutt. Shoumik Haldar’s photography needs no separate mention. There are scenes in Switzerland, where you automatically shout ‘wow’ or ‘jiyoh’ and want the scene to freeze so you can keep staring at the visuals.

After all that praise, a little note on what I felt I would have done differently. While retaining the character of Indro as the CESC officer, I would have changed his backstory (ektu playing to the gallery hoye gelo na?). Also, the happy ending at Babughat, where Brahmananda meets his estranged wife, was a bit far-fetched. Talking of the grand climax at Babughat, I would have also ended the film right where the camera panned out of the banks, giving us an aerial view of what the city is capable of achieving, if she wishes to. Himadri finding out that Uma knew about her mother, could have come in Nabami itself, making Bijoya sweeter.

Having said that, this was Srijit Da’s film and he envisioned it in a certain way. It is not my business to pass judgments about how he brings up his baby. This is a very personal film and the effort shows in every scene. As I had tweeted earlier, Srijit Da’s dad must be very proud.

What defines a good film? This is a question that has divided the society for long. For some, it is an escape from the motley of practical world. For some, it is a medium of mass movement. For some, it is just a means of making money.

Why do I watch films? Because they help me survive, one day at a time. And, Srijit Mukherjee’s films have always been that elixir that helped me gain a new perspective of the world. Uma, surely is one of the crowning jewels in Srijit Da’s box office offerings so far.

My Rating: Emotions cannot be rated

P.S. – The end credits with Evan’s photos choked me to tears.

DISCLAIMER: ALL IMAGES USED IN THIS POST HAVE THEIR RESPECTIVE COPYRIGHTS

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