Petrichor – the smell of wet earth after rains – finds its way in ‘Dwitiyo Purush’ in one of the sequences. That is the kind of feeling I emerged out of the theatre with after watching the film. No, not the smell of wet earth but that of contentment after watching a heart-wrenching thriller, Srijit Mukherji is known to make.
Dwitiyo Purush, the spin-off of the 2011 cult classic ‘Baishe Srabon’ is dark, gritty, violent and gloomy. In a possible ode to ‘Srabon’ the whole film has been shot in the monsoons, to capture the melancholy enigma that the city wears in the season. The rain is but a metaphor – for the eternal longing for the loved one. “Jawl ta ek thake, chokh ta paalte jay. Chumu ta ek thaake, thont ta paalte jay.” Srijit Mukherji-Soumik Halder duo know how to make Kolkata a character in the movie itself.
In his promotional interviews Srijit Mukherji had maintained that Dwitiyo Purush cannot be moulded into any specific genre – there’s thrill, there’s violence, and there’s love. It’s what the audience assimilates is what matters. For me, personally, the film is an unabashed celebration of love. Coming from a director who made necrophilia look so aesthetic, Dwitiyo Purush is bound to tug at your heartstrings.
In the year 1993, in Kolkata’s Chinatown, a gang war takes place and leads to several murders. The police get involved but politics leads to the whole incident being covered up. Twenty-five years later similar murders rock the city. Abhijit Prakashi (Parambrata Chattopadhyay), now a celebrated investigating officer in Kolkata Police, is called in to investigate the crime. He is joined by a new officer – Rajat (Gaurav Chakraborty) in the venture.
As the investigation progresses, we see signs of the teacher-student chemistry between Abhijit-Rajat, which is reminiscent of Abhijit’s relationship with Prabir Roy Chowdhury. In fact, Prabir (rather his suicide) continues to haunt Abhijit, giving him sleepless nights. As Abhijit fights his own demons, his relationship with Amrita (now his wife) is strained. One might even wonder why they put up with each other; it is only after the climax that one can relate to the deep psychosis at play.
The climax of the film redefines the entire paradigm of the series and is mind-boggling. Despite a slow first-half, and the unnecessary sub-plot involving Rajat’s love life, or the cameo by Shurjo, Dwitiyo Purush will make up for the all loose-ends in the plot in the last 10 minutes. This film is definitely not for the faint-hearted.
In one of the scenes, Abhijit gives a lecture on motive and serial killing to Rajat – the entire story is etched in that sequence. One must understand the deep psychological impulse that motivates someone to commit serial killings. Mere greed or revenge can never push someone down that path. The big reveal in the climax will force you to don the thinking hat.
And then there are the usual elements of a Srijit Mukherji thriller that make a film even more endearing. The dialogues, witty and deep, the background score that keeps you on the edge and the crisp editing (specially in the second half) give Dwitiyo Purush the much-needed crime-thriller feel. You cannot stop yourself from cheering for Abhijit when he schools Amrita on ‘Bangla bhasha and mutton kosha’. Who could’ve thought a simple ‘Ph’ vs ‘F’ dialogue from ‘Baishe’ would finds its way into the sequel at such a critical point. Or that the famed daal-bhat-biryani banter would find its match in chicken chowmein-chilli fish?
One emerged from the theatre after watching ‘Baishe Srabon’ with Gobheere Jao playing in the ears and Prosenjit’s epochal stare etched in mind. If someone matched the gravity of Prabir ‘babu’ in this film, it certainly is Anirban Bhattacharya. The lovelorn ‘Khoka’ who’s lost it all, desperate to give up everything for that one longing – who else could give expression to the pathos, but Anirban?
He is matched equally by his ‘nemesis’ Parambrata – who bares it all in a career-best performance. His meltdown scene in the washroom sent shivers down my spine. Rwitobroto and Soham are the discoveries of Dwitiyo Purush. The gruesome menace and the bonding of love, the special chemistry and the fear of loss – these two ‘junior’ actors can give many ‘superstars’ a run for their money with their performance. To be frank, I was disappointed with the character arc of Raima Sen and Aabir Chatterjee. Even Riddhima (whose introduction scene in Rajkahini had me stupefied) is wasted.
Making a sequel (or a spin-off) of a cult classic is no mean feat, and Srijit Mukherji passes off with flying colours. Dwitiyo Purush could have easily received an ‘O’ in OWLs, but has to make do with ‘Exceeds Expectations’. It is definitely not the ‘perfect’ film like ‘Baishe’ was, but stands out on its own merit. Baishe Srabon had set the benchmark for the last decade. It was a cult classic which redefined Bengali cinema. Dwitiyo Purush is the perfect sequel one could ask for. It sets the benchmark for the decade that just started.
In the end, many people did not like the finale of Game of Thrones. Some found it a profound and fitting end to a saga. Ultimately, Game of Thrones earned a place in history. So will this film.
What goes on inside Srijit Mukherji’s mind, one can only wonder. Just when you thought he has told his wackiest story, he surprises you with another superb “out of the box” idea. Keep pushing the envelope, I’d say.
You are your own competition. After all this time, I am proud to be a Srijit Mukherji fan. Always.
As a 90’s kid living in India, the famed Akbar-Birbal stories were part of my growing up years – firstly, thanks to the Amar Chitra Katha comics, and secondly, courtesy the animated series on Cartoon Network. Known for his sharp mind, analytical skills, and quirky wit, Birbal was one of Akbar’s ‘Navaratna’ (nine gems).
From mundane matters pertaining to state of affairs, to something as absurd as counting the number of crows in the kingdom – popular tales of Birbal encompassed it all. So, it was absolutely intriguing to land a book about ‘detective’ Birbal who is entrusted with solving a murder mystery. ‘The Tree Bears Witness’ by Sharath Komarraju shows us a new side to the popular historical figure.
Given the times we live in, where any reference to historical figures is met with a threat to life, or a bounty on the head, it is brave of the writer to pen a fictional tale of the murder of Sujjamal, brother of the newly-wedded Rajput queen of Emperor Akbar. Imagine an envoy of a foreign country dying under mysterious circumstances in India – Sujjamal’s murder has similar far-reaching political consequences, as his marriage with the Rajput princess was a political manoeuvre.
Given the gravity of the situation, Akbar turns to his trusted lieutenant to bring the perpetrator to justice using his famed grey matter. While Birbal sets on the task, he has a herculean challenge laid out before him. Palace politics plays out, as powerful people try to throw Birbal off-course in his task. An innocent scape-goat is jailed for convenience and rivalries play out in a way that makes Birbal’s work even more arduous.
The brisk pace of the story, with all the twists, makes this novel an enjoyable read. Birbal could very well be a modern-day CBI sleuth who is investigating the murder of a diplomat; the spirit of the story would remain intact. The delectable writing, with historical setting, set this book a class apart. The climax, where Birbal assembles the entire royal clan to reveal the murderer, reminded me of how Feluda always finished his cases.
Overall, ‘The Tree Bears Witness’ by Sharath Komarraju is an exciting murder mystery that adds a dash of history to a fictional tale of whodunit. If you read between the lines, the political subtext in the novel will surely impress you.
My Rating: 4/5 stars
P.S. The review copy of the book was provided by Amazon.
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