Basu Chatterjee’s Rajanigandha (1974) in Hindi was a path-breaker in what came to be known as ‘middle-of-the-road’ cinema. It walked the tightrope between powerful content and commercial success beautifully without compromising to gross commercial demands. The introduction of actors like Amol Palekar, Vidya Sinha and Dinesh Thakur did not stop it from becoming one of the biggest hits of the year and perhaps, the biggest hit for Basu Chatterjee. It won several awards at the Filmfare Awards in 1975 and the National Award of Best Playback Singer for Mukesh. Salil Chowdhury’s music was a major draw.
HOTHAT SEDIN –REHASHING RAJANIGANDHA
Shoma A. Chatterji
Produced and directed by: Basu Chatterjee
- Story: Manu Bhandari
- Screenplay: Basu Chatterjee
- Music: Debjit Roy
- Camera: Nayanmoni Ghosh
- Editor: Amitabh Dasgupta
- Sound: Sudhin Chandra Chandra
- Art direction: Mohan Chakraborty
- Cast: Firdous Ahmed, Ridhima Ghosh, Abhiraj, Nipun, Kuntala Mukherjee, Sonia Mukherji, Subrata Ganguli, Prosenjit Deb, Sanjay Adhikari and Gunjan Ganguli
- Rating: No rating because this is a frame-to-frame remake of the director’s earlier film Rajanigandha
Chatterjee, now in his eighties, decided to make the same film all over again for an audience that has not seen Rajanigandha. Hothat Sedin is a frame-to-frame remake of Rajanigandha. A committed adaptation of Manu Bhandari’s Yehi Sach Hai on celluloid, Chatterjee has kept the names of the characters, their characterization, the storyline and the outcome exactly like they were in Rajanigandha. Caught in a time-warp dating back to the 1970s, Chatterjee must have felt that today’s audience fed with synthetic song sequences shot in Malaysia and forced action scenes that feature in Bengali commercial cinema, a simple love story like Hothat Sedin/Rajanigandha would bring in a whiff of fresh air. But over the past 38 years, the Bengali audience has changed. Simply placing the famous Hindi film within a Bengali ambience would have zero appeal for today’s audience.
For seniors who have seen Rajanigandha, this film looks like a poor replica. For the Y-generation, the film is one big y-a-w-n. Juxtaposed next to Bedroom, Laptop, Paglu and Bhooter Bhabisyat, Hotath Sedin appears like yesterday’s wilted flower you forgot to throw away. The only compromises Chatterjee makes are in the language of the film – from Hindi to Bengali – and in relocating it from Delhi to Kolkata and from Mumbai to Dhaka respectively, because this is reportedly an Indo-Bangladesh venture. But this has led to the film’s undoing. Wihtout the Salil Chowdhury brand of unique music and songs, the film collapses almost as soon as it begins. K.K. Mahajan’s cinematography that scanned the streets and bus interiors of Delhi, the bus stations and the taxi rides in Mumbai are unforgettable. In Hotath Sedin, the cinematography is flat without any play of light and shade.
Gone is the sari-clad, prim-and-propah Deepa of 1974. Today, young ladies, never mind if they are into academic research or not, rarely sport saris. Love is no longer confined to a virgin peck-on-the-cheek like Sanjay (Firdous) gives Deepa (Ridhima) in one scene. Couples now believe in jumping into each other’s beds even before they know each other’s names! No film, not even Bhooter Bhabisyat or Aatta Aater Bongaon Local is made without an item number. a film’s commercial and critical success also depends on supporting characters to keep the story moving. In Hothat Sedin, there are none.
The finished look of the film is somewhat like a television serial shot in an ordinary living room and/or bedroom and the editing is no good either. The low-key and subtle performances by Firdous, Ridhima and Abhiraj are the saving graces of the film. Had Basu Chatterjee wished to strike a soft spot with his brand of romance among the Bengali audience, he should have made a Bengali version of the film soon after the Hindi one was a great success. After a gap of 38 years, it is passé.