Feb 10, 2011 (CalcuttaTube): Necklace is a Bengali movie directed by Sekhar Das with Rituparna Sengupta, Locket Chatterjee, Rudraneel Ghosh, Dipankar Dey, Biswajit Chakrabarty in lead roles. Read the film review at Calcutta Tube.
A NECKLACE FOR ALL WOMEN
Cast and Crew:
- Banner: Kreations
- Producer: Sujoy Mukherjee
- Direction: Sekhar Das
- Story: Prachet Gupta
- Music: Gaurav Chatterjee (Lakhhichhara Band)
- Cinematographer: Sirsa Ray
- Editor: Debkanto Chakraborty
- Sound: Anup Mukherjee
- Art direction: Hiron Mitra
- Cast: Rituparna Sengupta, Locket Chatterjee, Rudraneel Ghosh, Rittwik Chakraborty, Dipankar Dey, Biswajit Chakraborty, Debdoot, Biplab Chatterjee and Chandreyi Ghosh
- Date of release: February 4
- Rating: 07/10
Shikha (Rituparna Sengupta) and Biswanath (Rittwik Chakraborty) is an upwardly mobile, hep and urban couple. Biswanath buys a very expensive necklace for his wife to celebrate his promotion to a much higher rung in the corporate ladder. The same night, Kestopada Majhi (Rudraneel Ghosh), a thief, stealthily tries to break in. While getting caught, he falls of the second floor balcony of their apartment. Around this time, the couple suddenly discovers that the necklace is missing. Who took it since Kestopada did not step into the flat at all? His wife Kanakchampa (Locket Chatterjee) rushes in while he is taken to a hospital for treatment. To stop the wife from filing a police complaint against the couple or asking for a hefty compensation, Shikha takes her to their flat till the troubles are over. Kanakchampa is fascinated and makes the best of this golden opportunity. She finds the necklace inside the bathroom and comes out wearing it and displaying it proudly to a shocked Shikha. She refuses to take it off inspite of Shikha’s gentle persuasions and even sleeps keeping it on.
This apparently straightforward story sets off on a journey that unfolds the ugly, man-made distinctions between the haves and the have-nots, the desperate measures the have-nots are pushed into just to survive from one day to the next, and the cloistered world of material comfort the affluent are cocooned within, not aware of the world that exists beyond the luxuries of parties, exotic Oriental recipes, expensive jewellery, wines, shopping at malls and the rest of it. No one blinks an eyelid when the young streetwalker Tagar (Chandreyi Ghosh) dies in a road accident while trying to approach a prospective client’s passing car. The client wears a paper mask to hide his identity. Biswanath and Shikha are more concerned about avoiding a police complaint and claiming the necklace than about how Kesto and his wife will keep their kitchen fires burning with four little kids to feed – if there are there any. One does not know whether the ‘kids’ are fictional to gain sympathy when they get caught. This is another point of tragedy of the underprivileged and oppressed.
[ReviewAZON asin=”B0044FBVYG” display=”inlinepost”]Das has designedly caricaturized the characters of the upwardly mobile elite class, comically exaggerated in their expressions and actions. Shikha always over-reacts and is artificially coy in speech pattern and behaviour. She keeps on bashing up ‘men’ for being ‘selfish’ but does not mean it. Biswanath is too simple to fit into the corporate executive profile, also by design since his boss (Dipankar Dey) is quite against the grain, more interested in food and parties and fin time than in work. The colonel (Biswajit Chakraborty) spouting Shakespeare, Chaucer and Tagore and asking everyone to guess the author is also caricaturized but somehow does not jell well. Biswanath’s caller tune belting out the currently popular Tagore number neel digantey is a deliberate poke at elaborate impositions of Tagore on the occasion of his 150th birth anniversary with scant respect to the spirit of Tagore.
