Whenever a long standing relationship breaks down we often tend to take sides, suggesting that it is probably one individual who is at fault. And if the relationship happens to involve a married couple, it is no surprise to see the relationship falling apart from time to time. Irrespective of whether it is a love marriage or an arranged marriage, there is definitely a good possibility of the relationship developing cracks at a point of time, for reasons which could even be extremely trivial at times. Quite often people say that when a marriage fails it could be due to the lack of love and understanding between the couple. Well it could be true indeed, but by and large there are also situations when sometimes there is no acrimony between the couple, yet they drift apart or want to be on their own after a point. Now imagine if this was to happen in case of a couple who have been married to each other for years and who now have an extended family of their own.
Writer-director duo Nandita Roy and Shiboprasad Mukherjee started making feature films as recently as 2011, with the now popular film Icche being their first venture. However in a matter of just 4 years they have gone on to make 5 other films and now they seem to have hit the jackpot with Bela Seshe (At the end of the day), their 7th feature film overall. Released in West Bengal on 1st May this year, the film is being critically acclaimed and is a big commercial success as well. Still playing in theatres in West Bengal, Bela Seshe has now gone on to be released by Eros International in prominent cities across India from 26th June. When I heard of its National release a few weeks ago, I was quite taken aback to hear of the kind of response that the film had been receiving back in W.Bengal, but one look at the trailer and I realized that the film seemed to exude a sense of warmth. Now that I’ve seen the film I am not surprised regarding the success of the film, more on that later.
Bela Seshe is a tale that is focused upon Biswanath Majumdar (Soumitra Chatterjee) and his wife of 49 years, Aarti Majumdar (Swatilekha Sengupta). Biswanath has been running a successful publishing house and book store for a long time now, a business where his son is likely to succeed him. One fine day during the annual Puja festivities as the whole family has gathered at the behest of Biswanath, things take a dramatic turn in the form of a decision that Biswanath informs the family. Biswanath shocks his entire family comprising of son Barin (Shankar Chakraborty) and daughter-in-law Sharmishta (Indrani Dutta), his three daughters Mili (Rituparna Sengupta), Buri (Aparajita Auddy) and Piu (Monami Ghosh) along with their respective husbands (Sujoy Prasad Chatterjee, Kharaj Mukherjee, Anindya Chatterjee) when he announces that he wants to divorce his wife Aarti. The rest of the tale is all about the emotional journey of re-discovering the institution of marriage.
Nandita Roy and Shiboprasad Mukherjee waste no time in setting up the base, we are given a quick introduction into the lives of the main characters and very quickly the angle of divorce is touched upon. But unlike most films around family discord here there is no hatred or bitterness between Biswanath and Aarti, in fact it takes time for Aarti to understand that Biswanath is serious about wanting to separate from her and going on his own path. The children are visibly upset, especially Mili who is furious with her dad for letting her mother down. But while Biswanath is open to admit that he is unhappy being in the relationship, he does not blame Aarti for the same. He also admonishes Mili by saying she shouldn’t question him when she herself believes in being independent and isn’t very open with her husband. It is but natural that the family members are not just shocked but also curious to know what could have caused Biswanath to behave like this all of a sudden.
Bela Seshe makes us question ourselves on various aspects; does age have any bearing on romance? When a relationship grows in terms of period, how does one enable there is growth in terms of warmth and affection as well? Why communication is so very important in every single relationship and what does one do to improve it? Is there a place for ego and self-respect beyond a point in a relationship? Well one can go on and on as there are a number of layers that the film manages to touch upon and quite effectively at that. It is also encouraging to see that the film doesn’t come across as preachy despite the distinct possibility of heading that way. Despite the serious nature of the film there is a lot of subtle humour which goes well with the flow of the film and full credit to Kharaj Mukherjee who plays Jyotirmay, the eldest son-in-law of the house with a lot of flair and gusto.
Be it in the scene where he is trying to question Biswanath during his morning walk, or his interactions with his wife Buri or the scene when he along with the other brother-in-laws tries to make their family caretaker intoxicated in an order to know Biswanath’s ‘secret’, Kharaj as Jyotirmay excels and makes us laugh without doing anything outlandish. While there is definitely more than a hint of emotional drama in the tale, considering the nature of the plot there was a lot of scope for forced melodrama but thankfully Nandita and Shiboprasad do well to steer the film clear of it. Apart from the humour laden portions, there are some other well written moments as well which make the film stand out. The entire court room scene where the judge (Barun Chanda) turns out to be so humane and sensible is a treat to watch. Needless to say the scenes between Biswanath and Aarti are also interesting, take for example Biswanath being surprised to realize she is a huge Uttam Kumar fan, he goes on to make a self-reference by asking if she doesn’t like Soumitra Chatterjee.
The film also benefits from some well written characters, thankfully none of the family members are perfect individuals, all of them have their problems, yet within the family there is genuine bonding. Among the family members Kharaj Mukherjee and Rituparna Sengupta (one of the rare actors who will probably never age 🙂 ) leave a good impact, aided very well by the others. Soumitra and Swatilekha not just evoke nostalgia (they featured in Satyajit Ray’s Ghare Bhaire, way back in 1985), but actually complement each other extremely well. Both play characters which are opposite to each other, but in a way their lives are completely dependent on each other. It is indeed a masterstroke on behalf of Nandita and Shiboprasad to rope them in the film. The music by Anupam Roy and Anindya Chatterjee is quite effective, the songs and the BGM suiting the mood of the film. Bela Seshe is not just about the relationship between Biswanath and Majumdar, it is also about the relationships of four other couples in the family, all of whom receive something as a takeaway eventually.
Bela Seshe ultimately is a good example of how a film can be made without any typical formulaic elements and yes it also reinforces the fact that romance was, is and will always be evergreen. Well done Nandita and Shiboprasad, the film deserves all its success.
Here’s the trailer of the film
Note-While the film is supposed to be playing with English subtitles (as advertised) outside West Bengal, there were no subtitles at Fun Cinemas, Chembur (Mumbai) where I saw the movie.