For those who aspire to write popular domestic drama, the recipe doesn’t demand much. Just get the main characters into various crises as follows:
1) an elderly parent in poor health (a sure-fire beginning)
2) the former’s adult child, stressed out filially and professionally (a double whammy)
3) discord in said person’s marriage, on the verge of divorce
4) a virtuous but needy and helpless young woman who suffers major trauma
5) said woman’s violent and drunkard husband
6) said husband framing an innocent for financial gain
7) stir well, then strain out all obstacles for a happy resolution.
Ujjwal Chattopadhyay checks all these boxes facilely in Sayak’s Ātmajan, directed by Meghnad Bhattacharya. But their partnership produced its best melodrama some years ago in Dhrubatārā, which Ātmajan cannot measure up to. One of the biggest negatives is that the hero (item 2 above) never apologizes to his wife for his callous behaviour, yet she takes him back. The essential plot ingredient of tight construction goes for a toss when Chattopadhyay inserts irrelevant scenes in a teashop outside the lawcourt involving a couple, and a lawyer with an impoverished client. In language, too, it came as an unpleasant surprise that Chattopadhyay uses “Chandal” twice, inappropriately in the idiom chandāl rāg, or ferocious temper, and elsewhere raising derogatory associations.
Biswanath Roy’s acting as the old father is the saving grace with its sad comedy. His dementia has gone so far that he forgets even his surname sometimes, but he remembers his career as a school principal, reprimanding his son to “stand up on the bench!” As his nurse (number 4 on the list), Indrajita Chakraborty performs most convincingly.
We look forward to the more memorable productions that only Meghnad Bhattacharya can deliver.