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Movie Review: Dhananjoy by Arindam Sil

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.

 

dhananjoy movie reviewA still from the movie

 

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

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

July – A movielicious month

Movies mean different things to different people. For some it is a medium of artistic expression; for some it is a medium of social change; for many it is a medium of protest; while for a large number of people movies are an escape route to pause the realities of life for three hours and make a trip to a world of fantasy. For me, movies mean all of these, and much more. An ardent cine-fan, one would easily spot me at a multiplex in Kolkata, munching on a bowl of french fries, soaking in the images that blur across the silver screen.

 

Image Source: Daily Meal

 

July this year has been a treat at the theatres. Although I was bed-ridden for the first two weeks, I quickly made up for it when I was hale and hearty. The month started with ‘Mom’ and ‘Spiderman: Homecoming’, treated us to a delightful musical ‘Jagga Jasoos’ and came to a close with three masterpieces – Nolan’s ‘Dunkirk’, the much controversial ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ and Aneek Dutta’s unconventional thriller ‘Meghnadbodh Rohoshyo’.

Mom, starring Sridevi, had kindled my interest for the obvious reason – the music has been composed by AR Rahman. An intriguing tale of revenge, the film tells a story very cliched, but the treatment is so fresh that you’d be on the edge of your seats till the end. Arya, a teenage schoolgirl is gangraped at a Valentine’s Day party by her classmate and his comrades. The justice system fails her. As she recovers from the shock, her stepmother (played by Sridevi) takes it upon herself to bring the culprits to book. The seemingly plain storyline deals with further complexities of relationships and dwells into the crevices of the human psyche. The taut screenplay is accentuated by Rahman’s score. By the time you leave the theatres, you’d feel vindicated and victorious.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

‘Spiderman: Homecoming’ is a trip of nostalgia to college days. Tom Holland, who was introduced as Spiderman in ‘Captain America – Civil War’, yearns for opportunities to explore his skills as a superhero and be of help to the Avengers gang. But Tony Stark wants him to continue his studies. Peter is certainly not the boy who patiently waits his turn. In his overzealous eagerness to save the world, he gets embroiled with a gang led by ‘Vulture’ dealing in arms that can spell doom for the world.

The film stands out because unlike the previous two versions of Spiderman movies, Peter Parker here is not your textbook superhero. He is just another ordinary boy with extraordinary powers, who is still coming to terms with skills. His urge to prove himself will surely find resonance in many of us who are trapped in the corporate world, yearning for the opportunity to pursue our passion. The film is more of a setting for future offerings in the Marvel series. We surely are looking forward to bigger roles for our ‘friendly neighbourhood Spiderman’.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

For a Bengali kid who grew up in the 1990s, with Tintin, Feluda or Goopi Gyne Bagha Byne, Anurag Basu’s ‘Jaggaa Jasoos’ was a nostalgic trip to Disneyland! A true-blue Bengali at heart, Anurag Basu’s musical is a first of its kind in Bollywood. With a protagonist who sports a hairstyle similar to Tintin, the film links Purulia Arms Drop case with an international arms smuggling gang, in true Disney fantasy fiction style. The breathtaking visuals from north Bengal and Africa will make you go wow in almost every scene.

Saswata Chatterjee, undoubtedly the most talented Bengali actor of our times, is at his comical best. So is Rajatava Dutta as the archetypal police officer.  Anurag Basu’s subtle Bengali touches are a treat – places named Shundi and Tiktiki or the hotel called Agapashtala – and make the film more enjoyable. One cannot help but notice the similarity between Jagga’s nemesis and ‘Rastapopulus’ from Tintin series.

However, the film suffers from the curse of the second half. It loses steam as well as track in the second half, and often leaves the audience restless. Having said that, Ranbir Kapoor deserves a huge applause, not only for playing the part of Jagga so meticulously, but also for believing in Jagga and producing the film. Hope the sequel will not take another four years to make.

