Dec 7, 2011 (Calcutta Tube): Katakuti is a 2011 Bengali movie directed by Premangshu Roy with Manoj Mitra, Rahul, Jaya Seal Ghosh, Sreelekha Mitra, Rupanjana Mitra, Shilajit, Dwijen Banerjee and others in the cast. Read the Bengali film review at Calcutta Tube.
KATAKUTI – A GAME OF RELATIONSHIPS – IMPRESSIVE DEBUT
Banner: Mitali Films and Production
Produced by: Sudipta Ray Chowdhury
Story, Script and Direction: Premangshu Roy
Cinematography: Gopi Bhagat
Music and Lyrics: Nachiketa
Editing: Bodhaditya Banerjee
Art Direction: Satyen Roy
Cast: Manoj Mitra, Rahul, Jaya Seal Ghosh, Sreelekha Mitra, Rupanjana Mitra, Shilajit, Malabika Banerjee, Sankalita Roy, Dwijen Banerjee, Mitali Chatterjee, Krishna Kishore Mukherjee and others.
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Katakuti, noughts and crosses in English, is a game of chance we played as kids. Grown-ups play it too, sometimes with chalk on a slate or with a pen on a sheet of paper, consciously, but more often unwittingly within the game of life. It is this game of relationships Premangshu Roy’s directorial debut spells out. He has chosen the unusual backdrop of a mental hospital for half of his story focussing on the weird antics of its inmates, the brazen and brutal ways some of the paramedical staff handle these patients and the indifference of the medical fraternity towards these patients.
Based on a story and script by Roy himself, Katakuti explores the parallel worlds of the sane and the insane in two different backdrops – a mental hospital on the one hand and mainstream families on the other. The film raises relevant questions on whether the line that divides the sane from the insane has any logical cohesion in it or whether it is a man-made manipulation based on preconditioned social norms that are often traced back to our personal biases against different groups of people. It also repeatedly harps on the message that it is only when we find a given person obsessed with a particular event or thing or person, we automatically label him/her ‘insane’ without trying to appreciate that obsessive passion for something alone creates and sustains the space for the love human beings should have for one another, an emotion that is fading away in a world filled with deceit and moral decay.
The person who tries to bridge the gap between the mental hospital and mainstream people is Sudeshna (Jaya Seal Ghosh) who constantly does the tightrope walk between family and work and is often confused about where her commitments truly lie – family members or the hospital inmates. Sudeshna’s husband Subrata (Krishna Kishore Mukherjee), a corporate honcho hides his womanizing ways with his suave sophistication and polished manners. Her teenage daughter Rupsha (Malabika Mukherjee) leads an extremely wayward life backed by her father’s licentious freedom he gives her. Pritha (Sreelekha Mitra) is his single cousin involved in writing plays with a social issue and is still emotionally linked to her boyfriend Shubhro (Silajit) though he ditched her to marry another girl (Rupanjana) and has an ailing son.
The film opens dramatically with Piklu (Rahul), a young man, trying to kill his childhood sweetheart Swati (Sankalita Ray) who ditched him for a rich guy who is to migrate to the US. Piklu is arrested but the court declares him insane and he is placed in a mental home. The mental home throws up a beautiful collage of its inmates, each obsessed with a given thing or person. One tries desperately to sell insurance to the other inmates and also to doctors. Another inmate rushes along the stairs to scare away terrorists. A third keeps wiping out imaginary dirt. A fourth, though cured, does not want to go back home. A fifth, nattily dressed with floral shirt and a cap, is obsessed with films and keeps shouting ‘cut’ and ‘camera’ and ‘action’ all the time. The cameos, brief though, are fleshed out very well and rounded up in the end. The one who does not want to go home stays on as gardener. They offer humour without making us laugh at them. The script and the director treat the inmates of the mental hospital with sympathy and respect without trying to make their stories soppy or overly sentimental. There is a telling scene where Piklu who has run away from Sudeshna’s home, keeps asking people the way to reach America and one man deliberately tells him to get onto a rickshaw round the corner!
Sudeshna brings Piklu home with special permission from the hospital board to try out whether the family environment can remedy his situation. All hell breaks loose because with his inhibition-free, open and honest conscience, Piklu begins to spill the beans hidden in the family godown shocking everyone and angering some. He shocks some more when the two families of Sudeshna and Subhro go on a trip to Mandarmoni. His comments help them hold a mirror to themselves and face the truth. He even warns Rupsha that her friends are not good but she has him beaten up by her father who throws him out.
The script sometimes ends to run away with things that could have best been kept out. Examples are – the two flashbacks, one of Rahul’s childhood, his relationship with Swati and his impoverished background; another is Pritha’s where she is accusing the would-be filmmaker of having sexually exploited her without intending to give her a role. The film would have had a tighter grip on itself without these and the message would have been that much more intense.
The lyrics and the musical score by Nachiketa who has also rendered most of the songs, are mind-blowing with special commendation for the title song. A part Tagore number is placed and picturised to blend smoothly into the situation. But Nachiketa in hs weird, black robe with frills along the full sleeves and shells around his neck resembles the fakirs we see spreading incense, waving peacock feathers and begging for alms. One visual with Nachiketa would have sufficed. His brand identity as Nachiketa jars with the fictional parts of the film. Gopi Bhagat’s cinematography is okay inside the mental home and in Sudeshna’s apartment. The Mondarmoni part looks a bit forced. The repeated reference to Rizwanur and his tragic end is superfluous and adds to the general confusion.
The acting by the entire cast from Jaya Seal Ghosh to Rahul to Sreelekha Mitra down to the wayward and wild Malabika as Rupsha or Sankalita as Swati is commendable though Rahul, Jaya and Sreelekha run away with the top honours. The costumes are very good, especially of the inmates who are dressed to look the part. Kharaj Bandopadhyay as the one obsessed with acting, Manoj Mitra who does not want to go back and Dwijen Banerjee the man with a cleanliness fetish are wonderful. Bodhaditya’s editing comes out in bits and jerks and one has seen him doing much better work in other films.
Towards the optimistic and harmonious climax, the camera pans across the two families who have come to the mental hospital to fetch Piklu back and the camera takes a top angle shot of the street below, focussing on a huge chalk-drawn noughts-and-crosses sketch. The best quality of the film is its dramatically unusual but optimistic storyline. The film brings out several messages without holding a flag aloft or shouting out a cause. It makes us leave with the eternal question of where does one draw the line where sanity ends and insanity begins. Is there one? Or can the roles be reversed? Very good debut, Premangshu, keep it up.
– Shoma A. Chatterji