March 23, 2011 (Calcutta Tube): Ei Aranya is a 2011 Bengali movie directed by Somnath Sen with Debasree Roy, Abhishek Chatterjee, Dipankar De, Firdaus, Dipanwita and others in the cast. Read the Bengali movie review at Calcutta Tube.
EI ARANYA – ISSUE-BASED STORY
Banner: Sahayog Productions
Story, screenplay, dialogue and direction: Somnath Sen
D.O.P.: Baidyanath Basak
Music: Ashok Bhadra
Lyrics: Somnath Sen
Cast: Debasree Roy, Abhishek Chatterjee, Dipankar De, Anamika Saha, Firdaus, Dipanwita, Chinmoy Roy, Mrinal Mukherjee, Kalyan Chatterjee, Sudesh Kaul and Subhash Chatterjee
Date of release: March 11, 2011
Ei Aranya, as the name suggests, is focussed on the illegal felling of trees in the rich green forests of a village in Jalpaiguri in North Bengal. Ajit Dutta (Subhash Chatterjee), a primary school teacher, talks to trees and laments the stripping of trees as a lover of forests and trees. People think he is crazy but his elder daughter Sujata (Debasree Roy) does not. She looks after her slightly demented father like a mother takes care of a little child. This is how the film opens on a new and original note with a strong message that crusades against the illegal felling and marketing of trees in collusion with the police.
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Sujata is also deeply pained about her beautiful young sister Antara (Dipanwita)’s depression over the murder of her lover Bibhash (Firdaus) by Santosh Jadhav (Sudesh Kaul) and his hired goons who killed him in cold blood because he was using street theatre to get the message across against the illegal felling of trees. Though everyone knows that Jadhav has killed Bibhash, he walks around freely as the local police are on his payroll and actually allow the stolen wood to be carried across state borders. Ajit Dutta too, lost his mind because Jadhav’s men had struck him on the back of his head once when he was trying to save a tree from being felled.
Hope rises again when forest officer Bikram (Abhishek) takes charge of the situation and with the moral support of his parents, carries on from where Bibhash left off. Antara promptly falls in love with him and the director takes the opportunity of putting in as many badly done song-and-dance sequences as he possibly can, ruining the core of the story. Antara with her extremely stiff acting and wooden expression, appropriates maximum footage through her two sets of song-dance sequences, first with our roly-poly activist Bibhash and then with a better performer in Bikram. Bikram manages to put the terrible Jadhav behind bars inspite of the latter’s threats to his family to end like a fairy tale. Poor Sujata is left to fend for her father who is somewhat cured by the end of the film.
Sudesh Kaul is given a terrible signature tune to herald his appearances in the film and, is given footage much more generous than he deserves. His acting is terrible. Debasree Roy as Sujata, Abhishek as Bikram, Dipankar De and Anamika Saha as his concerned and kind parents and Subhashish Mukherjee in his funny cameo as their household help are very good. But the best and the most natural performance comes from Subhash Chatterjee who is extremely convincing as Ajit Dutta, the half-crazy lover of trees. He has no star image to impinge upon the character and this adds to his performance.
Baidyanath Saha needs to polish up his act behind the camera because for most of the group scenes, especially when Bibhash is interacting with his theatre friends, the camera seems to have been placed in a static position in front of the actors like cinematographing a stage play. The play-within-the-play is very bad in terms of performance and also in terms of its cinematography. The editor either does not exist or did not bother to do much with this film and this shows at every turn. Kalyan Chatterjee as a police constable seems far beyond the age of retirement while Mrinal Mukherjee has taken care by putting on a wig to hide his age. The songs except the theme song are bad. Antara wears designer kurtis in a village ambience when the family does not seem to be affluent. Debasree Roy’s designer saris carry the same impression for daughters of a father who is always dressed in the same pair of kurta-pyjamas!
The “illegal felling and smuggling of trees” and the naming of the film Ei Aranya are gimmicks created by the storyteller-director to hide his real aim – using the usual masala gimmick of song and dance scenes, a terrible villain with his gang, two greasy-hands policemen and a group of theatre activists who neither look nor behave like theatre activists to narrate a weather beaten story done to death in film after film. Finally, this film should teach filmmakers to keep away from Deepanwita unless she promises to learn the alphabet of acting. Some issue-based film!
-Shoma A. Chatterji