Feb 20, 2012 (Calcutta Tube): Nobel Chor is a 2012 Bengali movie directed by Suman Ghosh with Mithun Chakraborty, Soumitra Chatterjee, Rupa Ganguly, Harsh Chhaya, Dwijen Banerjee, Sudipta Chakraborty, Koushik Ganguly and others in the cast. Read the Bengali film review at CalcuttaTube.
NOBEL CHOR – EXCELLENT
Produced by: Ashwani Sharma
Story, screenplay and direction: Suman Ghosh
Music: Bickram Ghosh
Cinematography: Barun Mukherjee
Art direction: Indraneel Ghosh
Cast: Mithun Chakrabarty, Soumitra Chatterjee, Rupa Ganguly, Harsh Chhaya, Saswata Chatterjee, Soma Chakraborty, Shankar Debnath, Dwijen Banerjee, Sudipta Chakraborty, Koushik Ganguly, Sumanta Mukherjee and Arindam Sil
Date of release: February 17, 2012
The Nobel Medal of Rabindranath Tagore went missing in 2004. Whether it was stolen or whether it was lost remains a mystery till today. The former Left Front-ruled government closed the case while the Nobel Foundation sent a replica in place of the lost medal. Filmmaker Suman Ghosh sets up a hypothetical story on the missing Medal to present a satirical celluloid portrayal of the moral decay that is a pervasive feature of contemporary India. He does it through Bhanu (Mithun Chakraborty), a simple peasant who chances on the medal almost by accident the morning after the robbery – as the film depicts – in the field outside his hut.
The opening frames are structured like a thriller, shot in half light focusing on clandestine hands reaching out to the medal and escaping in a flurry. The scene cuts to documented newspaper headlines and television news channels reporting the theft. Ghosh uses his camera almost like a television journalist capturing comments on Tagore and his Nobel medal. The satire begins from this point on where we discover the tragedy of how Tagore does not exist within the knowledge quotient of many. Among the rest, Tagore has been reduced to a commodity to earn a livelihood through celebrations round the year by some, to bask in the reflected glory of the greatest littérateur India has ever produced for some others, and to belong to a supposedly intellectual elite that pretends to have a monopoly over Tagore and his creations for all time to come by many.
Bhanu’s life turns around when he discovers the medal. His simple wife says if it is made of gold, she can make ornaments out of it. But the honest and illiterate Bhanu takes the medal to the village school master (Soumitra Chatterjee) for advice. The master is right then, reading about the theft in his newspaper. He advises Bhanu to go to Kolkata and hand it over to the CM. He even gives him a letter to back Bhanu’s discovery along with a large, framed portrait of the poet which, he adds, “will protect you from danger.” Does Tagore protect Bhanu from danger? The film shows it all.
Nobel Chor is as much a character-centric story as it is an incident driven one. The narrative begins like a thriller, cuts to the documentary format and then settles down to the business of story-telling, keeping the viewers hooked to Bhanu’s journey to Kolkata with parallel sub-plots unfolding the Kolkata police rushing down to Bolpur to investigate matters only to zero down on Bhanu, setting off a new chase for who they think has ‘stolen’ the medal and gone off to sell it. Bhanu lands up in his village friend Hari’s small home in a narrow by lane of Kolkata. Hari (Saswata Chatterjee) works in a big hotel as a steward. He has changed his name to Jeet because ‘Hari’ does not ‘sell’ anymore. Jeet leads Bhanu and the audience to different ghettoes of the city, introducing him to different people. He finds that they are only interested in the commercial value of the medal it terms of its gold, or, in terms of its salability in the international black market. It is a cash card for everyone and so, ironically is Bhanu.
The jeweller (Biswajit Chakraborty), is only interested in the value of the gold the medal is made of. The conversation goes on against the backdrop of the holy bell jingling in the backdrop as the priest is performing the pooja rituals in one corner of the massive living room. When Jeet asks him to stop the noise, the jeweller turns around and tells the priest, “no bell” playing around with the multilayered implications of the ‘Nobel’ in a materialistic setting. Bhanu, now convinced that it would be better to sell off the medal and use the money for the development of his village, through Jeet, approaches the next man in the queue, an influential, elitist businessman (Harsh Chhaya) who has international connections. He lands up at a party in the businessman’s posh flat embarrassing him and shocking his wife (Roopa Ganguly). But the wife soon wisens to her husband’s diabolic plans to exploit a simple, honest and unlettered peasant. By then, Bhanu has given up the idea of selling the medal, and has decided to go back to the village. But both the police and mafia goons are hot on his chase convinced that he has stolen the medal and is holding it.
