Review: GOJO UKILER HATYA RAHASYO
Ashapurna Devi’s centenary was celebrated last year. Sadly, Jagannath Chatterjee’s feature film Gojo Ukiler Hatya Rahasyo (2006) based on her story, had a long wait before it could finally reach the screen. Produced by the Children’s Film Society of India and based on a screenplay by Chatterjee himself, the film has a galaxy of veteran actors. Arun Bandopadhyay plays the title role of Gojo Ukil while Biplab Chatterjee plays his buddy Gupi Muktar. Others in the cast are Chhanda Chatterjee, Mousumi Saha, Kumarjit, Debranjan Nag and Pradip Dhar. Though this is a story Ashapurna Devi wrote with the child reader in mind, it transcends borders of age because the messages woven into the story are targeted at an adult audience.
Gojo Ukil, a very miserly man lives in the city with his wife and grown son back in the village. He does not believe in keeping his savings in any bank. He spends his leisure playing chess with his friend and neighbour Gupi Moktar, a middle-aged bachelor who lives with his widowed aunt next door. One day, Gojo Ukil’s body is found strangled with a gamccha, a piece of red-checkered, fine, hand-woven cotton Bengalis use in lieu of a towel. His cupboard, tin boxes and everything else are scattered, open and empty. Gupi Moktar, resting after a heavy lunch, hears the commotion next door and voices of the police. He cannot find his own gamchha. Fearing that the police will arrest him for the murder of his friend, he runs away to another village. Two young pickpockets, suspecting him of having murdered Gojo and stolen his money, are hot on his chase to grab the loot they think he is carrying.
Gojo regains consciousness in the morgue and returns home. Finding the door locked, and his pocket empty, he earns some money through ingenuous means and goes back to his village home. But his wife and son, in mourning, are not happy to see him. They think he is a ghost. His married daughter recognizes him and convinces the others. Gupi Moktar discovers Gojo’s identical twin he had no clue about, in the same village. He mistakes him for Gojo’s ghost and runs away. After several funny episodes, everything ends happily. Gojo comes back to the city to find that his money is intact within the layers of his mattress where he had kept it safe and sound. He also discovers that too much miserliness can land the miser in deep trouble. In reality, he had accidentally strangled himself almost to death because his threadbare gamchha he never thought of replacing tore off, tightening the knot around his neck and making him unconscious. He takes on the two stupid pickpockets as his helpers, putting paid to their criminal ways. The two friends set out the chess board and go back to their unfinished game.
The film upholds, like the story does, values of friendship and honesty and the disadvantages of leading a miserly life. The manner of presentation is alright. The making of the film leaves much room for improvement. Arun Bandopadhyay has the tendency to overact. His laughter sounds false, exaggerated and badly timed. Biplab fares well in a positive role and the two pickpockets are very good. The characters are given slightly exaggerated features, common in a light comedy. Several episodes, such as the paan-shop owner running away when he sees Gojo he knows to be dead, or the tea-shop stall people taking to their heels, are funny.
The wigs and the make-up Arun Bandopadhyay and Chhanda Chatterjee wear are overdone and unconvincing. The film picks up in the locations because the studio interiors suffer from artificiality and lack of an authentic ambience. Chandan Roy Choudhury’s background score is not half as good as the songs on the track, particularly the baul number. Dulal Dutta’s editing lacks the spark of his work with Satyajit Ray. Cinematographer Siddhartha Dey’s capturing of the locations in Burdwan district is picturesque. The group union towards the end seems contrived but the closing frame is very good, writing an effective finish to a not very well-made film. The children loved it.
BY Shoma A. Chatterji