April 6 (Calcutta Tube): Debutant director Shubhankar Chattopadhyay is a filmmaker driven by ‘inspiration’. His claim that Bengali Film Handa-Bhonda is based on his original concept as the credits show is wrong. The title Handa-Bhonda is lifted from Mrinal Sen’s Icchapuran (1969) based on a short story by Rabindranath Tagore and produced by Children’s Film Society had a similar storyline where the father and son’s souls are changed by the Goddess of Wish Fulfillment but their bodies remain the same, leading to hilarious acts underwritten by subtle messages on parent-child relationships. amous Bengali comic strip. But there is no similarity between the comic strip and this film so it is okay.
HANDA-BHONDA – WHEN ORIGINALITY TAKES A BEATING
Mary Rodgers wrote Freaky Friday, a novel where a mother-daughter conflict is solved by two fortune cookies given to the two ladies by an elderly Chinese woman. The cookies transfer the soul of the daughter to her mother and vice versa. The Chinese woman’s daughter restores the status quo. Walt Disney produced a film based on this novel thrice, the last one in 2003. Jamie Lee Curtis played the mother and Lindsay Lohan portrayed her rebellious daughter. In Handa-Bhonda, the gender is changed from mother-daughter to father-son. Other tit-bits of ‘inspired’ creativity come from the US televised version of Dennis the Menace around the terror Dennis created for his neighbour, Mr. Wilson. There are bits of other comic characters too. Magic realism is universal. The kids in the audience had a good time laughing away at things not really meant for kids.
Handa-Bhonda is divided in two parts. The first half establishes the two main characters. Handa/Mridul, the meek, timid but honest father and Bhonda/Shayon, his motherless, uncontrollable menace-of-a-son. The son accuses his father of not fulfilling his material desires such as a cell-phone, while the father tries his best to do both roles of father and mother, in vain. The second half is where the magic and the real fun begin and their souls are interchanged. The father looks like a circus clown in a blue sweat-shirt with a floral print and the son is too good to be true. Padmanava Dasgupta’s ‘story’ and script do raise a few laughs. But these are mostly for the wrong reasons. Most of it is adult stuff. The pretty young girl in Handa’s office is tailor-made to seduce him, never mind that she fails. The rivalry between Bhonda and Victor over the new girl Megha is too precocious. The item number at the school function is a horror.
Yet, Handa-Bhonda does have its strong points. The strongest is Mithun Chakraborty’s performance especially in the first half. In the second half, one wishes he was 20 years younger to slip into the item numbers, the jerky walk, the attitude and the vocabulary with conviction. Bhonda’s character was scripted with Aritra in mind. He plays Bhonda with the same street-smart precociousness and premature adolescence he shows when he anchors frightful reality shows on television. Paran Bandopadhyay as the elderly neighbour (Mr. Wilson?) is wonderful. Supriya Debi as the very rich but kind-hearted and wise lady Handa works for after office is very good. One wishes they had asked her not to pluck her eyebrows. One of the two stooges in Handa’s office, the bald-headed one, is really funny with his child-like lisp and rustic accent.
The editing could have been crisper. The film should have ended before the terrible item number. The background score is very loud and the songs are okay. There are subtle lessons to be learnt from Handa-Bhonda about parent-child relationships. But they are lost in the noise and the bustle and too many kids who crowd the scenario. I cannot give it a rating of more than four on ten.
By Shoma A. Chatterji