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Many years ago, in a blog post for Women’s Day I had written being a woman in India is an euphemism. I was reminded of that line again while watching ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’. Women in India dare not dream. They dare not listen to Miley Cyrus songs or party with friends. Women must not have a say during intercourse (they cannot even implore upon their husbands the importance of using condoms). Good girls of marriageable age cannot have boyfriends; they should not work after marriage. Middle-aged widows who have sexual fantasies are a blot to the society. Alankrita Srivastava, the director of ‘Lipstick’ seeks to break these notions.

Rehana, Ahana, Shireen, Usha dare to dream and break the societal norms. Rehana, who leaves her house in burqa, secretly steals trendy fashion wear at a mall, and grooves to the songs of Miley Cyrus while stitching burqas at her father’s shop. Shireen on the other hand secretly works as a salesgirl cannot muster the courage to tell her ‘out-of-work’ husband about it. Usha Parmar is addicted to ‘dirty books’ and fantasises her swimming coach. She even has phone sex with him under the guise of ‘Rosy’, the protagonist of her book. Ahana works at a local beauty parlour. Her mother (who earns her wages by posing as a nude model at an art school) wants her to marry a stereotypical middle class guy, but Ahana has plans to run away with her beau, a local photographer.

In an engaging narrative, Srivastava takes us through the journey of these four women as they pursue these forbidden dreams. The film is laced with humour, wit and ‘wow’ moments. One can imagine why the babus at the CBFC were unnerved by this film. The very foundation of patriarchy has been attacked in the film. But the script is bogged down by the baggage of stereotype. The story reaches such a crescendo that the climax seems forced. It is difficult to swallow that these four feisty women would bow down to fate so easily.

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

With Meghnad Bodh Rohoshyo, Aneek Dutta returns to filmmaking after almost a gap of three years with a thriller. True to his style, the writing is heavily loaded with references to world cinema, old Bengali films (specially Satyajit Ray), and of course, literature. With Michael Madhusudan Dutta’s epic ‘Meghnad Bodh Kabyo’ playing a pivotal role, the film is also a commentary on the Naxal movement of the 1970s.

Aneek Dutta’s film has the element of thrill and suspense but is different from usual ‘whodunnit’ movies. The dialogues have the usual touch of humour and wit, expected from Dutta. The narrative is often laden with cliches and the film has some unwanted characters who are not essential to the plot.

‘Meghnad Bodh Rohoshyo’ is less about the suspense of the missing protagonist and more about the cathartic unraveling of the past. Halfway through the second half one can guess what the possible climax could be. That does not stop us from being hooked to the film till the last scene.

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Dunkirk is an epic war movie, touted as Christopher Nolan’s best work till date. While it is definitely not Nolan’s best work, nor is it the best war movie ever made, Dunkirk surely touches a chord and entices us with gripping writing, visual spectacle and a haunting background score. At times you would not be able to tell whether it is the sound of the beats on screen or the pounding of your own heart. The film unfolds on three parallel tracks – the mole, the air and the sea – which eventually lead the way for the heartfelt climax.

Nolan redefines the syntax of the war genre. Yes, blood and gore form a part of the film in parts, but Dunkirk is more about the human instinct of fighting to survive, against all odds – even nature. There is a scene towards the closing of the film, when an officer asks the commander what he saw on his binoculars. The emotional, teary-eyed commander says “Home”. Empathetic touches like these set Nolan’s Dunkirk apart.

Nolan engages with the audience with his dramatised story-telling. Dunkirk does not have any protagonist. Rather Nolan gives us Tommy, who escapes from the enemy’s clutches and is desperate to go home. Then there is Mr Dawson, who lost his elder son to the war. When the British Navy come asking for his yacht for the rescue mission to Dunkirk, he himself sets out on the mission. We also can’t help but hold our breath when Farrier, the Royal Air Force pilot, who is not only fighting German planes but a malfunction with his fuel tank.

Dunkirk celebrates the ever-optimistic human spirit. It is an intense commentary on an event from history that glorifies the spirit of resilience. ‘Dunkirk’ is definitely not an ‘Inception’ or ‘Interstellar’. But it surely is a masterpiece.

My Rating: 3.5/5

 

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