It’s 23rd September and I cannot keep calm because it is the birthday of my favourite filmmaker of our times – Srijit Mukherji. Since October 2010, he has become synonymous with meaningful cinema. From thrillers to period drama, adventure or even gangster action movie – no matter which genre he adopts, Srijit Da always churns out gold.
The eclectic mix of ‘art house’ and ‘commercial’, his films are always thought-provoking. As a dialogue writer, he always creates magic with the subtle references and puns. And music forms a pillar of strength in all his movies. That is why most of his films have turned out to be chartbuster albums, too.
On his birthday, I wish to share my Top 5 favourite Srijit Mukherji films. It was an arduous task zeroing-in on these titles, but after ruthless consideration, here they are:
5. Nirbaak: An unconventional love story, which was ahead of its time, Nirbaak deserves praise for the experimentation. Coming close on the heels of some of Srijit Mukherji’s award-winning works – it elicited curiosity, and required conviction to go ahead and make a film like this. From narcissism to necrophilia – social ‘ills’ have been portrayed in such poignant and poetic depictions, that one cannot help but fall in love with these profligacies. The film re-introduced us to the actor in Anjan Dutt, but the adorable dog stole the show.
4. Ek je Chilo Raja: Based on the controversial Bhawal Sanyasi case, Ek Je Chilo Raja is different from Srijit Mukherjee’s other films, but also bears his signature style of filmmaking throughout. The film provokes you into introspection. From the word go, the film charms its way into your hearts – with the breathtaking cinematography by Gairik Sarkar, the muted colour palate (black and white for the court scenes, a brilliant thought), astoundingly real make-up (the heart of the film – Jisshu has 4 different looks in the film) and soul-stirring music.
3. Baishe Srabon: “Autograph, Srijit Mukerji’s first film was a tribute to Satyajit Ray’s Nayak. Baishe Srabon establishes him as a director par excellence. Tribute the unsung poet found in almost every Bengali home, the film touted as a musical thriller, delves deep into the human psyche and shows us a dark facet of life, answers to which we seldom seek.”
This is what I wrote in my review on my blog. You can read the full review here: https://antorjatikbangali.wordpress.com/2011/10/01/22se-srabon/
2. Jaatishwar: It is not a film; it is an experience that takes us for a joyride through the annuls of history – freely flowing from present to the past, from fiction to history. If Baishey Srabon was a tribute to the Hungryalist era of Bengali literature, Jaatishwar seeks to revive the Kobigaan period of Bangla music.
1. Chotushkone: It is not just a story of who-dun-it. It is a journey of self-realisation, a journey of tying the loose ends of old strings. Former friends come together to relive their old days, some with a desire for vengeance, and some simply to escape the monotony of life. In a way, Chotushkone is a journey of introspection; it is the song of life.
Rajkahini – The tale of Partition often leaves out the marginalised in the narrative of history. The film seeks to set the record straight by telling us the tale of prostitutes who fought ‘against’ partition to save their ‘home’.
Uma – It may not be a technically great film. Neither can one say it is an epoch-changing story. It is the honesty behind the storytelling that makes Uma a winner. The triumph of the human spirit, against all odds, to fulfil the promise a father made to his dying child – Uma is an ode to life itself.
Hemlock Society – The best music album among all of Srijit Da’s works, Hemlock Society would have been among my Top 5 choices, had its length been a little shorter. The ‘Anand’ style ending could have been avoided, is what I felt. At a time when there is worldwide concern about mental health, this beautiful film on suicide-prevention can work wonder for sensitisation. The writing was top-notch and so were the performances. For the first time, we saw Koel Mullick in a new avatar.
What are your favourite Srijit Mukherji movies? Do let me know in comments.
I had rated Rajkahini on my blog 4/5 stars – the film had moved me, left me in tears as the end credits rolled. So, when I walked into the theatre today to watch Begum Jaan, there was trepidation in my heart. It was almost like I’d be tested as an audience to what extent I can separate the Rajkahini experience from Begum Jaan. Might I say, Srijit Mukherjee made it very easy because the first sequence itself was starkly different from the theatrical adaptation of Manto’s work that Rajkahini began with. I was at ease and for the next 130 odd minutes became a part of the kotha on Indo-Pak border that fought independence for freedom.
While Rajkahini was set in Bengal, Begum Jaan is based in Punjab. Abanindranath Thakur’s Rajkahini played a significant role in the film, specially in the end; here Ila Arun’s character tells stories of feisty daughters of India (which were cleverly depicted by Vidya in the film). While the basic premise of the film remained the same as Rajkahini, there were many changes to the script – some good, some bad. The Connaught Place sequence was a fitting addition to the film. The additional scene between Gulabo-Rubina was emotive. Several characters have been given a closure in the end, another creative input.
Vidya Balan – my favourite actress for the last decade and a half – was originally approached for Rajkahini. I always wondered how different the film would’ve been with her (Rituparna Sengupta gave her career best performance as Begum Jaan, so no comparisons). She steals the show with her bold, gritted, fiery portrayal of the brothel owner who would go to any extent to save her vatan, her kotha.
Rubina (wonderfully portrayed by Joya Ehsan) was my favourite character from Rajkahini who had the most beautiful scene ever written in Bengali cinema in recent times. Gauhar Khan has done justice to the part. Also, the great Naseeruddin Shah gave gravity to a role which was oft not remembered from Rajkahini.
I wish I could say the same for the rest of the supporting cast. The sense of loss and vengeance was missing from Ilias and Srivastava. Even some scenes where half their faces were shown did not aesthetically look as good as they did with Saswata-Kaushik. Their chemistry was somehow lacking. Gulabo was expressionless when confronted with the ultimate betrayal. Chunkey Pandey as Kabir was menacing enough but did not evoke the same horror and hate as Jishu Sengupta did in Rajkahini.
I felt the narrative moved a bit fast, so we could not connect to these characters in totality. The Holi song was completely out of place and the background score did not do justice to several great scenes – like the manhunt in the butchers’ market. However, the climax choked me as usual. ‘Woh subah hum hee se ayegi’ was a great substitute for ‘Bharat Bhagyo Bidhata’ and the visuals would simply stupefy you into a state of forbearance.
And above all, the last visual you take home with you as you walk out after Begum Jaan – that look on Vidya’s face when she closes the door of the kotha, that look of victory but the sense of loss, juxtaposed with the fluttering of the tricolour, will even make a heart of stone let the tears flow.
I had always wondered how would a sequel of Rajkahini be with Buchki (Laadli) in the lead. Begum Jaan has given us a glimpse of it. Begum Jaan and Rajkahini are two different films, for two different audiences. Comparisons would not be fair. Both shine in their own right.
My Rating: 3.5/5 stars
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