(CalcuttaTube): Ekti Tarar Khonje (BEYOND THE STARS) is a 2010 Bengali film directed by Avik Mukherjee starring Arpita Chatterjee and Shayan Munshi in lead roles. EKTI TARAR KHONJE enjoyed an US premiere at the NABC 2010, Atlantic City, New Jersey. Databazaar Media Ventures not only let the visitors buy the legal DVDs of the film, but also brought Arpita Chatterjee, Shayan Munshi to the premiere. Check out the review of Ekti Tarar Khonje and watch some of the EXCLUSIVE video coverage by CalcuttaTube.
Review: EKTI TARAR KHONJE – THE SEARCH INTO INFINITY
- Banner: Screenplay Films
- Producers: Aniruddha Roychoudhury, Indrani Mukherjee and Jeet Banerjee
- Direction and Cinematography: Avik Mukherjee
- Editing: Arghya Kamal Mitra
- Story, screenplay and dialogue: Madhuja Mukherjee
- Music: Prabuddha Banerjee
- Cast: Dhritiman Chatterjee, Biplab Chatterjee, Arpita Chatterjee, Shayan Munshi, Rudranil Ghosh, Tanusree Shankar, Anindya Banerjee, Dibyendu, Arijit Dutta and Dev in a guest appearance
- Rating: 04/10
Ekti Tarar Khonje begins impressively in the small town of Chandannagar, a surburan town away from Kolkata famous for its huge-size Jagaddhatri idols during the Jagadhatri Pooja.. Abhishek (Shayan), an orphan who does a dreary job and acts in local club plays, dreams of becoming a great actor. The loner-introvert moves to Kolkata. He meets Dev (Rudranil Ghosh), an old friend who helps him find shelter in a heritage-like mansion in the northern parts of Kolkata owned by Ananda Babu, a strange man whose intellectual persona is a façade for a much darker side no one knows about. Rama Pishi (Tanushree Shankar) is his sister, a spinster who teaches in a neighborhood school. Nabadwip Haldar (Anindo Banerjee) is the light-fingered odd-job boy-cum-servant with a greasy palm. Biplab Chatterjee plays one of the tenants who is friendly with Ananda Babu. Rani (Arpita Chatterjee) is Rama’s and Ananda’s niece who has come down from the hills in search of greener pastures. Rani and Abhishek become friends and then fall in love.
Watch Arpita Chatterjee chatting with NABC crowd.
Abhishek’s audition is a disaster, no thanks to the drunken arrogance of the assistant director (Arindam Sil)/casting director who throws him out after a few fisticuffs. Abhishek meets Ganga (Dibyendu Bhattacharya), a brazenly underworld person. In all innocence, Abhishek fails to notice this. Abhishek has the strange gift of looking into the future of sudden and tragic deaths of people he knows and does not know. His foresight saves the life of Ganga’s big boss, a mafia don. Abhishek is offered a job with a fat salary. What the job is all about, he does not know. Who the big boss is, he does not learn as the tall guy always wears a skull cap and hides himself in the shadows so you cannot see his face. Why he is given a fat salary he does not know and Ganga is not willing to tell him. The film director (Arijit Dutta) chances upon his audition video and Abhishek lands the role of the second male lead, the villain, in a crime thriller. His premonitions of disastrous deaths increases till the fine line between his screen role and his job with the mafia boss gets blurred and he watches helplessly as his life runs rapidly beyond his control. He is unwittingly co-opted into the organization that is into murder, drug running, etc, after he witnesses two cold-blooded killings one after another ritualistically committed by Ganga and his gang on the command of the big boss. When he confesses to Rani, she asks him to run and begins to investigate into the ritualistic killings by knotting a gamchha in a definite way and strangling the victim with the knot. Her research lands her into dangerous territory – it is the way in which the thuggees in Bengal killed their victims long ago – knotting the gamcha at a given point in a given way to strangle victims. The Thuggee practice was rampant across the Bengal belt during British East India Company’s rule between 1765 and 1805. Deceivers (1988), produced by Ismail Merchant and directed by Nicholas Meyer, a British production, is the only film that comes to mind when one tries to jog one’s memory about the thugee’s representation in cinema. Pierce Brosnan played the role of a British officer who infiltrates into a group of thuggees as a ‘deceiver’ in order to expose them. This historical link falls completely flat firstly, because it is rushed through in a hurry with a few rapidly edited shots of Rani doing her research clandestinely in a library deep at night; secondly because it is over before it begins to make sense; thirdly because it has almost no link with the contemporary audience’s knowledge quotient. The identity of the mafia don becomes clear after the first few silhouetted shots of the man, the voice distortion notwithstanding. What could have been the most thrilling element of the narrative is thus ruined beyond repair.
