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
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“Your Honour, as my first witness, I would like call to the witness box, a dead body”
And thus began a court case, which ran for 16 years, and etched its place in history for the astonishing absurdity of its premise. The famed Bhawal Sanyasi court case, as documented in academician Partha Chatterjee’s book “A Princely Imposter?” is transformed into a saga of grandeur, love, betrayal and spirituality by Srijit Mukherjee, as Jisshu U Sengupta delivers his career-best performance as the ascetic king, who fought for his identity.
Any Bengali, worth his salt, would have heard about the infamous Bhawal case while growing up. Srijit Mukherjee in his adaptation, has named the estate ‘Bikrampur’ instead. Mahendra Kumar Choudhuri, the middle prince of the estate, was a man who lived two lives (in his own words) – one who lived a life of lascivious luxury on one hand and played the part of guardian angel for his subjects on the other. He was affected by syphilis and was taken to Darjeeling for treatment along with his wife, Chandrabati Devi, brother-in-law, Satya, and a family doctor, Ashwini. He apparently died in Darjeeling and was cremated there as well. After 12 years, a Sanyasi shows up at the estate, arousing people’s curiosity and leading to a rumour that he is the lost prince of the Bikrampur Estate. What follows is a 16 year long case, which is the foundation of this grand saga.
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. “Esho Hey” remains the lingering theme throughout the film, and the mesmerising use of the classical instruments keeps the tune lingering in your ears for hours ever since.
Srijit Mukherjee deserves a huge praise for the intricate detailing that’s gone into designing each frame. The aura of erstwhile Bengali Zamindari household has been brought to life with elan. The accent (coached by Jaya Ahsan) did not seem forced, and gave the film a touch of incredulous realism. The production design is top-notch; a production of this scale was unprecedented in Bengali cinema. One must commend SVF for believing in this film.
What makes Srijit Da endearing to his fans is his intelligent writing – and he doesn’t disappoint in this magnum opus either. Agreed, the film does not have a lot of witty one-liners, or abstract references to other literature or films, like his other works. But, it connects directly your heart, with its captivating narration. Truth, they say is stranger than fiction. And in this case, there are many layers to it, which make this court case no less than a thrilling adventure in the Himalayas.
It goes without saying that such a majestic premise would require actors of repute for cementing the rock-solid foundation. As I mentioned earlier, Jisshu Sengupta as the prince, fills the screen with such an aura that you cannot take eyes away from him. Anirban Bhattacharya, as his scheming brother-in-law puts up a splendid performance, which makes him endearing to the core. Jaya Ahsan, as Mrinmayi Devi, the prince’s favourite sister, steals the show with her effortless, emphatic performance.
Among the notable others, are the lawyer duo, Anjan Dutt and Aparna Sen, who add life to the courtroom with their spirited debates; they have a backstory too. Going beyond the case of identity of the Mahendra Choudhuri, they fight their own battles in the courtroom – one of nationalistic pride against British rule, and another against the patriarchal foundation of the society. The two women in the prince’s life – his wronged and neglected wife Chandrabati (Rajnandini Paul) and the courtesan Kadambini (Sreenanda Shankar) essay their parts to perfection. Rudranil Ghosh, as the doctor, had a pivotal presence throughout.
Ek Je Chhilo Raja, is different from Srijit Mukherjee’s other films, but also bears his signature style of filmmaking throughout. Undoubtedly, among his best five works till date, the film provokes you into introspection. It works because, at heart, it bears allegiance to a prophetic dialogue from Srijit Da’s last film – “Golpo ta bole jete hobe. Ekjon dorshoker jonyo holeo bolte hobe. Golpo bolai amader kaaj.”
My Rating: 4/5 stars
DISCLAIMER: ALL IMAGES USED IN THIS POST HAVE THEIR RESPECTIVE COPYRIGHTS