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Movie Review – Vinci Da by Srijit Mukherji

 

The Übermensch (meaning super-human) is a concept developed by philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. In his book ‘Thus Spake Zaruthastra’ Nietzsche describes how God is dead and it is up to the Übermensch to set the world in order, for a better future. Srijit Mukherji borrows this concept in his latest venture ‘Vinci Da’ – a psychological thriller that questions the very concept of what is good and evil.

Vinci Da is the story of a mentally-deranged man Adi Bose, who considers himself Nietzsche’s Übermensch. A ‘lawyer’ by choice, Adi had a troubled childhood (having murdered his own father, just half an hour before turning 18; thus avoiding capital punishment) – more of that later. Adi Bose is law unto himself, who does not care about a few ‘collateral damages’ in this war against law-breakers who escape justice because of the corrupt system.

To bring his ‘noble cause’ to fruition, Adi Bose hires the services of a prosthetics make-up artist in Tollywood – Vinci Da. A Leonardo Da Vinci fanatic, Vinci Da finds it hard to find work in Tolly-para because of his uprightness and refusal to budge from the righteous stand. Inadvertently, his artistic acumen suffers as he is forced to earn a livelihood by working for local drama companies. It is not a surprise that he laps up the proposal of a challenging work from Adi Bose, which will demonstrate to the world the wonders he has up his sleeves.

What follows is an intense Ken and Abel-esque clash between two ideas. Vinci Da is torn between his artistic enterprises and the hapless suffering the innocent ‘collaterals’ have to bear. Adi Bose, on the other hand, metamorphoses from the vigilante who wants to rid the society from law-breakers into a shrewd, manipulative, power-hungry villain who would stop at nothing. In signature-Srijit Mukherji style, the duel enters the final act with a bang and curtains fall with a dramatic twist. Fate has the artist imprisoned in his own work.

‘Vinci Da’ may not be Srijit Mukherji’s best work, but surely is among the front-runners to qualify as his best five films. With power-packed performances by the two leading actors, hard-hitting dialogues (a forte of Srijit Mukherji), spellbinding art direction, foot-tapping music by Anupam Roy and the brilliant use of lighting in some scenes, Vinci Da easily makes an impact. The chemistry that Ritwick Chakraborty (Adi Bose) and Rudranil Ghosh (Vinci Da) share would remind one of Feluda and Maganlal Meghraj.

There are scenes in the film, which stay with you. The dream sequence where Leonardo Da Vinci is painting Mona Lisa – with Rudranil and Sohini’s voiceovers, or the sequence before the interval where Adi Bose demolishes Vinci Da’s reverence from Da Vinci, are truly of international standards. And then, there is the gruesome murder sequence in the beginning of the film. Riddhi Sen hits the ball out of the stadium as young Adi Bose.

Alas, after all the memes and videos on DCDD Poddar, one had to satisfy themselves with a scene or two of the enigmatic character – forever in pursuit of Bose and Vinci Da. Even in his short presence on screen, Anirban Bhattacharya is a beacon that shines bright. As does Sohini Sarkar as Vinci Da’s love interest, and a pivotal character who significantly influences the game of nerves between Adi Bose and Vinci Da. The hasty climax and jarring background score in some scenes are the only sore-points in an otherwise Srijit-esque thriller.

As I had said in my immediate reaction on Facebook after watching the film, Vinci Da is more psychological than thriller. The film provokes you to think and question your belief-systems. Notwithstanding Nietzsche and Übermensch, Vinci Da is also a socio-political commentary on the daily mockery of democracy in our country, that has become the mainstay.

May be, our very own Übermensch will rise from within.

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

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

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Rebuttal to Rajkahini review on Bangla Live

The problem with a class of Bengalis is the blatant intellectual snobbery, the condescending attitude that they know more than the rest, that they are superior. Clearly they have not heard how knowledge brings with it a sense of humility. These select few are so accustomed to living in their bubble of ‘know-it-all’ that they sacrifice their creative side at the alter of ego. This exactly is the case with the writer of a review of the film ‘Rajkahini’ on a website called ‘Bangla Live’.

