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Web Series Review – REKKA

Femme Fatale – the phrase that strikes your mind after watching ‘Rabindranath Ekhane Kawkhano Khete Asenni’.

Mushkan Zuveri, the enigmatic, mysterious, esoteric protagonist of the novel by Md Nazimuddin, comes alive on screen. Azmeri Haque Badhon portrays Mushkan with élan, as if the character was penned for her to play. The owner of a restaurant in a quaint town of Sundarpur, she is known for (in)famous for her cooking skills. But she has more cards up her sleeves, than meets the eye. Investigator Nirupam Chanda’s (Nure Chhafa in the original) arrival in this small town ruffles up feathers and sets in motion incidents that disturb the ‘beauty’ of the idyllic suburb.

Whether you’ve read the original novel or not, you’d be hooked to this web-series directed by Srijit Mukherji from the word go. He has not only breathed life into the characters created by Mohd Nazimuddin, but made them his own, by adding the little eccentricities, and smart one-liners. To distil 400-odd pages of written text into nine episodes is no mean feat, but Srijit Da has successfully assimilated the flavour of the original work, with creative licenses of his own, making this a visual treat. Specially the sequence in the flashback, which I do not want to disclose to avoid giving out spoilers, will sicken you to the core – in a good way (such is the brilliance of Srijit Da’s craft).

Talking of visuals, one must acknowledge the brilliant ‘dark’ setting of this series, matching the ‘gothic horror’ theme of the plot. A mysterious lady who lives alone in a mansion, disappearance of male guests at an eatery, graves dug in advance, a pond full of crocodiles, foggy nights and nocturnal truth missions, idiosyncrasies of the police bureaucracy, and an uncomfortable truth at the heart of it all – REKKA makes for a wholesome meal of weekend binge.

Those who make it possible – Azmeri Haque Badhon, Rahul Bose, and Anirban Bhattacharya as Mushkan, Nirupam and Ator Ali respectively, live up to their characters to the T. Sequences where Badhon’s character sings Rabindranath’s songs – as if they were composed for precisely these moments, feel eerily magical, yet horrifying. She has an amicable charm, a fatal attraction in her manner, which makes her so enigmatic and powerful. Badhon carries REKKA on her shoulders with her fluid, natural performance.

Rahul Bose on the other hand is suave, stoic, serious. A departure from the original character in the book, who was more of a ‘gobechara’ officer. The final meeting between Nirupam and Mushkan was no less than David battling Goliath, no prizes for guessing, who took the laurels. Anirban, on the other hand, brings to life Ator Ali – the police informer, with his eccentric shenanigans. Not for a moment does it feel we are watching Anirban act. He embodies Ator Ali to the core.

Although Kharaj Khasnobish doesn’t have much space in REKKA, but in the sequel his character assumes a significant role, so where’s expecting Anjan Dutt to deliver his above-mediocrity level performance, as usual. Anirban Chakraborti, too, delivers as the OC of Sundarpur in his limited capacity in the scheme of things.

The man of the match is obviously Srijit Mukherji. Adapting a literary work is no child’s play, specially since comparisons with the original (damned if you deviate, damned if you don’t) are bound to come up. In REKKA, he has remained true to the text, but made the characters his own baby. More importantly, he has added the essence of Rabindranath, who was missing in the original text (apart from the title).

All I can say after watching REKKA is that it was a Friday well-spent. And I hope to catch the sequel soon. And may be we can actually have Chanchal Chowdhury in the cast (as the influential minister).

My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Movie Review – Dwitiyo Purush by Srijit Mukherji

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.

 

The ensemble

 

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.

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