Feb 17, 2011 (Calcutta Tube): Kagojer Bou is a 2011 Bengali movie directed by Bappaditya Bandopadhyay with Rahul, Priyanka, Paoli Dam, Bratya Basu and others in the cast. Read the Bengali movie review at Calcutta Tube.
KAGOJER BOU – A CELLULOID HOMAGE TO HUNGER
- Story: Sirsendu Mukhopadhyay
- Direction, script and dialogue: Bappaditya Bandopadhyay
- Music direction: Gaurab Chatterjee
- Lyrics: Anirban Majumdar
- Cast: Rahul, Priyanka, Paoli Dam, Joy Sengupta, Rimjhim Gupta, Bratya Basu, Nandini Ghoshal, Anindo Banerjee and Gargi RoyChoudhury
- Rating: 8/10
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Upal (Rahul) represents the tragedy of hunger in human form. No one has ever offered him a plateful of rice to fill his empty belly with. So, words like ‘honesty,’ ‘integrity’, ‘morality’ ‘love’ ‘relationships’ are meaningless and hollow. He is prepared to sell his soul for money, such is his desperation. Yet, you bear no anger towards him or his merciless approach to life and relationships. Is this because somewhere, we are all driven by the perennial fear of an empty stomach? Or, is it because we identify with the quid pro quo in relationships the film keeps zeroing in on? Maybe, it is more a feeling that we are safer than he is, forever chased by the fear of hunger.
Subimal (Joy Sengupta), Upal’s high-flying friend, married to Shreya (Rimhim) is a womanizer currently attracted to an ambitious and sexy model Priti (Paoli Dam). But Priti shrugs him off. Subimal asks Upal to create a situation that will expose Priti’s current boyfriend (Anindo) as a two-timing dude. Upal agrees in exchange for money. He has no qualms about asking Ketaki (Priyanka), who loves him, to sleep with the boyfriend, clicking their intimate moments with his hidden mobile to show it to Priti later. Priti breaks off with the boyfriend and slowly, warms up towards Subimal, romping off with him to a beach resort for a sizzling weekend. Subimal now wants to marry Priti. He again asks Rahul to have an affair with his conventional and loyal wife Shreya so that he can bring adultery charges against her for divorce. This too is in exchange for money. Upal clicks pictures with her that can provide solid proof in court. But by then, Priti has wizened to Subimal’s scheme and breaks off with Subimal. Shreya who has fallen in love with Upal, is devastated. Surprisingly, Priti now proposes marriage to Upal, luring him with stories of settling in the US and also offers him a hefty sum. They get through a hasty civil marriage and Priti hands him the promised money. When he asks her about the promised American trip, she simply tells him that she is just a ‘paper wife,’ and has no obligation to the fake marriage. Upal hands over the money to the slumlord who is forcing Ketaki into marriage on condition that he give up Ketaki and the dilapidated old mansion he is trying to take over from its desperately impoverished owners.
[ReviewAZON asin=”B004G7GV38″ display=”inlinepost”]Upal is just one microcosm of hunger. Shreya’s hunger for company, for a break from her lonely, loveless, ignored life makes her easily fall in love with the first man who gives her some importance. Priti is hungry for money, affluence and material wealth. Ketaki is hungry for love. Subimal is hungry for variety in sex. The children in the slum are hungry for some fun while the local don is hungry for free sex and money. The man with three wives is hungry for some soothing company through marriage. But when he walks out of his three wives and decides to stick to his new wife, he discovers that she is promiscuous and makes no bones about it. Yet, the many faces of poverty do not reveal ugliness and is left to suggestion. Hunger remains hunger for Upal and he resigns himself to this destiny. So used is he to live in hunger that he gives away the money Priti gives him to the don.
Rahul as Upal holds the entire film together from beginning to end, with a beautifully subdued performance essaying his feelings mainly through his silences and his resigned body language, his weariness as he travels in the tramcar aimlessly, the fantasy band underscoring the pathos of his life. This is the first film in which Rahul finally finds his footing in real cinema. Priyanka is wonderful as Ketaki who is not ashamed of her life that does not give her any choices. Paoli as Priti is eloquent in her sultry silences with very little speech. She speaks mainly with her smouldering eyes and sexy body while Rimjhim’s Shreya is controlled, soft and low-key. Joy is very good in his brief cameo as Subimal, brisk, no-nonsense and yet diabolic. Gargi as the lawyer is abrupt, smart and brutally frank. Bratya Basu is outstanding in his brief cameo as the much-marrying Saha. The most striking element of these characters is that none of them display any sign of guilt, a grim insight into contemporary urban values in every sphere of life. Bappaditya refrains from any judgmental stance. Yet, Rahul’s lost, almost vacant expression shows how defeated and trapped he feels. This brings across the spirit of Sirsendu’s original novel.
The camera, like a faithful friend of Upal, wanders across with him into plush shopping malls, inside the tram car with a band playing the beautiful theme song shunyo thekey shuru korey, through a narrow lane lined with brick walls, into a graveyard were Upal meets Ketaki, on the deck of a motor boat with Shreya, the empty corridors and compound of a mansion in with light flows in through an open arch, inside darkened bedrooms of shadowy hotels, adding both depth and perspective to Upal and his world of defeat and failure. The other songs, especially the folk number on the soundtrack when Saha brings his fourth wife home is beautifully positioned and sung.
These are intercut with visual metaphors. One is ironic. The first time is when Upal’s father’s body is being taken out while children are playing with colours. It juxtaposes the irony of joy and cheer alongside death. Ketaki playing with the red gulaal merrily is a tragic suggestion of her trying to infuse some colour into her colourless life. The other visual metaphor showing Priti playing on a cello as part of a fantasy orchestra is confusing and obtuse. The third metaphor is more in the form of a sub-theme which subtly but powerfully makes a satiric comment on the institution of marriage through the story of Saha.
Sirsendu Mukhopadhyay’s stories are perhaps the most challenging to place on celluloid. This becomes more challenging when the filmmaker has to create the time-leap from the original story written around 30 years ago to bring it to contemporary times where the core ideology or, rather, the lack of it, is represented by the protagonist Upal (Rahul) in 2010. Bappaditya makes the time-leap convincing without taking liberties with the core in the original. He changes the tape recorder Upal always carried in his pocket to the ever-friendly, multi-purpose cell phone camera to achieve his goal. Kagojer Bou is his best film till date. It is more universally true today than it was when Sirsendu Mukhopadhyay wrote it 30 year.
Shoma A. Chatterji