Musalmanir Galpo (2010) – Bengali Movie Review by Shoma Chatterjee
Musalmanir Galpo is a 2010 Bengali film directed by Pranab Choudhury starring Sudip Mukherjee, Mumtaz Sorcar, Indrajeet Chakraborty, Biplab Chatterjee and others. Read the CalcuttaTube review of the movie.
MUSALMANIR GALPO – A FILM OF MISSED OPPORTUNITIES
- Banner: Pitrashish Marketing Enterprises Pvt. Ltd.
- Story: Rabindranath Tagore
- Screenplay and direction: Pranab Choudhury
- Cinematographer: Pradip Chakraborty
- Music and lyrics: Pandit Debjyoti Bose
- Editing: Nilanjan Mandal/Asit Bose
- Cast: Sudip Mukherjee, Mumtaz Sorcar, Indrajeet Chakraborty, Biplab Chatterjee, Shankar Chakraborty, Chinmoy Roy, Anamika Saha, Locket Chatterjee, Rajat Ganguly, Sanjib Sarkar.
- Date of release: July 16th 2010
- Rating: 5/10
The 150th year of Tagore’s birth has offered a golden opportunity to Bengali filmmakers to take a piggy-back ride on this celebration and announce films based on the works of Rabindranath Tagore. The first of these to have made it to the theatres is Musalmanir Galpo based reportedly, on the last short story Tagore wrote before he passed away. His failing health did not allow him to fine-tune the first draft and the story remained in its draft form. A new production banner, namely, Pitrashish Marketing Enterprises Pvt. Ltd marked its debut in the world of films with Musalmanir Galpo directed by Pranab Choudhury who has worked extensively on television and has made documentary films for many years. Musalmanir Galpo is his first released feature film.
The story is so woman-centric and strong that this could have been the first action film with a woman at the centre doing all the action scenes pitted opposite a group of young men. Taking Mumtaz Sorcar to portray the title role, a trained boxer in her own right, would have added fodder to the martial arts scenes, adding a new dimension to this unusual Tagore story. But let us deal with this later. What makes Musalmanir Galpo a woman-centric tale of power, courage and triumph in the face of obstacles at a time when women were neither educated nor familiar with the world beyond the safe cocoon of the four walls of their home? The story makes it strong and powerful and an example to be emulated by women around seven decades after the story was written.
Kamala (Mumtaz Sorcar) is a Hindu Brahmin girl, orphaned in childhood and brought up by her uncle (Biplab Chatterjee) and his wife (Anamika Saha). She is spared no rebuke by her cruel aunt who however, wants to marry her off to the first male the marriage broker can bring for her. She finds a match in a much older landlord (Shankar Chakraborty) who is addicted to women and alcohol. She tries to resist but fails. On the way to her in-law’s home, the dreaded dacoit Madhumallar with his gang of dacoits attack the group and tries to abduct Kamala while her husband flees with his cronies. But a do-good affluent landlord Habir Khan (Sudip Mukherjee) rescues her and gives her shelter in his Rajputani Mahal created especially for rescued Hindu women. When Kamala insists on going back to her uncle’s home, Habir Khan relents. But her uncle’s family refuses to take her back as she has spent the night in a Muslim abode and this has made her untouchable for them. She comes back escorted by Khan and slowly becomes the center of attention in the Mahal. She persuades Habir Khan to teach her the arts and skills of warfare such as sword-fighting, horse-riding and lathi-fights and excels in them in no time. She also falls in love with Khan’s second son Karim (Indrajit Chakraborty) and tells Khan that she wants to marry his son. Just before they are to marry, Khan calls a village meeting, christens her Meherjaan and hands over his flag to her to carry on his legacy of helping women in distress, irrespective of their religious faith. Just then, a messenger comes with the warning that Madhumallar is about to attack the bridal group carrying Sarala, Kamala’s cousin to her in-law’s home. Meherjaan rides to the site with her group, beats Madhumallar and his gang to a hasty retreat and rescues her sister she loved dearly.
The discovery of the film is Mumtaz Sorcar in the title role. Though she looks a bit overgrown for a character who is supposed to be much younger than she looks in the initial scenes, she is a very promising actress in all the varied shades of the character. From the young girl who adores and spars with cousin Sarala, takes in the sharp rebukes of her aunt with silent tears, tries to get consoled by her uncle. She then essays the terror-stricken bride trying to hide behind her husband for safety, the shock of being left alone to be taken away, the confusion when Habir Khan tries to rescue her and the shock of being rejected by her own family. The two segments of the film that form the saving grace apart from Mumbai’s acting are the scenes where Kamala is training with her male counterparts – the sole woman in a big group of men and the subtle romance that ensues between Kamala and Karim without a single dialogue exchanged between them. Sudip Mukherjee is quite good as Habir Khan though the character is weakened by lifting it to a God-like status that does not jell. Kamala is treated like a queen in the Hindu mahal while there is no ‘rehabilitation’ at all for the other women in the same mahal so what is the ‘rescue’ all about? Indrajeet gives a controlled performance as Kabir while Biplab and Anamika as Kamala’s uncle and aunt are typically melodramatic.
