Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury aka Tony Chowdhury made his transition to feature films from the world of ad films. With his first two films-Anuranan and Antaheen, Aniruddha has already indicated the kind of films he’s comfortable making. One might appreciate or have problems with both Anuranan and Antaheen but one cannot help but notice that certain patterns are very clear from these 2 films. Both the films try to cater to the educated and cosmopolitan Bengali viewers and they certainly do include well known actors as well. The aim is to try to do films that convey something interesting moving away from the hustle & bustle of the formula films while still firmly maintaining a firm foot within the commercial framework.
Aparajita Tumi that made it to the theatres last Friday (20th January, 2012) is Aniruddha’s third film and for some reason has taken a bit of time to finally release. From the time the film’s promo and the songs were out I was quite curious to check out the film. For one the film’s casting seemed to look fresh and interesting. A star cast that comprises of names like Prosenjit, Padmapriya, Kamalinee Mukherjee, Chandan Roy Sanyal and Indraneil Sengupta would make any director feel proud. Kamalinee Mukherjee and Padmapriya have already been noticed mainly due to their films in South India and make their Bengali debut with Aparajita Tumi. While Chandan Roy Sanyal has worked in Bengali Cinema, he’s been more prevalent in Hindi Cinema. Also apart from the choice of actors the other thing that impressed me about the project was that it was based on a literary work, Sunil Gangopadhyay’s novel ‘ Dui Nari Hate Tarabari ‘.
Completely based in the U.S.A, the film starts with us looking at Kuhu (Padmapriya) and Pradeep (Prosenjit) having their dinner. Just as it looks like any other dinner situation, Pradeep tries to make a confession which leaves Kuhu shattered. Kuhu moves to her parent’s place with their kids and eventually leaves the kids there for a while before going on to spend some time by herself in her uncle’s apartment that’s lying unused. The story then keeps moving back & forth in time, so that we get to figure out what went wrong between Kuhu and Pradeep. We are also introduced to another couple-Ushashi (Kamalinee Mukherjee) and Ronojoy (Chandan Roy Sanyal) who are friends of Kuhu and Pradeep. Due to some unexpected turn of events the lives of all these 4 characters get intertwined and we the audience, remain charged up as spectators in this interesting tale of relationships.
Similar to Aniruddha’s previous films the characters remain grounded, there are no flashy dialogues and a lot of emotions are conveyed sometimes through silence or mere expressions. Quite a few things catch our attention over here. Like for example the way the Bengali community in the U.S remains by& large a closely knit community as seen by the way almost everyone seems to know the other. Today not many of us even in Kolkata probably may maintain close ties with someone in Dhaka but out there in the U.S Bangladeshi’s are seen as part of the extended family by the Bengali Indians. There’s also a kind of social commentary visible in the film as it looks like people who are probably out there in the U.S might be doing well professionally as that’s the reason why they might have moved there in the first place. But is everything fine with them otherwise is a question that’s best answered by the people concerned themselves. This is inferred by what you make out from the personal lives of all the people you see in the movie.
Another interesting aspect of the film is that while the U.S is increasingly familiar to us through umpteen Indian films being shot over there, Aparajita Tumi tries to be really different. While there are shots of cities like Miami, San Fransico, New York etc, there is an attempt to capture these cities in a hitherto unexplored manner. And more than the parts shot against urban landscapes it’s the outdoors that really impress. The outdoor locales are certainly inspiring and the contrast is stark, almost deliberate keeping the requirement of the plot. Indrani Mukherjee’s work with production design probably has played a good role in this aspect and it works. Ranjan Palit’s cinematography also makes the visuals look impressive whether it be the outdoors or the soft interiors.
The turnaround in the film (though you may not realize it while watching it) incidentally comes in the form of a party where the veteran actor Soumitra Chatterjee makes his presence felt. Soumitra plays himself and it’s amusing to see the people in the party ask him questions like how was the experience of working with Satyajit Ray, Madhabi Mukherjee etc; it also makes you wonder initially as to why the sequence was all that necessary. Post watching the movie and having read Aniruddha’s take on the entire story is why I now realize the importance of the entire sequence.
The music by Shantanu Moitra is another strong point about the film. The songs are pleasing to the ears, the lyrics by Anindya Chattopadhyay and Chadranil Bhattacharya are contemporary and you almost feel like singing along when you hear them. If ‘Bola Baron’ sung by Anindya Chattopadhyay and Shantanu Moitra has strains of rock and compliments the mood of the scene when it appears in the film, ‘Brishti Biday’ sung by Shreya Ghoshal and ‘Roopkathara’ ( male version- Rupankar Bagchi and female version- Shreya Ghoshal ) are soothing ballads.
Talking about performances Padmapriya does more than justice to the character of Kuhu, a role that gives her a lot of scope to perform and not fall under any stereotype. Kamalinee Mukherjee looks gorgeous as Ushashi and that itself is half a victory as the role demands sensuality without being showy. Chandan Roy Sanyal as Ronojoy is efficient but sadly the character seems to be slightly one-dimensional & hence doesn’t reach out to us much.Indraneil Sengupta as Yusuf, the Bangladeshi former lover of Kuhu fits the bill. Prosenjit as Pradeep is simply wonderful. As the husband and father of two kids and as someone who feels different from his wife on a lot of things, he’s convincing. Also as the person who kind of caves in to his desires, he shows extreme vulnerability and he pulls it off without too much of exaggeration. In fact it’s really heartening to see such a big star play a slightly subdued role and allow the women in the film to hog the limelight.
There is a strong sexual undercurrent throughout the film but then its shown in a very aesthetic fashion and there’s nothing for mere titillation. Having said all this I do wonder why there wasn’t any attempt to explore the relationships between Kuhu and Pradeep and Ushashi and Ronojoy a little more in depth. What we see in the film is a stage that all 4 of them have reached in their respective relationships and it would have also been good to know the course of how it all emerged. That would have made the overall construct even more enjoyable. As you leave from the screening you may be happy, unhappy or plainly disappointed but much later if it makes you think about the plot or the characters like it has been in my case, then it must certainly be heartening for Aniruddha and his team.