June 10 (Calcutta Tube): Bengali film Bor Bou Khela is a contemporary remake of an old comic play in Bengali called Manmoyee Girls School. This has had some celluloid versions in Bangla and at least one each in Hindi, Marathi, Tamil and Telugu. The first version (1935) directed by Jyotish Banerjee starred Tulsi Chakraborty, Radharani, Kanan Debi, Jahar Ganguly and Jyotsna Gupta. The film brought overnight stardom to Kanan Devi. Uttam Kumar and Arundhati Devi starred in a later version (1958) directed by Hemchandra Chandra. The Hindi remake, Miss Mary (1957) starred Meena Kumari in one of her rare roles in a comedy opposite Kishore Kumar. The film was directed by L.V. Prasad and had music by Hemant Kumar who gave us some memorable song numbers of which Lata Mangeshkar’s – so gayaa saara zamana remains an all-time favourite of music lovers.
Cast and Crew:
- Banner: Granite Communications
- Producer: Shishir Gupta
- Direction: Jagannath Guha
- Story: Rabindranath Mitra
- Screenplay: Jagannath Guha, Shishir Gupta and Prasun Banerjee
- Editor: Sanjib Dutta
- Music: Ashok Bhadra
- Cast: Tapas Pal, Kamalika, Rahul, Priyanka, Joyjeet and Jagannath Guha
- Date of release: 28/06/2010
- Rating: 2/10
The original story is by Rabindranath Mitra. It is set against the backdrop of a village school named after the wife of the man who owns it, Manmoyee. The advertisement stipulates that the two teachers the school needs must be married. The desperately unemployed Manash (Rahul) and Niharika (Priyanka) meet by chance at another interview where Manash is beaten up for bashing someone up and is rescued by Niharika. Niharika is already burdened by a massive debt incurred from a man who tries to force marriage on her if she cannot repay the loan he gave her during her father’s last illness. Manash and Niharika finally agree to pretend to be man and wife and take up the job. But Niharika is Christian and the insistence on Hindu marriage rituals forced on her by the maternally inclined and affectionate Manmoyee (Kamalika) makes her angry. Manash persuades her to carry on with the charade for the fat pay packet the two earn. Niharika gets Rs.9000 in advance as monthly salary while Manash is handed Rs.7000 and no one knows what the disparity is all about.
But then, the disparity is nothing to pick one’s brains for as the school does not exist anywhere within the audiovisual frame of the film. It exists metaphorically and figuratively as a reference point for Damodar (Tapas Pal) who owns it, for the onion merchant who owns the rival school in the same village, and for Manmoyee who is gaga over the young couple and their ‘love’ for each other. There are some needless and brainless characters that are more intrusions into the main story than complements. There is a young advocate (Joyjeet) whose only work is running after and keeping tabs on the elderly couple’s daughter Chapala who assists her mother in the earlier ‘school’ and currently has the glad-eye for Manash. She does not balk at asking awkward questions on sex that Niharika cannot answer. Then there is the light-fingered servant (Kanchan Mullick) who eavesdrops on the private conversations between the young teachers and learns the truth. But no one believes him because he is a thief and a liar to boot. The turbaned durwan (Guha in a cameo) surprisingly cannot speak Bangla though he has been their watchman for years on end. When the cat is finally out of the bag, Damodar, who cannot stand lies, decides to ‘punish’ the young couple by getting them married. Niharika forgets all about her Christian faith she insisted so fiercely on protecting earlier. One point to be noted – the forgotten postcard reappears in this film as a dramatic catalyst.
Ashok Bhadra’s music is purely so-so. The cinematography is not interested in exploring the possibilities of light changes in a village scenario. The costume designer’s western frocks for Niharika do not jell with her figure or her character in the film. She looks pretty, smart and confident in those bordered cotton saris and her French knotted hair. Rahul wears trendy clothes that seem to be picked off a designer’s shelf making one speculate about his desperate financial state. Tapas Pal really needed a better wig than the terrible one he wears in the film. The only plus point in the entire film is the work of the acting cast, mainly the three main actors – Tapas Pal, Priyanka and Rahul. Rahul needs to work really hard on his screen presence. He does not have the height a hero needs but so do most of the Bollywood Khans. Priyanka would want to hit the gym more often to get rid of that spare tire around her middle the Western attire clearly show. Kamalika does justice to the sweet and syrupy character she is given to enact. But what makes her remain dressed up to her teeth all the time no one knows and trying to find out would not change the status quo of the film in any way. What really ruins the film beyond redemption is the script authored by three different men – the director, the producer and a third person – Prasun Banerjee. The Rahul-Priyanka real life love story fails to translate on screen. It looks flat and one-dimensional, killing the magic of a hypothetical romantic comedy. Bor Bou Khela is a game that is lost before it can begin.
by: Shoma A. Chatterji