Salman Rushdie, who is a master of imagery with words, and has always landed in controversies for his outspokenness, returns with a commentary on the political history of America in the last decade. He narrates the story of Nero Golden, a real estate tycoon who immigrated to America with his three sons, at the same time when Obamas move in to the White House.
Told from the point of view of their neighbour René, the story follows the story of these motley characters through their ups and downs – their high life, sibling rivalry and clashes, the ‘other woman’ and ultimately the undoing of the ‘Golden House’. And with the story of the Golden family, come the varied references to popular cinema, pop culture, political movements and literature of the time.
Although Rushdie does not name him, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named (no, I do not mean Voldemort) makes his way into the story too. Nero Golden’s resemblance to the golden-haired business tycoon currently residing in the White House is unmistakable. In fact, he and his sons – and the travails they go through – are symptomatic of the political and social climate America is passing through. Or as René puts it, a constant struggle between good and evil.
Rushdie, in his Dickensian style, weaves a narrative that is often satirical. The book is full of humour, often in the backdrop of a social problem. He describes Obama’s successor as a character straight of a comic book – “it was the year of The Joker in Gotham and beyond”, Rushdie writes, as “America had left reality behind”. He laboriously sketches every character, which sometimes is tedious.
In ‘Midnight’s Children’ Rushdie’s magic realism has wooed us all. In ‘The Golden House’ he tries to tread the same path, leaving us wanting for more. But in times like these, reality is often more fascinating than fiction.
My Rating: 3/5 stars
P.S. This review is part of the Flipkart Bloggers’ Affiliate Programme
15 August, 2004 brought the curtains down on the life Dhananjoy Chatterjee after 14 years of trials and tribulations. The central character to a heinous crime that shook the ‘Bhadralok’ city of Kolkata, Dhananjoy’s name evokes emotionally-charged responses from people even to this day. Accused of raping and murdering an 18-year old Hetal Parekh, Dhananjoy (who served as the security guard of the building where Hetal lived) claimed innocence till the day of his hanging.
The trial of Dhananjoy Chatterjee left many questions unanswered (he was unprecedentedly awarded death sentence solely based on circumstantial evidence when many key witnesses had made contrary statements in the court). There was a groundswell of clamour for his hanging at the time in Kolkata, led by none-other-than the wife of the then Chief Minister of the State, political pressure from the Gujarati vote-bank and a huge media pressure which led to the final culmination of Dhananjoy’s fate. Was he guilty? Or was he just another scapegoat sacrificed at the altar of our inept judicial system? Arindam Sil’s film explores the unsolved pieces of the puzzle.
The film is a gripping courtroom drama that compels you to challenge the notions you have lived with till now. It makes you question the system and assume a ringside view of life as it unfolds. The film can be separated into two parts: the first half explores the Dhananjoy trials as it happened in a flashback while the second half is a work of fiction where the case is reopened and available evidences re-examined and questioned in a trial. Although the film is judgmental, the director lets you be the judge of what could have transpired on 5 March, 1990.
The first half of ‘Dhananjoy’ has shades of inspiration from ‘Talvar’. It also has a ‘Roshomon’ style narration of the fateful incident. However, Arindam Sil shines in his story-telling with the daft writing and striking background score. Although the film indulges in melodrama at times, it is balanced by performances that will keep you to the edge of your seats.
A courtroom drama is expected to be dialogue-heavy, which can often get tedious for the audience to digest. In ‘Dhananjoy’ the scenes are interspersed with witty one-liners that keep the film from slipping into monotony. Kanchan Mullick and Mir (Kaushik Sen and Deepanjan Ghosh post intermission) play their parts well as the lawyers in the case. In fact, the legalities in this film were more believable and ‘real’ than most films are. Kabya Sinha, played by Mimi, is emotional yet focused. Mimi does full justice to her part.
Anirban Bhattacharya and Sudipta Chakraborty steal the show with their nuanced yet emotive performances. The stoic villainy portrayed by Sudipta is enough to send a shiver down your spine. Anirban Bhattacharya’s eyes do the talking for him. His slow walk to the gallows with Manna Dey’s ‘Mahasindhur Opar Hote’ will haunt your memories for days to come. These are performances that will define the year 2017 for Bengali cinema.
However, Kabya’s motivation to work in this case, that too four years after a man has been hanged, is a bit too much to handle. A more convincing back story could have added to the film. Why require a full-fledged trial to re-examine the evidence? With the research she had, she could have written a book instead. Also, was the public prosecutor in the second half only there for providing comic relief through objections? He hardly made a case. Moreover, the opening disclaimer says the film is purely a work of fiction, while the name as well as the promos belie the claim.
All controversies aside, there is an inherent honesty in the making of the film which sets ‘Dhananjoy’ apart. One must watch it with an open mind and separate the facts from the fiction while walking out of the theatres.
My rating: 3/5 stars
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