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.
Children of war weaves together four parallel stories – all interconnected in one aspect – the struggle of liberation in Bangladesh and the horror of tyranny unleashed on Bengalis across faiths in East Bengal by the Pakistani establishment in 1971,
As ordered by the Pakistani administration and trying to control the developing interest for liberation and making of a free Bangladesh, the Pakistani Army which was posted in Bangladesh was given supreme forces to run the nation in the manner they best regarded fit.
Aamir, a noted columnist, is assaulted by Malik, a General in the Pakistan Army and his wife ruthlessly raped in front of his eyes. Fida is taken, alongwith several other women, to a Nazi-style concentration camp where they will be impregnated with “Pakistani blood”.
Rafiq and his sister Kausar miraculously escape when the Pakistani Army attacks their village. They live on, with the hope of crossing over to India one day, when they meet a group of migrators. Aamir, meanwhile, gets in touch with a man (Farooque Sheikh) who is heading a small unit of Mukti Bahini.
Children of War stands out from other films made on the theme of Bangladesh Liberation War in terms of the extent to which human suffering has been portrayed on the screen. The violence unleashed on the inmates of the concentration camp, the inhumane torture, ghastly scenes of rape would rattle one’s conscience.
Pavan Malhotra stands out in his depiction of Malik, the cold-blooded Pakistani General who thinks he is serving his religion and nation by playing with the lives of innocents. Tilottama Shome, in her brief appearance, steals your heart away. Her death leaves you numb. Raima, Indraneil easily evoke the right emotions in the hearts of the audience. Riddhi Sen is stellar in his transformation from a young brother to the ruthless protector of his sister.
Director Mritunjay Devvrat deserves accolades for coming up with a film like this in his debut effort. The screenplay stands out as the mainstay of the film. Even the cinematography is spellbinding. I am not sure where the film has been shot, but it no doubt encapsulates the beauty of Bengal, even during troubled times. There are several rape scenes but at no point do they seem to be planted in the plot just to grab eyeballs; in fact, they successfully evoke empathy.
Children of War reminds us of one of the biggest genocides of human history, perpetrated by Pakistan with full support of the Western establishment. It also acts as a wake up call to all Bengalis, on both sides of the border, who have become oblivious of the history of the land. It also dispels the myth that Hindus were the only targets of the “holocaust” of 1971.
More importantly, the film helps understand that war for independence may have ended, but the struggle for justice has not.
Thank you Mrityunjay Devvrat for this great tribute to the Maati.
My Rating: 4.5/5 stars
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