The have-nots on the other hand, are portrayed realistically and behave like they would in real life. Kesto (Rudraneel)’s entry with elaborate dark glasses and cap is a twist that is revealed at the end of the film. Kanakchampa is dressed in an old, unwashed sari and walks timidly behind others. But her timidity is a social construct. Her philosophy is based on her lived experience just as it is for Kesto. A woman’s work according to her is either ‘standing in the line for clients’ or working as a housemaid. She has done both. When Shikha tells her that she wants to work too, Kanakchampa is aghast. Her only dream in life is to journey on a horse-drawn Victoria across the streets of the city with her husband. Kesto, a regular client, decides to marry her because “it is too expensive to spend nights with you everyday.” When Tagar dies, the camera switches to Black-and-White and the soundtrack is completely silent, encapsulating within a few minutes, the tragic journey of her life getting back to colour as the little girl rises from the banks of the Ganges, suggesting her mother’s death.
Locket Chatterjee runs away with the top honours as Kanakchampa, investing the character with all the shades of a magic colour spectrum. Rituparna does her artificially coy act very convincingly. Rittwik as her exasperated husband disturbed constantly by the caller tune, or with his boss’ chasing a dish he concocts called Chicken Thoria, or swaggering into the jewellery shop with his nose in the air is brilliant. One wishes one saw more of Rudraneel who, even within his brief role, portrays his evolution from ‘thief’ to catering service owner with a street food stall more through body language and facial expression. Towards the end, he wears black tee-shirts either with a Michael Jackson logo in front or a Che Guevara image not realizing the contradiction. Dipankar De throws up a marvelous performance as the joyful, friendly and foodie boss. The street side flautist is an add-on the film could have done without. The maid (Manasi Sinha) is too loud and monotonous which she always is and her loudness jars.
The music follows the class divisions, adding to the power of the narrative. The silent flautist (Biplab Chatterjee) plays sad Hindi film songs on his flute, two famous numbers from Guide and an unforgettable Manna De number. The street violin player in a tattered suit plays a Tagore number. The tipsy Knakchampa breaks into an impromptu dance to entertain Shikha singing out raat akeli hai from Jewel Thief. But in the elitist ambience of the classy, one hears Western classical compositions like Vivaldi, Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Richard Strauss. In the night-club, the crooner belts out the famous 1966 Nancy Sinatra number Summer Wine. The refrain of the Lakkhichara number the film closes on, namely shob pabar aachey amar odhikar functions as a leveler introduced with a political purpose by Das. The background score in the beginning of the film is a bit out of place and disturbs the free flow of the narrative.
Without stepping into Party lines, Das puts forth a strong Marxist message that also touches on feminist bonding between two very dissimilar women –Kanakchampa and Shikha, the one learning from the other, discovering a new window to a world they did not know about. When Kanakchampa asks Shikha to kick her and bash her up because that is what her husband and mother-in-law do in exchange for the food and shelter they give her, Shikha is spellbound. Slowly, a relationship based purely on quid pro quo evolves into something deeper and wider, narrowing the class chasm but not bridging it.
Sirsa Ray’s camera explores the different outdoor locations juxtaposed against the dark pavement where Tagar looks out for customers in vain, or the tall walls of the building Kesto climbs over in keeping with the varying moods of the film. The pace of the film drags a bit before the interval. But post-interval, it picks momentum and peps up the mood with the Chaplinisque strategy of unfolding a tragic story about the dark ironies of human life through a veil of humour. A critic has no right to tell a director how he should end a film. But at least as a viewer, this critic felt that the film would have been further enriched had camera switched off with Kanakchampa and Kesto riding away in the horse-drawn carriage into another world. Stretching it beyond this point seems superfluous in retrospect.
Necklace based on a short story by Prachet Gupta was originally called Chorer Bou. The change in the title while transforming it to celluloid has widened the landscape of the story from the personal to the political and from the individual to the social. Well done Sekhar, keep it up.
Shoma A. Chatterji