Nobel Chor (2012)-A flawed larceny (Bengali Movie Review)

Mithun Chakraborty’s latest stint as a village simpleton in the Bengali film Nobel Chor (Nobel Thief) was highly acclaimed because of an enthralling subject but in the end it turns out to be of a lesser value than expected. Read the review at Calcutta Tube.

The background –

Keeping true to its namesake the story is about a so called “Nobel Chor” but let’s not be literal here, because the thief here is a misunderstood one. The film begins with a docu-ish movement that portrays the village of Bolpur in a setting of austere appreciation. Then it moves on to the theatrical enactment of the actual stealing business and the consequent political or social chaos that ensues following the loss of the legendary poet Rabindranath Tagore’s Nobel Prize. It is then that a “mukho sukho chashi” (illiterate farmer) Bhanu comes into the picture. Played by Mithun himself this character establishes itself with the firmness of a poor man having good principles but little or no education. He finds the elusive object by chance and then begins his journey from the village to the glitter and gutters of Kolkata as he tries to understand what the object is and what he should do with it.

The story – 2/5

Now let us all be honest for a moment and consider the following ideas – village people white, city people black, protagonist is an honest individual while society is the great villain that eventually devours this honest man- do they sound familiar to you? Well I don’t blame you because hidden beneath the nice taglines of an intriguing subject are numerous stereotypes that make this celluloid offering rather banal.

Why is it that a good person without a blemish pays the highest penalty? Then again such a subject cannot really be condemned but its depiction in the movie is incoherent and lost in the translation. Nobel Chor is supposed to be a social satire that tells the journey of an illiterate man who claws at what the great poet was; all the while making us aware of the value (or the lack of it) Tagore really holds in today’s world.

Kudos to Suman Ghosh for attempting such a brave concoction but as it often happens with stories that try to tell too much in too little time this flame too burns brightly for moments and then dies off without leaving a lasting impact. The points are not clearly made and the satire only turns into a very blotchy version serving the original motive imperfectly.

The protagonist is also not handled well and it never becomes clear to us why he actually heralds the “Thakur” in such high esteems in the end or why his vacillation between selling the object and returning it, finally ends with a positive conclusion. I am sorry Mr. Ghosh but listening to one speech about Tagore cannot provide enough conviction to a man like Bhanu to regard the mystic poet in such reverence.

The story however does have its high points in the sardonic humours and the several gags that keep one laughing throughout a great part of the movie while delivering a poignancy of its own.

The direction and technique – 2.5/5

One mark reserved entirely for the length of the film which is remarkably short and thus not much of a drag.

Still in this department too there are multiple flaws. In the age of cinematic brilliance why was the Nobel itself not displayed with much emphasis up close? Why were several scenes at the beginning wasted for the exposition of minor characters that delays the actual urgency involved at the end of it?

Perhaps this movie should have been a little more enticing with the police action beginning in the first half and perhaps a lot of reel space should not have been wasted in portraying Bhanus’s actions at a night club, but then I understand the satirical need.

Yet one wonders if it would have been better to focus more on the Nobel and the reaction it garnered from individuals rather than showing Bhanu in malls or flashy city locations.

The village audience’s ignorance of the severity at first and then the heightening of tension once Bhanu is ascertained to be the thief should have occupied more screen space as that would have made the audience more attuned to the entire celluloid progression.

Plus there were the dialect problems with the protagonist wavering between village accent and city accent throughout the movie.

Having said all that there were however places in which the director and his crew displayed great dexterity in portraying emotions and that earns it some brownie points indeed.

The acting -3.5/5

You could say Mithun has done a nice job in portraying the austere simplicity of the man but perhaps he should have gone on to give another extra mile that we all know great actors like him can provide.

Mithun as Bhanu is believable but not convincing enough. His eyes do touch our chords but at times but he fails to keep the constancy of such movements throughout the movie.

Soma Chatterjee as Bhanu’s wife has given a consummate performance and she truly shines while Soumitra has very little to offer as the village school teacher.

The rest of the cast including Roopa Ganguly has performed well in according to their respective requirements.

The music – 3/5

The music like the rest of the film shines in flirting episodes. While the crescendo is certainly the opening song which is also played at the end, in entirety it fails to remain a coherent haunting symphony of sounds.

You could say that the music by Bickram Ghosh has mimicked the storytelling itself and that would have been great had it not been for the flawed story and it depiction.

So should you go and catch this thief?

If you are a Mithun fan then you should certainly do so as this movie will give you glimpses of the actor and not the commercial package.

If however you require a deeply poignant storytelling that will haunt you long after the screen turns black then perhaps Nobel Chor can be skipped.

By Arnab Chakraborty/IBNS

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