BEDINI (2011) Bengali Film Review: Rituparna Sengupta brings her best

Rituparna Sengupta in Bedini Bengali Film
Rituparna Sengupta in Bedini Bengali Film

January 9, 2011, Kolkata (Calcutta Tube): BEDINI is a 2011 Bengali film staring Rituparna Sengupta, Indraneil Sengupta, Rajesh Sharma and others directed by noted Bengali Filmmaker Anjan Das. Check out the complete cast and crew and critic’s review for BEDINI Bengali Movie.

Cast and Crew:

  • Producers: J.K. Chakravarty, Ranjan Dutta and Pamela Nath
  • Presented by: Bhavna Aaj O Kal and Heartbeatz
  • Story: Adapted from a Tarasankar Bandopadhyay story
  • Direction: Anjan Das
  • Screenplay: Dipanwita Ghosh Mukherjee
  • Music: Jyotishka Dasgupta
  • Cinematographer: Ashim Bose
  • Art Direction: Tanmoy Chakraborty
  • Editor: Sanjib Datta
  • Sound Anup Mukherjee
  • Cast: Rituparna Sengupta, Indraneil Sengupta, Rajesh Sharma and Rimjhim Gupta
  • Date of release:  January 7, 2011
  • Rating: 06/10

BEDENI – RITUPARNA’S POWERFUL STATEMENT

Bedeni is based on a controversial work of Tarasankar Bandopadhyay, one of the best post-Tagorean littérateurs in Bengal. He wrote 65 novels, 53 story books, 12 plays, four essay collections, four autobiographies and two travelogues. He was awarded the Rabindra Puraskar, the Sahitya Akademi Award, the Padma Bhushan and the Jnanpeeth Award. Satyajit Ray’s Abhijan was based on a Tarasankar Bandopadhyay novel.

Bedeni means a female gypsy. Bedeni is about Radhika, a dusky but sensual beauty. She lives with Shambhu, an itinerant snake charmer who wanders from place to place with his ‘show’ where he plays on the dholak and Radhika shows her tricks with the snakes or wanders from door to door to sell off her magic potions for a paltry fee. But when they arrive at one of their regular haunts, they find Pyarelal Circus has already pitched its tent and is drawing crowds. The villagers are no longer attracted by the tricks of snake-charming. Radhika is frustrated with the steady poverty they are forced to live in and with Shambhu’s sexual impotency from some illness resulting from his alcoholism. She is feels pulled towards the macho Kesto, the circus master, especially when she peeps through a slit in his tent to watch him making love to his partner. She staunchly refuses to switch over to the making and selling of hooch from the snake-charming business. Life places her in a delicate situation where she is forced to make yet another choice – to set the circus tent on fire and save her and Shambhu’s life from utter penury, or, to set their own tent on fire and run away with her new-found passion, Kesto. Without resorting to fragmented, impressionistic structures, Das detracts from the story’s original ending to close on an open note and leave the audience to draw its own conclusions, whatever they might be.

Rituparna outshines herself in certain ways in a radical representation of a celluloid woman cast against the stereotypical celluloid grain of being fair-skinned, sweet-and-syrupy and fragile. She is none of these. She adds punch and spice to the foul-mouthed, dark-skinned, hooch-drinking Radhika, painting the picture of a powerful woman with strong negative configurations dotted with moments of emotional vulnerability that draw audience empathy. One wishes she allowed her normal complexion stripped of make-up for the role rather than donning the artificial darkness painted on that is very inconsistent throughout the film. One wonders why she is denied the opportunity of playing around with the snakes in her basket that takes away from the character and the film, some of its ethnic authenticity. Shambhu played with his usual natural flow by Rajesh Sharma, is similarly scarred by the lack of the snake-charmer’s traditional been or flute and is given a dholak in its place. His repeated portrayal of negative roles seems to impinge on his performance at times. Indraneil as Kesto appears distinctly uncomfortable as a semi-rural circus master underscored by his lines delivered in some Bengali dialect dubbed by someone else. Rituparna and Rajesh also speak in some kind of dialect. Rimjhim Gupta passes muster in a brief role without shades.

Ashim Bose’s brilliant cinematography lifts the film onto a different plane. Shot entirely on location in Purulia district’s Dungri village in Akharpur, 20 kms away from Purulia town, the camera pans across the arid landscape of a predominantly rocky terrain set in relief by a water land here and there, the camera captures the mood of the film at different times of day and night, within the interiors of Radhika’s sparse tent lit by the small gas light, or, the small slit in Kesto’s tent Radhika peeps through, and the panoramic landscape where the aridness is a metaphor for the aridness that defines the financially and physically impoverished lives of the characters. Anup Mukherjee’s imaginative sound design and Jyotishka Dasgupta’s localized musical score add to the richness of the scenario. Sanjib Dutta’s editorial flourishes are somehow wanting in a seamless effect characterised as they are, by sudden jerks from one scene to another in some places.

Anjan Das tries to work out a mixture of the directness of a mainstream film and the slight ambiguity of an off-mainstream film sometimes with success and sometimes failing to strike a balance. There is no sensationalism in the few intimate scenes except through sound effects. The film’s ideas and actions are embedded in and through Radhika who lives by her own set of moral values on making a living out of snake charming tricks where she brooks no compromise, and on choosing her male partner, mainly for sex, where she lives by her fluctuating choices in men. In this scenario, the explication of her backdrop through the slightly grainy flashback in monochrome into her seemingly content life with her first husband, a basket weaver and trader, seems redundant. Bedeni is by no means a great film. But it is interesting mainly because it offers an alternative look into the lives and lifestyles of people we do not really know and because of Rituparna Sengupta’s performance.

Shoma A. Chatterji

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