The characterizations seem half-baked and inconclusive like many other arguments the narrative begins with but fails to sum up. What makes Abhishek remain quiet about the nature of his job when he can see how Ganga and his gang operate? Why does Rani avoid her uncle Ananda Babu like the plague? What is Biplab Chatterjee doing in an inane character that could well have been dispensed with? Why was the young gay boy murdered in cold blood in a metro station in the middle of the night by Ganga and his gang? Rani comes to inform Abhishek that she is going back home. But we find her wandering around with him in the closing shots. Abhishek jumps into a taxi with Deb with his bag to run away. But he is back in no time. How? There is too much of surrealism running a cut-throat race with reality and premonitions to the finishing post to make much sense.
The acting honours go to Shayan Munshi as the introvert, honest and courageous Abhishek complimented beautifully by the sparklingly spontaneous and natural Arpita Chatterjee’s straight-talking, no-nonsense Rani who tells him “tell me you love me in English” and a pleasantly surprised Abhishek shyly obliges. Dhritiman Chatterjee is good in the too-good-to-be-true intellectual part of his schizophrenic persona. Tanusheee is okay despite her heavily anglicized and accented Bengali. Rudranil, looking back, has nothing much to do as Dev and tends to overdo his act at times. He is certainly capable of much better work. Dibyendu Bhattacharya as Ganga is mind-blowing except the song-dance number that takes us back to RGV’s Sathya many years ago.
Prabudhha Banerjee’s musical score with the insertion of a beautifully picturised, positioned and orchestrated Tagore song shot on Diwali night with garlands of twinkling lights on the terrace is breathtaking. Jayati Chakraborty’s shokhi bhabona kahare bole is unforgettable. Among the other numbers, one must mention the songs chole jete bohu doorey and Pagol Mon Re for the lyrics as well as for the melody. Ekti Tarar Khonje is technically brilliant as it captures the locations across Chandannagar and some neighbourhoods in Kolkata, the Kidderpore dockyard, the dhobi ghat with the narrow alleys running in between, a Metro station in the darkness of night, the dingy staircase of the doddering old building that leads up to the mafia don’s ‘office’ spilling over with dog-eared files, are beautifully juxtaposed against the mansion where Abhishek comes to live as a tenant by art director Indranil Ghosh, editor Arghya Kamal Mitra and ace cinematographer Avik Mukherjee. The cinematographer in Avik clearly overshadows the director in him. This may be unfortunate. But it is also a credible possibility. It is indeed a pity that a technically excellent film should collapse for want of a solid storyline, script and screenplay.
Ekti Tarar Khonje marks the end of cinematographer Avik Mukherjee’s search for a good directorial debut. Someone rightly wisecracked while coming out of the theatre, “It is a film of unfulfilled searches.” Few of these searches are successful. The others are not. This is natural for a debut filmmaker. But it is disappointing for both the filmmaker and his audience when the film turns out to be a mishmash of everything – relationships, characters, locations, plots and sub-plots, technical innovations and such. This is more likely to happen when the film’s release is preceded by too much chutzpah-like sound and fury in the name of publicity. It is also disappointing for an ace cinematographer, one of the best in the country, to face such audience antipathy when he switches over to direction. If this marks the end of Avik’s search for a directorial identity, it also leads to a fresh beginning, right? It leads to space for retrospection and introspection that will lead to a happy marriage between a talented cinematographer and an ambitious filmmaker.
by Shoma A. Chatterji