Charulata 2011-Are Charulatas Really Lone for Centuries? (Bengali Film Review)

Rituparna Sengupta in Bengali FIlm 'Charulata 2011'Mar 8, 2012 (Calcutta Tube): An exploration of the Bengali filmCharulata 2011′ directed by Agnidev Chatterjee with Rituparna Sengupta, Arjun Chakraborty, Koushik Sen, Dolon Roy, Dibyendu Mukherjee and others in the cast. Read the Bengali movie review at Calcutta Tube.

Are Charulatas Really Lone For Centuries After Century?

Rabindranath Tagore’s short story ‘Nashtonir’ was published in the year 1900, Satyajit Ray’s Charulata was released in 1964. And Agnidev  Chatterjee’s Charulata 2011 is released in 2012. So it is a journey of Charu all through 112 years. Days are changing with usual eventuality, but Charus are remaining the same at the core of their heart. Charulata of poet’s ‘Nashtonir’ in the book Galpoguchchha was very much accepted by the readers in the early twentieth century. Charulata of Satyajit Ray was also very much applauded by the viewers in the mid-twentieth. And Chaiti, the Charulata 2011 at this moment of twenty first century is being loved by the viewers as well. So what really is the hidden chemistry behind Charulata? Is it just loneliness? Is it mere hovering for something extramarital? Or Charulata speaks and spans to justify the mental and physical existence of two men simultaneously in her life? On the other hand is it a story of opportunist Amal who taking advantage of loneliness, do something which might be named as digging a graveyard for women? Because finally giving up the Cuckoo’s nest once for all, Amal flew away to fetch something permanent. We have seen Amal in Ingmar Bergman’s filmThe Touch’. We have watched Amal in the famous film ‘The Dairy Of A Mad House Wife’, adapted from a novel by Sue Kaufman and directed by Frank Perry. Anyway, let us give up Amal for the time being. Is the story of Charulata a lesson to workaholic husbands who do not take aesthetic care of their spouses properly, as we have watched in recent Bengali film Bedroom, Aparajita Tumi etc.? Or is it true that, Charulata-Bhupati-Amal combination raises the age old debate between unconditional faith and undaunted freedom? Anyway, after all these pseudo theorization let us peep into the storyline of Charulata 2011 produced by Bipin Kumar Vora.

The film by and large rotates around Chaiti (Rituparna Sengupta), a lonely housewife. Living in a well decorated house, Chaiti is the wife of Bikramjit (Arjun Chakraborty), the chief editor of a newspaper, who thinks himself as controller of what ‘Bengal thinks tomorrow’. Like Bhupati of Nashtonir, Bikramjit is affable to his wife in one hand but on the other cannot afford moments for her because of his responsibilities as an editor. Frustrated Chaiti gets no meaning in her boring domestic life. Her miscarriage puts some more fuel in the pyre. However Chaiti gets solace in the cyber world making a FaceBook friendship with a man who names himself as Amal. The said Amal lives abroad. While chatting with Amal, Chaiti’s username becomes Charulata 2011 in FaceBook too. This chatting business over time makes ‘Chaiti’ obsessed on the said Amal who gradually becomes emblem for everything marvelous. Chaiti starts dreaming Amal all the time. In her obsessed solitude in comes her brother Utpal (Kaushik Sen) and his wife Keya (Dolon Ray) being invited by Bikramjit in order to gear up his ‘besieged’ wife. Meanwhile from FaceBook illusion Amal lands in the reality – Charulata 2011 gets her Amal (Dibyendu Mukhopadhyay) in the airport. They then come in a rest room. And just like a thunder storm Amal in the name of healing the knees of Chaiti (as she fell down in the airport lounge), bares her knees and eventually takes out the white panties from underneath of spellbound Chaiti. They then engulfed themselves in enormous voluptuous love making. These frames remind us of the concluding frames of Bernardo Bertolucci’sStealing Beauty (Io ballo da sola). But considering this sharing bed as a one-time affair, they promise not to see each other anymore. But Amal arrives at her doorstep the very next day as Sanjay, the cousin of Bikramjit. This accidental meet shocked both Chaiti and Sanjay to their utter surprise. And then ensues the fierce battle between faith and freedom. The trio Sanjay-Chaiti-Bikramjit gets locked in this battle. As a result Chaiti again attains pregnancy. But this time pregnant by whom? On this question when angry Bikramjit tries to suffocate Chaiti, she says ‘It is you’. But who actually would be the father of the child? Let us set aside from this most invaluable or worthless premises.

Possibly Charulata was the best of Satyajit Ray. Only Sadgati can be named along with Charulata. Journey with Madhabi Mukherjee, Soumitra  Chatterjee, Shailen Mukhopadhyay, Shyamal Ghoshal and Gitali Ray as a mere spectator would enshrine my memory as long as I breath. So the question of comparison does not arise at all. In fact Agnidev  Chatterjee in his story and direction has left no room for comparison. Charulata 20011 is altogether a different film based on a different story, although declared to be indebted to Rabindranath as the characters of Nashtonir flash time and again in this film. The screenplay and dialogue (Sudip Mukhopadhyay) are in no way dependant on Tagore, though a few lines of Nashtonir have been quoted repeatedly. Agnidev’s directorial work is good, smart, soft and devoid of any excess especially in love making frames. Still, directorial work and cinematography here have two compartments- the indoor and the outdoor. Indoor work is very smart and up to the mark in all respects. But lots of questions are there about the outdoor scenes. But I’m bound to opine that, in Charulata 2011’s cinematography Shirsha Ray has expressed his excellence in a number of spell. Indradip Dasgupta’s music score is good but it could have been excellent if restricted a little more. As an editor Shantanu Mukherjii is extremely well.

The senior most actress in this film is Chhanda  Chatterjee, playing the role of a whole time maid in Chaiti’s. Sorry to say that, she has not been used properly. But as a side actress Dolan Ray as Keya is superb. Her cry as child less mother is memorable. Her acting is in no way one-dimensional. The same is true for Koushik Sen who used to play romantic roles. But here as Utpal, the villain, he has paved a way which may enrich not only Tollywood but the Bollywood as well. His subtle expressions and controlled acting are marvelous. Arjun Chakraborty has got into the character with his inherent limitations. As we have heard earlier Bratya Basu was selected for Bikramjit. That was a good selection. Any way which cannot be cured must be endured. Dibyendu as Amal alias Sanjay has played almost like a romantic hero of European house. He has done the job firmly. And then comes Rituparna as Chaiti. She is my beloved heroine and so far who has exhibited her talent in different types of films. Here also now again we feel that touch of mink. But though she is excellent in most of the frames, sometimes she seems to be hyper as well. Anyway,after all Charulata 2011 is a courageous creation of Agnidev  Chatterjee and that of Rituparna Sengupta as well.

-Pachu Ray

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