April 24, 2012 (Calcutta Tube): Debutant Anik Dutta’s endeavour with the novel plot, Bhooter Bhabishyat promises a humorous bout of comic thrills and eerie delights.
The ghosts are unhappy! And they are spooked too! Gone were the cosy nooks of yester years – the crumpled mansions and the ruined palaces. The age is of lavish malls and the rising towers that scrape the last trace of the forgotten wrecks which used to be their safest retreats. As many of their haunts are threatened to be demolished for sake of the towering high-rises and sprouting arcades, the antiquated remains of Chowdhury Palace seems to provide the only hope. As it stands tall and promises a bright future, the owner, Darpanarayan Chowdhury – or more correctly – his ethereal self, selects, with the help of Ramsay, the British officer of East India Company, a horde of apparitions to share his mansion with them.
Spanning an entire era from the mid-1800s to the current times, the tenants comprised of a varied mix of age and trade. The ladies included Kadalibala, the actress-songster from the ‘40s and the passionate yet bubbly Koel of the 21st century – both dying young committing suicide. Next come Siraj-ud Daulah’s cook-turned-fighter – a martyr in the legendary battle of Plassey whose squabbles with the spectre of Bhootnath Bhaduri, a refugee from East Pakistan, became the order of the day at the mansion. While the matter of conveyance was solved for ever with Atmaram, the Bihari rickshaw puller joining the team, the security was watched over by an Indian army man whose only defect of character was his all-eagerness to repeatedly recite his glorious exploits to even the most listless of listeners. Finally, the entertainment was provided by the highbrow musician Pablo, who dozed off to the afterlife after an overdose of pills.
All was well and the group was indulging in revelries when came Mr. Bhutoria, the shrewd proprietor of Magic Realties who dreamt of converting the sprawling expanses of the Chowdhury Palace to a lucrative shopping mall and multiplex.
Will the ghosts survive the threat? Can the elusive spirit of Biplab Dasgupta, the professor of the ‘70s, a victim of the Naxalite killings who counselled the group during matters of emergency, offer a solution? As the inhabitants of the palatial mansion recruits the creepy Haat-Kaata Kartik, the infamous goon during his living days, can the Spookbook (phantom equivalent to Facebook) offer another potential saviour? To get an answer you have to watch the fun-filled satirical concept of Bhooter Bhabishyat, the first of its kind ever conceived by any director in the current times.
Kudos to Anik Dutta for envisaging a theme so fascinating and innovative, it leaves the audience with a sense of mirth and satisfaction even after they leave the hall.
Abhik Mukhopadhyay’s cinematography with the precise editing of national awardee Arghya Kamal Mitra, the movie offers a retreat to the classical remains of old Calcutta. The location and shots of the Chowdhury Palace has been astutely designed (Art Direction by Indranil Ghosh) so as to give the feeling of the stately remains of the aristocratic class that once constituted Calcutta’s nobility. The oil paintings adorning the halls of the mansion, the jewellery of erstwhile Bengal, the exquisite woodworks, the marble flooring – all projected the rich splendour of the Bengali Renaissance. But beneath the solemn grace of the past lies the actual beauty of the plot – the delightful humour devoid of malice outlined by a carefully composed screenplay by the director himself. Raj Narayan Deb’s music direction with Anik Dutta’s lyrics heightens the humour with comical background scores, gentle parodies, amusing verses and a magical assortment of singers consisting of both amateurs and professionals. But the best and crispiest part of the Joy Ganguly production is in the witty-naughty dialogue fabricated by Dutta and augmented by the selective dialects and rhyming verses followed by the cast, especially that by Sumit Samaddar, Kharaj Mukherjee and Paran Bandyopadhay. George Baker, Swastika Mukherjee, Biswajit Chakraborty, Mumtaz Sorkar and Samadarshi Dutta plays their part as they are due and Saswata Chatterjee, as usual excels in his short but smart appearance. The late Bibhu Bhattacharya plays his role perfectly as does Srilekha Mitra in her guest appearance. Parambrata as the central observer to the ghostly pranks and Sabyasachi Chakrabarty as the sober narrator of the ghostly woes suitably fit to their roles as do Mir as the lecherous promoter.
Permeating throughout the movie and sprinkling salutations more than once, were reference to the genius of Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, etc. along with their pioneering contributions in Bengali films – an unique style of acknowledgement is followed in the already unique storyline.
Promising a future not at all bleak as the ghosts are scared of, a slightly more compact presentation and a swifter introduction to the central theme could have assured Bhooter Bhabishyat of a steady parade of eager viewers and a higher rating than 6.5/10 from me.
– Anirban De