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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

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Crocodile tears for Ranaghat nun

candles

In solidarity with Mother Superior from Ranaghat

On Saturday morning – 14 March, 2015 – I was horrified when I received a WhatsApp message from a friend. My faith in humanity was shaken. A 74 year old nun was allegedly gangraped in Nadia district of my state… How beastly can someone’s mentality be to assault a mother! I was moved to tears when next day I read the nun said she forgave the criminals who did it to her. “Forgive them Father, they do not know what they did” said Lord Jesus on the Cross; only someone belonging to the Church could say this for her assaulters.

The incident obviously invited political repercussions across India. BJP, on the backfoot over rising cases of attacks on minorities – specially Christians, was desperate to counter West Bengal government. Without even an iota of evidence, the State President of the party blamed TMC men for the heinous crime. Mamata Di rose to the gravity of the situation, and like a true statesman ordered a CID probe within hours of the incident. She was in constant touch with the Convent while Derek O’Brien was in touch with nuns in Delhi for any assistance.

But the question here is not scoring political brownie points. I would not even be writing this post had the shameless Opposition of Bengal used students as shield to embarrass the CM during her return from Ranaghat on Monday night (this after the Church prevented BJP delegation from meeting the survivor in hospital). BJP’s Sangh affiliate VHP justified the rape and attack on Christians, used abusive analogy with homosexuality to glorify the criminals.

If you open newspapers these days, they all scream about incidents of assault and attack on women. Has the situation in Bengal worsened in the last three years? Or is the media lying? Neither. It is a case of selective reportage. The same media houses which wore a veil when women were violated before 2011 has suddenly found its voice of outrage. The earlier government hardly allowed any dissent to surface; they were quashed locally in party offices. This is the digital age; we live in a free society now – The present government has nothing to hide.

1) No justice has been delivered on the Marijhanpi case in 1977, when thousands of refugee women were brutally raped, murdered and thrown away on the sea by harmads.

2) Remember Bantala, 1990? When Anita Dewan was raped, torch inserted in her private parts by CPM goons, and the Chief Minister Jyoti Basu said, ‘these things happen’.

3) In 1989, Cooch Behar at Fulbari on one single day, 10 Adivasis were raped by CPM harmads and yet no justice to them.

4) The CPM harmads entered Basanti Sonakhali and raped housewives. (1992)

5) Felani Basak, raped and murdered by CPM goons at Nadia in 1992, and no justice to her.

6) At Uday Narayanpur, Howrah, six housewives were raped by CPM goons in 1996. No justice has been delivered.

7) On the infamous Dhantala incident, males in the bus were tired up and CPM goons raped the females in front of them in 2003. And yes, no justice on this too.

8) Has justice being delivered to the brave martyr of Singur, Tapasi Malik, who was raped and murdered in 2006 at the TATA Nano complex, just because she fought for the right for her land?

9) Women who were inhumanly raped by the CPM harmads at Nandigram in 2007 still await justice.

10) Very recently, a 5 year old baby was raped by BJP workers inside the BJP office at Behala. Did Rahul Sinha, Suryakanta Mishra, Adhir Chowdhury ever speak on this issue?

11) One of the Ministers of BJP’s cabinet, Mr Nihal Chand is a rape accused and according to official police record he is absconding. Yet, he continues to attend Parliament and his Ministerial post.

12) BJP is a party, whose MP sat on stage silently while his follower asked the crow to rape the corpses of Muslim women.

13) BJP is the party whose Shakha Sangathans in Sangh Parivar dictate how many kids women should produce.

14) Have we forgotten Bilkis Bano? Have the horror stories of 2002 escaped our minds? The Prime Minister (the CM of Gujarat)’s ministers Babu Bajrangi & Maya Kodnani are out on bail. Have we forgiven them for their heinous crimes?

With such long history of inaction of CPM and the sick mentality of BJP, does it suit them to shed crocodile tears?

 

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