June 6, 2016

Praktan - A different take - Nabojyoti Sarkar


Yes, I am one of those unfortunate Bengalis, who missed last year’s HBFF and hence for the last year or so I have deprived myself from watching Bengali movies on big screen. Also, lack of good torrents essentially meant that during this phase, I have missed out on many good movies in my mother tongue. So when I figured out ‘Praktan’ is releasing in Hyderabad, I was all up for it. Not because of the hyped comeback of one of Bengali movies’ most commercially successful pair of Rituparna-Prasenjit, but simply because of the director duo of Nandita-Shiboprasad. I have been closely following their work since inception; hence the greed to watch another good, heart-warming film from them got the better of me and I headed straight for the theatre. Truth be told, I came out disappointed. I mean, I know about the rave reviews which this movie has been garnering, but personally I had higher expectations from a pair that delivered movies like ‘Iche’, ‘Alik Sukh’ and ‘Belaseshe’. There is not much wrong about the movie so to speak, but it could have been so amazing had they not fallen prey to treating the story as secondary and cast as primary, is what I felt after coming out of the movie theater on a rain drenched night.

The movie revolves around three characters: Prasenjit (a Kolkata city guide, who takes pride in reliving the city through his walks), his ex-wife Rituparna (a renovation architect, who takes pride in reviving old buildings) and his current wife Aparajita Addho (a housewife, who takes pride in having a perfect family life). The storyline revolves around how mundane lives and failure to meet each other’s expectations creates distances between partners which eventually leads to separation. All these reasons get enhanced by our personal egos and inability to handle failure, which both Rituparna and Prasenjit portrayed well. Having a bit of history between them, it must have helped these two veterans to do justice to the role. But then, have they done justice to it? I will talk about that in a while. The second element of the movie is Aparajita, whom Prasenjit married after separating from his first wife and with whom he has a cute daughter. Rituparna and Aparajita accidentally meet each other during a train journey unaware of their common thread, which is Prasenjit, who also joins them after sometime. So what happens in that train ride, and how people react to past, how people accept their present is the basic premise of this two hour long flick. I will not go any further with the story, but talk about few things which I liked and disliked.

Positives first- one key high point of the movie is its songs. Yes, the movie has couple of excellent songs which could be heard again and again. I have heard “Tumi Jake Bhalobasho” in loop for couple of days and every time I liked it. Great lyrics and an absolutely delightful rendition. Although I like the female version sung by Iman more. Secondly, the Kolkata kaleidoscope which the film has captured so well got me walking down those nostalgic roads throughout the movie. Also, I am a huge train journey fan and I have so many amazing personal memories pertaining to the same. Hence I can’t thank enough the makers of the movie for those great train shots. Thirdly, the basic storyline-it had enough merit to keep viewers hooked on for the entire span of the movie. It also used Tagore’s “Hotath Dekha” brilliantly, which scaled new heights when rendered in Soumitra’s deep baritone voice. This Tagore classic is actually the basic premise of the film. The way the movie was concluded was realistic and non-poetic, which I loved. Although, I am a big fan of romanticism but the lifelike conclusion was a thumbs up for me. Finally, the acting of Aparajita. It was so refreshing. She was brilliantly natural and seamlessly pulled off the role of a boring, at times annoying, housewife with great competence. Watch out for her in the movie. Overall it is a smart, well-made movie.

Okay, so now let’s talk about few things due to which I failed to extol the virtues of the film. One big failure of the movie was its inability to establish the key plot of the movie-as to what led to the fallout between Rituparna and Prasenjit. That to me was one area which wasn’t treated as well as it should have been. Yes, there were instances where the reasons came out well, but I was expecting a more rounded off and comprehensive exfoliation. Instead of swaying away with the multiple unnecessary and half-baked subplots, the director duo should have given more attention to the separation. Maybe it would have made the movie a little one-dimensional, due to which the treatment has been made the way it is, but that shouldn’t be the reason for neglecting the basic plot. To me, that part of the story demanded further clarity and could have been a far better and compact movie, had the length been reduced by another 30 odd minutes. The introduction of characters, especially Biswanath and Manali was absolutely unnecessary and irritating at times. I can’t criticize much about Soumitra and Sabitri, mainly due to their vintage credentials but as characters they were not adding any value to the movie, except for Soumitra’s recital of ‘Hotath Dekha”, which could have been done even without adding him as a character. And then there was the whole gang of singers including Anindya (Chandrabindoo), Upal (Chandrabindoo), Soumitra (Bhoomi) and Anupam Roy. What was appalling to see was that they were mainly added in the movie to play a round of lengthy and again expendable Antakshari; such a waste of precious screen time, which could have been otherwise used well to add premium to the movie. I loved how a music band was used in “Life in a Metro” to progress the story, but here all these stalwarts of Bengali music industry were not only underutilized, but unutilized to epic proportions. Finally, the biggest reason which left a lingering unpleasant aftertaste: extremely over-the-top acting by Rituparna. She forgot that it’s not a commercial flick and kept acting just like her usual random movies. So much so that at times you will feel like saying “Tumse na ho payega”. Nonetheless, she also had her moments of brilliance especially when she used nonverbal gestures. Prasenjit had been Bengali movie industry’s biggest surprise so far, after Srijit rediscovered the true potential of this man. Even he was over acting at times and didn’t look at all natural. For a layered love story involving convoluted relationships, my only demand from the movie is seamless acting, else the soul of the movie dies thousand deaths. That’s exactly what happened with this one.

Final words: A movie which had all the potential of becoming a classic, will remain as an average movie, all thanks to some mediocre acting and inability to prioritize which part of the story deserves center stage.

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