Criticism is always healthy but to tom-tom a ‘holier-than-thou’ air and scathingly pour out “emotions” for having watched the film sitting on the stairs of the theatre is taking things a bit too far. A not-very-fine line separates the personal from professional, the Bangla Live review was much of the former; it was evident.

In the very beginning the writer makes the assumption that most viewers of the film may not be very “knowledgeable” and only few “learned” people (like him, of course) would be privy to the fact that the opening sequence of the film was “ripped off” from a Manto story. Clearly, he does not have the patience to read the opening credits where the director clearly outlined the sequence was an adaptation of “Khol Do”. In fact, Manto’s name figured in the list of acknowledgements too.

He also has a problem with the portrayal of the prostitutes. Too elitist and classy, he thinks. Of course, why not. Brothels have to be like Sonagachhi – delinquent, dark, dingy, dirty. How dare a lady who was raised in Bengal and became a kothewali in Lucknow speak Urdu interspersed with Bangla (with north Indian accent)? How can a prostitute trained in Lucknow have class? How dare prostitutes have fair skin?!

The third problem the knowledgeable reviewer had with the film was the overt depiction of sexuality. Clearly, Srijit Mukherjee is at fault here. How dare Mr Director think that he can depict the sexual desires of women? Women can NOT have any desire. They must only serve. That too prostitutes? How dare they. They must only sell their bodies in lieu of money. Women do NOT masturbate; it is the fiefdom of men. To even suggest they do is sacrilege.

Might I add here the bone of contention – lesbian relationship. Even another friend of mine said it was useless sub-plot that was left in the cold. While I agree the relationship had enormous scope, it was not justified on screen. But useless? No. This film is all about people in minority. Fringe. ‘Prantik manush’ as I understand it. The lesbian love is symbolic. People of all castes, creed, sexuality were affected by partition and everyone’s story needed to be told.

Then there was reference to a scene (which was one of my favourites in the film) between Zoya Ahsan and Rudranil Ghosh. He thought it was useless sexualisation of women. I thought it was oft-told tragedy of women with a touch of empathy. There lies difference of opinion. Despite having limited knowledge of film craft, I loved the sequence for its camera angles, use of colours, the setting and above all the heart-wrenching performances.

The reviewer also wondered why Rudranil’s cremation was shot on a huge rock in the middle of the river, so away from the kotha… Agree. But then, what if Rubina wanted Sujan’s last rites to be held at the spot where they spent many afternoons in each other’s company?

Having said that, the knowledgeable reviewer did point out some minor inconsistencies. Like the setting. Haldibari is not arid and neither does it have hillocks as shown in the film. But to discredit an entire narrative for this flaw? I would not do so. There was no continuity in the scenes between Mountbatten and Radcliffe. But then again, these are minor aberrations – highlighting these would be missing the larger picture.

The chase sequence at the butcher market also raised eyebrows. Why were carcasses and goat meat hanging in the middle of night in a closed market? I had the same question. The most logical explanation to me was they were metaphorical to make the tragedy that was about to unfold even more gruesome! In a way those carcasses depict how mercilessly butchers slice innocent animals, just like Kabir was about to do with Sujan.

Finally the burning question – how a bunch of prostitutes who were the champions of feminism throughout the film decided to perform Jauhar in the end. I was perplexed. The look on Begum Jaan’s face as she shut the door of the kotha was that of pride and victory. Feminism had won. Where is the paradox? Begum Jaan or her girls did not surrender to the enemy. They breathed their last in the very house they fought for. Again, Aban Thakur’s Rajkahini was a metaphor here. What perturbed me was that Thamma was alive and well to read passages from a book as fire raged on. But then, cinema is all about taking liberties.

In the end, my humble submission to everyone who reads this piece would be to learn more about film craft, definitely. Yours truly himself loves reading. But never let your knowledge get the better of you. Debate, discuss, deliberate. Never condescend. Comprehend, instead. Filmmaking after all is a director’s personal art. You may have different ideas but that does not necessitate spewing canards.

Thus, when the reviewer on Bangla Live contends Rajkahini is Srijit Mukherjee’s “nikrishto tomo” film, I object. In terms of scope, subject, writing and overall performances, the growth of Srijit Da as a director was evident. A film of this scale needed to be made in Bengal. This story needed to be told.

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