The inner workings of the cinematic medium and its relationship with the human material that it uses as its subject create two new films-within-plays. Both the Bengali groups, Nandipat and Ensemble, revisit performance processes that have engaged them in the past.
Nandipat’s Prokash Bhattacharya, who actively helps theatre personnel in distress and has directed drama about indigent Jatra stars before, takes up another one, Tirthankar Chanda’s Ābritta. An old Jatra actor and his wife live in trying urban conditions with a young woman and man from the same village. The apparent tension within this “family” seems mysterious, which unravels when a film unit desperately seeking fresh content finds the actor’s story worth recording.
One can defend the maudlin emoting by arguing that, after all, it epitomizes the style of Jatra. Interestingly, the crew cannot get the protagonist (Biplab Naha Biswas, lost in his memories) to perform the way they expect on camera. As the “daughter”, Sanjita seethes with resentment, while Sarbani Bhattacharya and Avijit Sarkar function as the binding agents. The foursome embody a Pirandellian familial unity and strength rejecting the crew’s ignorance and exploitative superficiality.
Sohag Sen composes a novel concept for Ensemble’s Chhoto Chhabi – a wannabe filmmaker must complete four shorts for a festival deadline, having just got the funds from a producer. The production shows us the making of three, and the fourth as a finished video that highlights the sacrifice of artistic integrity to the producer’s whims. The theme of loneliness leads to rather cliched scenarios, and the brevity prevents their development. In the piece where a callous son cancels the plan to fly his father out to join him, I don’t understand why he couldn’t phone before the father reached the airport.
The various cameos oscillate wildly, from Sujoy Prosad Chatterjee’s exceptional characterization of the producer who insists on debuting as actor and plays the part of a busy father perfectly (but surely a first-timer on the set should not outshine all the rest?), to Kaushik Bose’s zero chemistry with Monalisa Chatterjee in the video. Sen also exposes some loose direction: no costume changes between shoots on different days, and an indulgent out-of-tune song obviously hiding a scene change.
(From The Times of India, 12 July 2019)