March 7, 2011(Calcutta Tube): Cholo Paltai is a 2011 Bengali film directed by Haranath Chakraborty with Prosenjit, Mouli Ganguly, Rajatava Dutta and others in the cast. Read the Bengali movie review at Calcutta Tube.
CHOLO PALTAI – ‘CHANGE’ IS THE ONLY THING THAT REMAINS CONSTANT
Production House: Shree Venkatesh Films Pvt ltd.
Producer: Shrikant Mohta & Surrinder Films
Director: Haranath Chakraborty
Cinematographer: Soumik Haldar
Music Director: Anupam Roy
Story / Screenplay: N.K Salil
Editor: Robiranjan Mitra
Cast: Prosenjit, Mouli Ganguly, Rajatava Dutta, Basudeb Mukherjee, Devdaan and Tathoi
Date of release: March 4 2011
Chalo Paltai is an economical film. One can see two films in one. The narrative is split down the middle to tell one story in the first half and a different story in the second. The same characters appear in both segments. It is the absence of one of the two main characters – Gaurav (Devdaan) in the second half that turns Chalo Paltai into a different film where the director changes his message, his treatment and his metaphors without conviction..
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In the first half, Shubhomoy Chatterjee (Prosenjit), a widowed father is concerned about son Gaurav’s academic results taking a beating for his passion for cricket. The father has a single-minded agenda – to see his son be allowed to take his pre-test exams. He keeps body and soul together as a clerk in Kolkata Municipal Corporation, washes cars (really!), sells incense sticks (this too!) and also takes heavy loans from the sharp-tongued, arm-twisting moneylender Imran (Rajatava Dutta). He cooks and does the marketing before leaving for work. At work, he unabashedly accepts money from his colleagues for doing their work when they go out on French leave. At the end of the day, he sits with a medley of friends within the housing complex to share a peg, mostly off their pockets. Research shows that a clerk in the KMC takes home a five-figure packet every month. Yet, Shubhomoy borrows to buy a Rs.2500 dress for his daughter for an invitation!
The contradiction in the father’s psyche comes across when Shubhomoy buys a pair of cricket shoes for Gaurav and gives the pair to his cricket coach (Sambaran Banerjee playing himself) and yet beats, slaps, scolds and bashes up his son, even in front of the principal, for neglecting his studies. Gaurav’s selective amnesia is established when he quotes from memory, the highlights in Saurav Ganguly’s matches in toto to empathetic sister Munni (Tathoi Ghosh). All hell breaks loose when Gaurav’s principal, his class teacher and his coaching class teachers give up on Gaurav. Furious, Shubhomoy beats up Gaurav and breaks his cricket bat. In the fracas, Gaurav hits his head on the floor while Shubhomoy keeps whipping him. Munni points out the circle of blood oozing across the floor. Gaurav goes into coma. This marks the end of the first film.
The second half has a different agenda. The screenplay and the director use Shubhomoy as the single vocal agent to propagate that change is necessary in the education system if students are to be saved from carrying explosive atom bombs in the form of books in their heavy school bags. Or, if no suicide should add to the existing 2000 students who committed suicide over the past four years in West Bengal to escape the pressure of academics. Miraculously, we discover that Shubhomoy does not exist anymore. His place has been totally appropriated by Poshenjit, the numero uno, drawing from his hard disk of mannerisms, tremulous voice, stomping, shouting, screaming, crying, giving interviews on a television channel, answering questions into television cameras on Kolkata streets and turning into an icon overnight!
He barges into a history class and insults the history teacher for not knowing her seven times table. The boys in her class laugh at the fun being made of their own teacher! He does visit his son in the hospital from time to time to update him on the latest in cricket while daughter Munni is amazed at her father’s transformation from a cricket hater to a cricket lover. He writes a letter to the education minister. The minister’s response is – he has no time to listen to lunatics like Shubhomoy, sorry Prosenjit. Prosenjit proceeds to live up to the minister’s qualification – he turns absolutely crazy! No one in the nursing home tries to stop him from shouting in the room where his son lies in coma, oblivious to his father’s desperate cries. Is he able to facilitate change? Yes, theoretically, he is, but only when he forces the CM on the point of a belt of ‘explosives’ tied to his waist. Unable to recite the seven times table, the CM promises him that he will ‘look into the matter.’ When, how, and who will be made responsible for this ‘change’? The screenplay does not know. The director does not know. So one cannot blame Prosenjit for not knowing!
Thanks to the generosity of a famous NRI neurosurgeon, Gaurav undergoes brain surgery and comes out of coma. Chalo Paltai is structured through a flashback with the film opening on Shubhomoy, Munni and the friendly neighbours waiting outside during the surgery. The closing shots show Gaurav striking a six to score a century while the entire neighbourhood cheers loudly! What happens to his board exams? He has already missed them, silly! Who sent him into coma? Is then, the second film a purging of feelings of deep guilt a father suffers from by projecting his guilt on others? Or, is it Haranath’s way of propagating his own political message through a film made for the gallery?
The two films in Chalo Paltai are held together beautifully by an excellent supporting cast, two beautiful songs (Anupam Roy) on the soundtrack, some very good editing in the second half (Robi Ranjan Moitra) and Soumik Haldar’s poetic cinematography for a very anti-poetic film. Mouli Ganguly approaches her complex but realistic character in a no-nonsense manner with restraint minus guilt. Devdaan as Gaurav and Tathoi as Munni are mind-blowing. Rajatava Dutta sparkles as Imran complemented by Supriyo Dutta’s funny police officer. The drinking cronies rally around Prosenjit in the worst crisis of his life. An old man, pitches in with Rs.500 he had kept aside for the electricity bill. Another fixes the appointment with the NRI surgeon.
The first film is realistic, rooted to ground realities of life barring some absurdities in the way a Bengali clerk is showing washing cars which can never happen, or even selling incense sticks. It is an intimate, family portrait essaying the fluctuating moods within a father-son relationship. But the beating up of Gaurav is child abuse, pure and simple. The second half is a complete playing-to-the-gallery film, with exaggerated melodrama, loud oratory, weeping, tongue-lashing, essayed by the one and only Poshenjit. The second film is unabashedly political. It would have been effective had it not stooped to so much melodrama. Kudos to Prosenjit carrying off the double-burden of being the character and the star in the same film, that too, after two brilliant celluloid poems like Autograph and Moner Manush!
“Change is the only thing that remains constant.” Who said that? It does not matter. What matters is that for the audience, Chalo Paltai has the protagonist scream from the rooftops about the need to ‘change’ the education system without spelling out what that change should be and how and by whom this change can be brought about. In retrospect, looking at the violence inflicted on Gaurav by his father, Chalo Paltai is not a film for children.
-Shoma A. Chatterji