Shoma A. Chatterji

 Maya Bazaar, Joydeep Ghosh’s debut film, marks the comeback of National Film Development Corporation into film production. Ghosh has chosen three short stories by Saradindu Bandopadhyay and Parasuram. But he has just used them as a base to lay bare his personal ideologies on life beyond death, of belief and disbelief.

Maya Bazaar Poster
Maya Bazaar Poster
  • Produced by: National Film Development Corporation
  • Direction: Joydeep Ghosh
  • Stories: Saradindu Bandopadhyay and Parasuram
  • Music: Anupam Mullick
  • Cinematography: Premendu Bikash Chaki
  • Editing: Sanjib Dutta
  • Art direction: Gautam Basu
  • Cast: Dhritiman Chatterjee, Pradip Mukherjee, Roopa Ganguly, Krishnakishore Mukherjee, Badshah Moitra, Dipanjan Bhattacharjee, Payal Dey, Priya Karfa and others
  • Date of release: June 1, 2012
  • Rating: 05/10

Maya Bazaar is three films in one, each one narrating an individual story to portray how a living person relates with someone who is dead. These are Smriti (Memories), Sattwa (Illusion) and Bhabisyat (Future). Smriti is about Kuhu (Roopa Ganguly), a lonely young widow who cannot get over the sudden death of her husband (Badshah Moitra) and sees him in the different men who come into her life. But they disappear from the face of the earth mysteriously after some time. It is narrated in flashback by one of her former boyfriends (Krishnakishore Mukherjee) to his friend (Priya Karfa) in a pub. They see a completely sloshed Kuhu dragged out of the pub because “it is closed”. How the bar remains open for the rest no one knows. When the girl’s boyfriend arrives, Krishnakishore is shocked to see in him the face of Kuhu’s dead husband!

The long-haired artist in Sattwa (Dipanjan Bhattacharya) chases Bonolata (Payal Dey), a beautiful girl who died in the pond of what was once their spacious haveli. His paintings though, leave much room for improvement which makes one wonder whether he turned crazy because he could never reach out to the girl of his fantasies or because he must have realised he was really a bad painter. The tea-shop-owner-cum-caretaker of the haveli has given a mind-blowing performance.

Bhabisyat is the biggest spoiler. It opens with an endless debate between a professor of philosophy who believes in ghosts and a professor of mathematics who scoffs at his friend’s belief. This is a maddening segment that shows Rabindranath Tagore and Albert Einstein dressed in long black robes and atrocious white wigs playing at chess in a roadside cafeteria. The  other ‘ghosts’ are dressed like black cats and wear dark glasses. Once the professors go off on an ‘excursion’ to a beach somewhere, the director loses control. The professors drink like a fish till their speech becomes slurry and their gait as jagged as can be. The ‘students’ aimlessly strum at their guitars and sing vague songs while the dining table on the beach is perhaps a throwback to The Last Supper without the diners. This story drags on and on without meaning. The metaphor of the stringed cot that becomes the ‘hearse’ of the mathematics professor fails to strike a chord because no one is interested anymore. The sea as a metaphor has seen its day.

Maya Bazaar has wonderful actors who try to inject life into their weak roles except Dipanjan as the artist who needs to pull up his act. Anupam Mullick’s mind-blowing background score with chosen Tagore numbers in Sattwa  enriches some parts of the incredible storylines in all three films. Gautam Basu’s art direction and Premendu Bikash Chaki’s cinematography are model lessons for directors old and new. The sound design and the editing also command praise. But ‘props’ cannot add life to a film where the stories are weak and do not make much sense. Smriti is the best never mind the puzzling appearance of Kuhu’s husband in different avatars. One common thread besides the concept of after-life in the three films is alcohol. Kuhu drinks and drinks till she cannot walk straight and is dragged out. The artist drinks himself crazy while the professors are so drinks-crazy that one cannot help wondering what kind of teaching they are capable of.

Ghosts on celluloid can be treated as physical reality, as illusionary fantasy, as a metaphor and as a message. Ghosts can be toyed around with through the two polarities of belief and disbelief and all that lies in between. Cinematographic possibilities are enormous given a solid story. Joydeep Ghosh has chosen solid stories but his personal inputs into them did not work. Maya Bazaar proves that Ghosh has excellent command over the creation of mood, atmosphere, use of music, light and shade, setting, props, etc. He is innovative and imaginative in creating situation. But the stories the situations are created for turn out to be shallow. Ghosh probably lost an edge because of the ‘dating’ of his film that lay in the cans for three long years. NFDC and people in it who matter – are you listening?

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