I had ended my review of ‘Ebar Shabor’ with the lines, “Looking forward to more adventures of Shabor Dasgupta – the sleuth with a heart – in years to come”. Needless to say, Arindam Sil has recreated the magic of Shabor Dasgupta in his second adventure ‘Eagoler Chokh’ (Eye of the Eagle). Shabor is truly the ‘Sleuth of the Year’. Crisp, witty, sharp – the murder mystery will keep you the edge till the end.
By now, any fan of Bengali sleuth flicks would know what a powerhouse of talent Arindam Sil is. Razor-sharp writing, screenplay that keeps the thrill intact throughout the movie, performances to die for and haunting score, the second installment of Shabor series gets full marks in every quarter. Shabor Dasgupta was a welcome break from the tonnes of Feluda and Byomkesh films, and the freshness of the flavour is intact in this film too.
‘Eagoler Chokh’ picks up the strings where ‘Ebar Shabor’ left them – right from the chase sequence in the beginning to the indomitable style of Shabor’s problem-solving, the director has recreated the magic of the first film. But Shabor is riddled with an overbearing guilt in his heart. He is constantly at war with his subconscious self; Sil’s treatment of Shabor’s mental feuds has been splendid throughout. In the middle of this tussle, he is drawn into a murder mystery.
‘Eagoler Chokh’ is much more than a who-dun-it thriller. It delves into the psyche of people, the deep layers of human thought process, tries to analyse how the mind works. That is why we empathise with Bishan Roy (played to perfection by Anirban Bhattacharya) who has a charm that attracts women towards him – despite being told he turns into an animal in the company of women.
Bishan has many women in his life – his wife Shivangi, with whom he does not even share a room. Shivangi’s friend-cum-business-partner Nandini lives with them and has tried to seduce Bishan on several occasions. There is a teenage girl Janhabi in the flat too. And there are dark secrets of the past, which open a can of worms when revealed.
A cerebral thriller would fall flat without performances up to the mark; in this regard all actors pass with flying colours. Saswata Chatterjee easily fits into the skin of any character, Shabor being no exception. On one hand he is an emotionless sleuth whose only job is to bring crooks to justice. On the other hand he is empathetic to Bishan, who is coping with a mental conflict like him.
Essaying Bishan’s character is not easy – essaying the nuances of psychotic stress can often become melodramatic. Anirban Bhattacharya easily jumps from blank expressions to guilt-ridden self. The other actor who makes this film classier is undoubtedly Joya Ahsan. The way she emotes with her eyes is a lesson for upcoming actors.
Calcutta too is a character in the film. It seems every location of the shoot had been selected after much deliberation. From the small eatery where Shabor and his assistant have dinner to the ghats of Ganga, Soumik Halder’s camera work breathes life into the city. Like the different layers of human psyche, we are introduced to the various underbellies of our own city like never before.
The captain of the ship definitely deserves a big ‘thank you’ from the Bengali film audience for bringing the thrill back to the theatres. He has dealt with a subject so delicate with extreme finesse. He gives us the ‘bird’s eye view’ of a crime on a canvas splattered with shades of grey.
‘Eagoler Chokh’ gives us hope that Shabor Dasgupta will help us understand our society better in the future offerings too.
My Rating: 4/5 stars
DISCLAIMER: All Images Used In This Post Have Their Respective Copyrights
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.