BANSHIWALA-THE FLAUTIST (2010) Bengali Movie Review

Paoli Dam and Shayon Munshi
Paoli Dam and Shayon Munshi

November 2010 (Calcutta Tube): BANSHIWALA is a 2010 Bengali Film directed by Anjan Das based on a Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay story. Enjoy the exclusive Critic’s review of the Bengali Movie at Calcutta Tube.

Cast and Crew:

  • Producer: Rupa Nag
  • Director: Anjan Das
  • Story: Sirsendu Mukhopadhyay
  • Cinematography: Asim Bose
  • Editor: Sanjib Dutta
  • Music: Jyotishka Dasgupta
  • Sound: Anup Mukherjee
  • Cast: Soumitra Chatterjee, Indrani Haldar, Koushik Sen, Shayan Munshi, Paoli Dam, Soma De, Monu Mukherjee and Debesh Mukherjee
  • Date of Release: November 19 2010
  • Rating: 6/10

Sirsendu Mukherjee focusses on people who inhabit the fringes of society, considered failures by the norms of success defined by society. Banshiwala is the story of a few failures. Mridul (Shayan Munshi) is a young man who returns from abroad to his village after ten years of having lived abroad. A complete failure, he wants to sell off the ancestral mansion to come out of his financial crisis. Lakshmi (Indrani Haldar), the daughter of retired school headmaster Haraprasanna (Soumitra Chatterjee) helps her father in supervising the Roy mansion in the absence of its owners Mridul and Protul. She is a single mother. No one knows who the father of her son is. Villagers gossip about her unwed motherhood and her closeness with Dinanath (Koushik Sen), a young man who loves her. Haraprasanna is honest. But he lacks the courage to face the bitter truths of life. Neepa (Paoli Dam) is a childhood friend of Mridul. She lives with her single aunt and runs a food processing unit in the village. Is she a failure too? Banshiwala unfolds the truth. Though these people are failures, they have some rare gifts. Mridul plays the flute so beautifully that listeners are mesmerized. Lakshmi wears her unwed motherhood with dignity. She does not surrender to Dinu’s attraction.

Asim Bose’s mind-blowing cinematography traverses the picturesque landscape of a Bengal village with its reddish, dust-kicking, earthy roads, the lush greens of the fields filled with tall blades of grass, the spacious old homes with their beautiful arches and pillars, the semi-silhouetted figure of Mridul playing on his flute as Neepa steps in from an open door frame along the riverside in a dream sequence. Jyotishka Dasgupta’s music with classical-based ragas like the Bhairavi captured in a brief flashback into Mridul’s childhood, or a Nazrul number sung by Neepa, a Baul song forming the third angle of a sequence where Neepa and Mridul watch the performance are enriched by Anup Mukherjee’s imaginative and aesthetic sound design.

Indrani Haldar is outstanding as Lakshmi, her pain and suffering coming through subtly. Soumitra as the honest, self-appointed, non-salaried caretaker of the Roy home is convincing, but largely wasted. So is Koushik Sen in a character that is neither here nor there. One wonders how and why Neepa’s spinster aunt (Soma De) has such neatly plucked eyebrows given her background and her social status. Shayon has worked hard to slip under the skin of Murli. He is moving in the scenes where he sees himself as a little boy, either watching his uncle practice music or creeping up to catch a young couple making love. Paoli looks beautiful and is in control, but does not really have much to do except exchange memories with her childhood friend she falls in love with.

Banshiwalla is anything but a watch-worthy film. The pace is grindingly slow. The characters move so slowly that one wonders whether Das is trying out some new experiment with slow motion movements captured normally on camera. The characters slow down the narrative to a never-ending stasis.  Nothing happens at all till the “Interval”. Das fails to carry arguments to their natural closure. The Baul performance sticks out like a sore thumb. There is no logic in Lakshmi slipping into widow’s weeds when she did not wear the vermillion marking in her hair earlier or even let out that she had had a registered marriage with Protul before he left India never to return. She says she hates the Roy home but is forever moving in and out as if she is a family member History repeats itself when Mridul goes away with promises of returning and Neepa pines away lamenting his absence.

Banshiwala is like a painting where the beautiful frame – music, cinematography, lyrics, sound, acting and production design completely overshadows the actual painting – a confused blur executed by director Anjan Das.

Shoma A. Chatterji

1 thought on “BANSHIWALA-THE FLAUTIST (2010) Bengali Movie Review

  1. Horrible review. I think the person who has reviewed this should stick to films like Dui Prithibi or Autograph, films where there is nothing called art,only mindless commercialism to fulfil the needs of people of a country of which 90 % is still illiterate.

    The pace is slow.Deliberately.What do you want? Inception? I wonder how these people sit through other art films… how do they go through a Resnais or Wim Wenders or Tarkovsky film? The way the film has been crafted by the maker,if the pace wasn’t slow,it would have been wasted.

    The baul performance is wonderful.And scenes after the interval are brilliant…The story has been misunderstood.. ”There is no logic in Lakshmi slipping into widow’s weeds when she did not wear the vermillion marking in her hair earlier or even let out that she had had a registered marriage with Protul before he left India never to return. She says she hates the Roy home but is forever moving in and out as if she is a family member ” .. She did’nt understand the scene at all..after slipping into the white sari she goes to Mridul and I dont want to say everything here and spoil what happened after that..

    The film itself is surreal and it would take a handful of viewings before you really understand the ending shot..you just cannot term it as a confused film until and unless you yourself fully dont understand art.

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