ADRISHYAM | BANDISH

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Romantic comedy does not find too many takers in Bengali theatre, which prides itself in its social commitment. So the occasional such forays stand out by virtue of diversion from the norm. Two currently running examples begin in a frivolous vein that keeps us laughing, but eventually we realize that their premises lie in highly topical changes in contemporary society.

Durgadas Smriti Sangha’s Adrishyam, written by Ujjwal Chattopadhyay, focuses on an apparently cheerful but actually downcast homemaker who has no life other than managing the household according to the needs of her matter-of-fact and thrifty lawyer husband, and their teenage daughter. Her impulsive purchase of that magical but now ubiquitous device, a smartphone, alters everything. Overnight in selfie-land, she starts to reconnect with people in her past, much to her husband’s dislike. Unfortunately, Chattopadhyay names these arrivals schematically (Se, Swapnakumar, Jagarankumar, Shiharankumar), which simplifies the ensuing complications. Nevertheless, the liberating benefits of modern technology cannot be denied.

Nandini Bhowmik shines in the lead, with Kamal Chattopadhyay opposite her. Prokash Bhattacharya capitalizes on the latter’s prowess as every Bengali director’s first choice for a comic character, but Kamal should now try to break free of the shackles of this typecasting by politely declining, and scouting for more challenging, serious roles. Only establishing that kind of range can enshrine him in the acting pantheon.

Naba Ajantik’s Bandish, written by Banaphul Ahmed and directed by Prasenjit Das, displays an intriguing logo: Ba in Devanagari, ndi in Bengali, and sh in English. Interchanging the scripts of the first two would convey perfectly the BAngla-HiNDI-EngliSH pidgin that Ahmed pokes fun at. While acknowledging this khichuri that has become Kolkata’s lingua franca, which adversely affects chaste bhāsha, we must also warn that no attempt to protect linguistic purity has ever succeeded, that it can degenerate into linguistic fundamentalism, and that all languages develop through miscegenation. Bengali itself illustrates this, with its substantial Islamic vocabulary.

Bandish features a Bengali teacher, depicted by Subhendu Ray with suitable conservatism, who insists on marrying his daughter (who has a secret boyfriend) only to a man who knows impeccable Bengali. A tricky disguise wins the day. Post-wedding, the thought-provoking last scene redeems what otherwise proceeded like any funny conventional plot of father opposed to young lovers.

(From The Telegraph, 20 August 2016)