Neelkantha-Bengali Movie Review

Neelkantha-Bengali Movie StillDec 13, 2011 (Calcutta Tube): Neelkantha is Bengali movie directed by Indrajit with Anurag, Soma Roy, Jeneva, Purabi Majumdar and others in the cast. The film has been acquired by Databazaar Media Ventures for release in North America. Read the Bengali film review by National Award Winning film critic and writer Shoma A. Chatterji at Calcutta Tube.

NEELKANTHA – IS THIS A FILM ON THE EUNUCH COMMUNITY?

Banner: Om Namah Shivaya films

Lyrics, Music, Direction: Indrajit

Story: Dr. Biswanath Gangopadhyay

Screenplay: Sanjay Das

Cinematography: Sourav Banerjee

Cast: Anurag, Soma Roy, Jeneva, Purabi Majumdar, Ruma Bhattacharya, Agradoot Gupta, George Baker, Indrajit, Manorama Kinnar, Riya Sundari, Bhanu, Mithun and Pallabi.

Rating: Sorry, none.

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This is not a review of Neelkantha. It is about exploiting a group of marginalized human beings to serve the selfish ends of a single person –– Indrajit. “Neelkantha is based on reality. I have tried to make it with great care. The people featured here belong to a section of humanity that has forever been neglected, ignored and are the constant butt of public jokes, humiliation and laughter. But their hearts are bigger than many,” writes director-actor-lyricist-music director Indrajit in the press handout.

This marks the beginning and end of his empathies towards the eunuch community. The story of Neelkantha is not about eunuchs at all. Five eunuchs of different ages have been roped in to feature as junior artists to support the protagonist, Neelkantha, a mainstream man ‘forced’ to join the community to feed and educate his only son Indrajit. He dresses up as a eunuch and over time, behaves like they do. He takes money to his wife clandestinely because he does not wish the neighbours to know what he does for a living. If this man has to be so secretive about living and working with eunuchs, what kind of empathy does this show? He hides his existence from his son too, because he feels it is shameful for a man to dress up like a eunuch and live with them! He has the liberty of thinking like this. But this makes him forfeit his right to make a film on them.

The film says and shows nothing about the lifestyle of the community, the rituals they are so passionate about, their death rites, the Gods they worship and the way they manage their begging responsibilities. Eunuchs do not beg at the doors of the poor and the deprived. They are known to extract money from the rich and the very rich when a new baby is born. This film shows the opposite. When a eunuch dies, the other members of the group beat up the dead body 27 times with footwear as a ritual to prevent the person from being reborn a eunuch. Not one of these issues is touched in the film. It is focussed on Neelkantha and his tragedy. His boy is named Indrajit.

The film raises a very ethnical question. Can any filmmaker, old or new, good or bad, famous or anonymous, use his/her persuasive skills to exploit an entire group of marginalized and gullible people under pretensions of telling the audience the story of their lives?  The Rotary Sadan was full of eunuchs, their faces lit up with bright smiles of hope of catching the attention of the mainstream through the film. But they began to laugh at themselves on screen. We have no clue about what made them laugh. All one got to see of the five eunuchs in the film comprises of their roaming the streets aimlessly for alms, or, making up the hair and face of Neelkantha, or weeping when their ‘madam’ is dying.

Indrajit does not seem to have even watched the film’s post-edited version – it is that bad. Some critics could point out at directors of Traffic Signal, Chandni Bar and Salaam Bombay of playing the same trick. But these films had professional actors, not real people asked to work as junior artistes in a film. Even Coolie would win hands down!

– Shoma A. Chatterji

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