Review: Bengali Film: JODI EKDIN (Life Is Magic) – THE MAGIC OF DÉJÀ VU? Riingo’s latest Bengali Film starring Indraneil Sengupta, Priyanka Sarkar, Saheb Chatterjee. The story resembles a lot with 2004 Jennifer Love Hewitt film “IF ONLY” directed by Gil Junger. It is unfortunate that original author Christina Welsh does not receive any credit. Neither there is any credit given to the original film. JODI EKDIN (LIFE IS MAGIC) will be releasing in USA on June 29th, 2010.
Life is magic. Magic is life. There is a sense of déjà vu in life that makes it magical and at the same time, interweaves it with mystery, with twists and turns of destiny that take us mostly by shock and often by surprise. In Riingo’s new film Jodi Ek Din, the title spells out the ‘if’ element that defines life as a bundle of hypothetical incidents, relationships and situations repeated in reality. The entire film is split horizontally in two parts, the first half spelling out the dream and the second half pointing to the reality. Or, perhaps, it is the other way round, one is never quite sure. Real situations reflect what one has seen in dreams, not precisely identical, but with similarities that carry resonances of what one has seen in the dream/dreams. The film explores the element of déjà vu through the experiences of Neil (Indraneil Sengupta) who links it to the magic a chance encounter with a street magician reveals. Looking back, Jodi Ekdin raises significant philosophical and existential questions about life, destiny, love and death. It talks about love lost and found and love lost forever. It talks of love taken for granted and love overpowering everything else. It underlines the subjectivity of love that differs from person to person and time to time and yet throws up its universality.
Neil Basu is a high-flying executive with an ad agency, aspiring to occupy the VP’s chair with his impending presentation, if it succeeds. He lives in with the naïve and lovely young Nikita (Priyanka) who has given up her promising career as a jingle singer in Mumbai to move in with Neil in their Kolkata high-rise apartment. Trouble begins with the presentation file Nikita thinks Neil has left behind and carries to his office bursting in during the presentation only to find Neil already has the file he needs. Over the span of their relationship, Neil’s career-centered ambition overshadows his love for Nikita so much that he forgets her first audition the same evening yet remembers to wish his boss happy birthday over the phone. Nikita and takes it all in with a smile. But Neil’s presentation is a let-down. Disappointed and disillusioned, he repairs to a bench under the huge tree along the banks of Rabindra Sarobar. He chances upon a mysterious magician (Shaheb Chatterjee) showing tricks to children in the park. The magician tries to explain to him the magic of life and the importance of recognizing it before ‘time is up.’ Strange things begin to happen. “One rule of magic is that once begun, a given trick cannot be stopped before it ends,” says the magician, a magic smile lighting up his eyes, as he elaborates on the three steps of magic.
[ReviewAZON asin=”B000EQ45CO” display=”inlinepost”]The film is a bit too long because the first half drags its feet over the lovers in their intimate and shared togetherness. The second half picks up in pace and speed. Incidents pile one up on another till the electrifying climax of the same old love story told differently from an unusual perspective. The geographical canvas of the film keeps moving across the city of Kolkata, the interiors of Neil and Nikita’s posh apartment, the conference room, the glittering multiplexes, the shopping malls, the tall high-rises and the village of ‘Paharpur’ that crops up towards the end of the story to connect to Neil’s past, an unhappy childhood marred by the mother’s death and the father’s chronic alcoholism. Apart from the picturesque landscape and painting-like scenario, this part does not add to the film in any way. The song sequence showing Neil singing a boat song and rowing a boat as Nikita watches from the banks is a bit too much as it does not jell with Neil’s city-bred, sophisticated look in the rest of the film. There is a continuity break in Nikita’s dress in this scene that constantly telescopes between fantasy and reality. There is a small touch of a scarecrow turning around to wink at the audience towards the end of the song – imaginative and aesthetic. The razor-sharp editing of the two accident scenes with the ear-piercing sound bytes of a car crashing somewhere, the horns of the ambulance piercing the silence of the night, car headlights speeding away to cut into the long white corridors of the hospital and close in on the glass window that separates the living from the dying are thrilling. Riingo has kept the graphic horror of the accidents out of the frame. The sound is designed to fit into the philosophy of the film that points out at the temporality of man-woman relationships in the jet-paced lifestyle of the young in an urban, up market, metro city where ambition often puts relationships on the back burner. In the end, one finds one has lost out on both ambition and relationships. Can incidents, events and relationships like love be turned around to begin again? “Not really,” suggests the magician who later turns up in a different guise on a motor cycle to keep warning Neil that time is up.
The characterizations of Neil and Nikita, their apartment, their costumes are too Western to fit into the mindset of the Bengali audience the film is targeted at. The orchestra scene where Nikita is surprised to discover that she has to sing in front of an elite audience (that includes Riingo in the front row!) is too melodramatic to ring true. Rabi Ranjan Mitra as the conductor has the telling initials “A.R.” but one cannot fathom why the script decided to make him look so caricaturish. Some serious rehearsals for this particular scene could have brought more technically perfect results. The entire film is from Neil’s perspective and moves smoothly over to Nikita’s in the last few scenes. Indraneil Sengupta looks smashing in his high-fashion outfits and underplays his emotions just so. Priyanka has an aura of freshness and innocence about her. She fits the character like a glove but is a bit self-conscious in a few scenes where she tends to overdo her act. Rii as the couple’s close friend is good. Shaheb Chatterjee as the will-o-the-wisp magician-and-man-on-the-motor cycle carries the show away with his mind-blowing, two-in-one performance. He tinges it with varied shades that reflect the spirit of the film – mystery, fantasy, magic, dreams, sarcasm, amused tolerance, love and death. His character is slightly bigger than a cameo. It is not easy to carry a two-hour-long film ahead with just four characters. But Riingo does it.
As usual, the brilliant cinematography reinforces Riingo’s command over his camera. He does tend to let the director in him take a backseat in situations like the honeymoon song shot in flashback that looks like any cheap Hindi film and in the scenes at ‘Paharpur.’ But on the whole, he lets the director in him do the talking through the characters he has created. Joy Sarkar’s music is good specially in the two songs – one on the sound track in a male voice and the last song that Nikita sings on stage – khola chithi, that do justice to Anindo and Chandranil’s brilliant lyrics. The film is lavishly mounted in great style, like any big-budget Bollywood film. With its moles and a few darts here and there, Jodi Ekdin is probably Riingo’s best film to date, deserving of a six on ten rating.
Shoma A. Chatterji
Datamazaar Media Ventures, US Gateway for Bangali Films, will be releasing JODI EKDIN, LIFE IS Magic on June 29th.