In cinematic terms, Nobel Chor opens up a multi-layered perspective of people living in urban Indian metros juxtaposed against the simplicity of rural people. Initially, they are proud about a fellow-villager about to carve his name in history but later, with the media and the police labeling Bhanu a thief, their stance changes and they even want to burn down his hut. Bhanu’s school-going son is teased by his class fellows. Bhanu’s wife is shunned by the village women and everyone is waiting for Bhanu’s blood. Inspite of this love-hate undercurrent, Ghosh’s film draws a faint dividing line between the rural and the urban, fleshing out the rural characters with more generosity than he does the urban ones. Between these two, stands Manmatha (Shankar Debnath), the village mad-man standing like a personification of conscience on the one hand and as the balancing factor between what seems sane and what is labeled ‘insane’, between ethics and lack of ethics on the other. He is the only one who appeals to Bhanu not to go to the city.
One needs to mention the wonderful ‘voices’ of Jeet’s wife, the businessman’s wife and her small son who innocently tells Bhanu that he will open a social media page for Bhanu soon. His mother helps Bhanu to talk to his wife on the phone and Bhanu decides to stop his wild-goose chase for something he has found only to lose some of the most precious things he ever had – his wife, his son and his small hut in the village. Ghosh needs a pat on the back for cutting out the cameos once their function in the film is over and now allowing the narrative to drag after a point has been made.
Mithun Chakraborty as Bhanu proves once again that he is by far, the most versatile and brilliant actor in Indian cinema today who strides over Hindi and Bengali cinema with equal fluidity covering every imaginable genre from comedy to masala to meaningful cinema. His puzzled expression, his slightly timid body language, his look and his clothes realize Bhanu extremely well. Soma Chakraborty as his wife is equally good. The only problem here is that they do not consistently speak with the dialect of the village they live in. Shankar Debnath as Manmatha is brilliant as the village madman taking off his lungi and waving it in the air like a flag.
Saswata Chatterjee, Sudipta Chakraborty, Harsh Chhaya with his surprisingly good Bengali, Roopa Ganguly are very good in their brief cameos. Jeet’s rude manner of throwing out Bhanu in the middle of the night after mafia goons have gone on a rampage in his small flat and held a gun to his wife’s head offers a new definition of ‘hospitality’ in contemporary Kolkata where the lines between ‘hostility’ and ‘hospitality’ are blurred. The party scene in the businessman’s home, the simple décor of Jeet’s small home with its glaring turquoise painted walls, the smiling wife posing for a picture with Bhanu, are tiny touches the enrich the texture of the film.
Bickram Ghosh’s musical score is one of the most outstanding features of the film. It is one of the most fascinating scores one has heard in a long time that neatly slips into the varying moods of the film without disturbing the scenario or the story as it moves from one mood and situation to another. “Oh Robi Thakur Go” in two versions, a happy and a sad one are heart-stopping songs that carry the painful reality of the story’s essence. The ten tracks he has composed specifically for the film carry a haunting echo and in the songs, Ghosh has imaginatively used the voices of real Baul performers instead of easily recognizable voices of established singers. Barun Mukherjee’s cinematography and Indraneel Ghosh’s art direction carry the inimitable signature of their expertise. The cinematography captures the dimly lit interior of Bhanu’s small room as he lies on his bed beside his son and wife as tellingly as it closes in on the hands of the robbers to widen its horizons and capture in long shots, the crazy Manmatha dancing and laughing away against the blue sky.
Nobel Chor emerges more as a socio-political statement on the decaying order of honesty and integrity among people than about the stolen medal as seen from the perspective of a poor, unlettered peasant who has never seen the world out there and does not even know what he has found and what value it has. What value does it have in India Shining? Ghosh unfolds this through people from different social sections that bring about a series of shocks that haunt you after the film is over. It is a film that reaches out beyond its physical frame and its narrative story. It lives out Jean Baudrillard’s analysis of the sign value and signature value of objects to mean much more than what their physical reality suggests. It spells out that the medal is not a medal but a signifier of one of the greatest prides of India in general and Bengal in particular. But who is listening?