The scenes of Kamala training in militancy skills are often taken in top angle shots. Had these action scenes been extended more along the footage of the film, it would have given the film an extra kick. The director however, chose to drag his feet along with his long-winding and slow script over the opening scenes of Kamala and her natal family, the talks around her marriage, some scenes of the lecherous groom and so on reducing the action scenes to brief segments stripping the film with the little excitement quotient it had. The camera works strangely, making the characters often look directly into the lens, or capturing them in stage-like poses such as the lecherous zamindar hobnobbing with his cronies in a straight group facing the camera much like actors face the audience in a staged play. The minute the camera tracks back to capture mid-shots and long shots, the figures lose their clarity and become diffused beyond repair. A “full moon” night scene is often used to jump from one scene to the next writing a sad comment about the editing of the film.
In sum, Musalmanir Galpo is the film of mixed opportunities – in terms of the screenplay that is slow, dragging and loosely strung, weakened further by too many needless flashbacks; the sob-story of Habir Khan’s Hindu mother is superfluous, perhaps offering a slot to the actress who plays it; the dialogue – too full of bombastic oratory juxtaposed against sob-story melodrama; in terms of the cinematography and the editing and finally, it terms of its lovely and melodious musical score where there are several songs too many that never seem to end and that burst into the frame every other five minutes. You are confused. Are you watching a period film? Are you watching a musical? Are you watching a Tagore story placed on film? Or, are you perhaps watching a feature film with a strong feminist statement? Do not blame yourself if you cannot arrive at a definite conclusion. It is quite likely that the director is equally confused.
by Shoma A. Chatterji
Musalmanir Galpo (2010) – Bengali Movie Review by Anirban De
Pranab Choudhury makes his directorial debut, paying homage to Rabindranath Tagore on his 150th birth anniversary, by his picturisation of the last story penned by Rabindranath on 24th– 25th June, titled ‘Musalmanir Galpo’.
The story centres a girl named Kamala, orphaned at a very young age, being brought up in her uncle’s family with her younger cousin Sarala. It was a time when the zamindars, under the guise of saviours, used to torment the common people. Families with daughters were more vulnerable to injustice and it was not uncommon when henchmen of the corrupt aristocracy used to loot young girls from their homes. Over and above there was the danger from wayside marauders ready to plunder the innocent travelers.
In this chaotic situation Kamala was married off to Nityananda, a rich and lustful landlord of a distant village, already been married once. But the married life of Kamala seemed to be the most short lived as on the way to the in-laws, the procession was raided by a band of raiders led by the terrifying Madhu Molla. Everybody either fell under the swords of the marauders and the rest including Nityananda fled, deserting Kamala at the mercy of Madhu Molla. As the villain tried to dishonour her, Habir Khan intercepted with his men and rescued Kamala from Madhu’s clutches.
The pious Muslim, Habir Khan, was a man of respect and took extreme care to assure religious sanctity to all the refugees that he gave shelter to. He had promised his mother, at her deathbed, to protect the oppressed and had lost Rahim, the eldest of his three sons in his fight against injustice. When he gave shelter to Kamala it seemed her days of misery was over and she soon found out a new meaning of life as she dwelt in the safe haven that Khan had designed for them.
Soon she observed the daily drill of Habir Khan’s private army and asked him to give her lessons on staff combat and sword fighting. She learnt the tactics of the martial arts quickly, being assisted by Kareem and Shahzaad, the two other sons of Khan and soon became a favourite disciple to him. As Kamala and Kareem came closer, they fell in love with each other. So Kamala requested Habir to convert her religion, though the later was not in support of the idea. But Kamala convinced him and Habir Khan had to agree ultimately. On the same evening that she was converted and was given the name Meher Jaan, the whole village being witness to the proceedings, news came that her cousin, Sarala, following her wedding was on her way to her in-laws in the same route that she took years back during a similar occasion. Kamala, now Meher Jaan, seized with anxiety for her cousin’s safety, requested Habir Khan’s permission to lead the army to secure Sarala’s procession against any possible assault from Madhu and his henchmen. Her hunch was correct as no soon did the procession crossed the same place, where her palanquin was attacked, Madhu struck again with full force. As people started rushing about in panic, Meher Jaan, with her men, came to the rescue and after a violent fight, drove off the robbers. Thus, started the new episode in Kamala’s life, with a promise to carry forward the flag of protection through to the next generation.
The film ended with the hope that Tagore cherished of a nation without religious and gender specific fanaticism and with people pure both at heart and soul.
Though the music itself is good, being directed by the maestro Pt. Debojyoti Bose and sung by the likes of Haimanti Sukla and Subhomita but the inclusion of too many songs has dampened the pace of the story that did not do justice to the story’s fabric.
Soumitra Chatterjee’s voice over have been aptly used and Pradip Chakrabarty’s cinematography deserves praise, mostly for the shots of the song sequences. The make-up and costume design shares a mixed applaud as though most of the costumes were designed for pre-independence era, some stood glaringly apart from the age that was being depicted. Also the fresh look of the tormented villagers did not go hand in hand with the mood the film.
As to the acting, Sudip Chatterjee takes the lion’s share of credit with his revered characterization of Habir Khan. Mumtaz Sarkar, though seemed not a judicious choice while portraying the innocent Kamala but seemed the best selection as the film progressed while Kamala was being transformed to the valiant Meher Jaan. Her athletic built was more than necessary for the convincingly courageous protector of the oppressed. The newcomer Parama Sarkar (Sarala) surprises with her talent in the supporting role while Indrajit (Karim) didn’t find scope to do much. The veterans like Anamika Saha (Sarala’s mother), Sankar Chakrabarty (Nityananda) and Biplab Chatterjee (Sarala’s father) suited well with their roles and Locket Chatterjee’s (Habir Khan’s mother, in flashback) short and fitting appearance gave the proper introduction to Habir Khan’s character.