Review: ACHIN PAKHI – GOOD, BUT PASSE
Achin Pakhi is a 2010 Bengali Language Film By Anjan Das; starring Subrat Dutta and Manali Dey in lead roles. Read the complete critic’s review of Achin Pakhi running in Kolkata Now.
Within the jet-paced life in a metro city, where relationships are created, sustained and destroyed over the cell phone or through the click of a mouse, where live-in relationships are ‘in’, one-night stands are ‘regular’ and casual sex is nothing to scream about, whether a tragic, dated love legend like Achin Pakhi will appeal to the audience is anyone’s guess. Monpura, the Bangladeshi hit from which Anjan Das has been inspired to make the film is not likely to go down well with the young, movie-going crowds in West Bengal. With its fast-rising shopping malls and multiplex theatres screening Bollywood fast flicks like Kaminey and Love Sex aur Dhoka, the story of two innocent, naïve and rustic lovers Achin (Subrat Dutta) and Pakhi (Monali Dey) who are destined to separate can hold little appeal. If the film still gains in popularity and sets the cash boxes jingling away, the credit goes to Anjan Das and his entire team – technical and histrionic.
Das, whose signature lies in his soft-footed approach, low key treatment and subtle romance, carries it over in Achin Pakhi as well though the story belongs to days when we heard stories at our grandparents’ knees. He sticks to the melodramatic story with its characterizations sharply polarized between solid blacks and lily-pure whites, but chooses not to give the subject a melodramatic treatment. Is this possible? To some extent, it is. But it is not possible to tell a loud story in whispering tones. Some notes might get lost among the whispers.
Veteran cinematographer Aseem Bose appropriates the beautiful landscape, set on the Ichamoti River and along its banks, and makes it his own, turning Achin Pakhi more into a cinematographer’s delight than a director’s delight. He keeps to the low key the director demands. His camera caressingly pans across the vast canvas of the river, with its boats and steamers sailing across, at times silently, at times eloquently, bringing in messages of love, exploitation and tragedy to Achin. From the opening frame showing a drenched body lying on a plank on a rainy night, till the very last shot that shows Achin and his boat reduced to a small dot on the rippling waters of the Ichamoti to fade away, leaving a question mark for the audience, is a model lesson in cinematography in difficult circumstances and uncertain weather conditions. Bose’s work, executed in natural light, is stunning, more in aesthetics than in emotional impact. The production design of the dilapidated bungalow Achin lives in with his tiny flock of sheep and his pet mynah, the fishnet-surroundings of Pakhi’s father’s hut, are imaginative yet grounded in reality.
The music and songs are very good but the film could have done with lesser songs and music. Sometimes, the songs intrude more than carrying the flow forward. Subrat Dutta as Achin proves that his screen presence is so fluid that it can lend itself to any role. He lends credence to his image by throwing up a performance enriched by its simplicity. Manali Dey as Pakhi complements him with her endearing charm and bubbling youth. The other mind-blowing performance comes from Sudip Chakroborty as Rai Saheb’s insane son Tanu. It is the slow pace of the film that brings it down. The first half specially, is very slow on the uptake, somewhat like Tanu in the film with repeat shots of Achin cooking, building up a fire, talking to his mynah with one touching scene where he talks to himself while eating. The second half picks up fast, but moves away from subtlety to step into melodrama, investing the film with a loudness it does not deserve.
Anjan Das has put his team together effectively, but his choice of subject lets him, and probably his audience, down.
By Shoma A. Chatterji