Probhu Noshto Hoye Jai was made in 2007 and was screened for an invited audience several times. It is difficult to say whether it was publicly released or not. But the strange thing is that the film does not appear dated despite the five-year gap now that Databazaar Media has acquired it for distribution and exhibition across North America and Canada over several channels of distribution. But reactions of the audience are likely to swing both ways and only time and viewing frequency will tell how a homesick NRI audience responds to this unusual tale of lust, love and intrigue that can destroy not only relationships but life itself.
- Produced and directed by: Agnidev Chatterjee
- Music: Indradeep Dasgupta
- Cinematography: Ashok Pramanik
- Editing: Santanu Mukherjee
- Cast: (Late) Kunal Mitra, Ananya Chatterjee, Arunima Ghosh, Locket Chatterjee and others
- Rating: Too experimental even for a niche audience so five on five
Maitreyi (Arunima Ghosh) is in love with her best friend Jhilmil (Ananya)’s father Anupam Chowdhury (Late Kunal Mitra), and even professes her love to him. Jhilmil is brought up in an unconventional family where the passive father cooks and keep house while the mother Aloklata (Locket Chatterjee), a famous writer, cheerfully and brazenly takes men at random into her bedroom. So, Jhilmil is not disturbed when her friend tells her that she is in love with her father. It is a strange set-up where there is this constant questioning of whether the brief relationship between Maitreyi and Anupam is based on love or on lust. The entire premise of the relationship between Anupam and his wife is based on the fact that there has been no sex in their marriage for many years. Aloklata’s approach to this relationship is new. The minute we are familiar with her promiscuous ways, our patriarchal mindsets immediately take Anupam’s side and go against hers. Why?
There is more credibility and logic in the Anupam-Aloklata relationship than in the Anupam-Maitreyi one. Jhilmil hates her mother, ignores her father and yet falls in the same trap of sexual promiscuity she accuses her mother of. At one point, one almost predicts a lesbian side to the Jhilmil-Maitreyi bonding but the director moves away. The steamy scenes are not all that steamy for those who have watched Bipasha Basu and John Abraham have a go at it in their no-holds-barred Jism. Besides, the entwined legs desperately deserve the attentions of a good pedicurist. One does not quite know what attracts Maitreyee to Anupam. Anupam does not appear to reciprocate the obsession but accedes to her need for sex. Why?
Lord, Let the Devil Steal My Soul is the director’s intriguing English translation of the Bengali Probhu Nashto Hoi Jai, the directorial debut of Agnidev Chatterjee. It is difficult to critique an experimental film. Firstly, one has to find out whether it is an experimental film at all in the first place. However, if there is fusion between the narrative structure and a rather oblique one, this may also be construed, as the director’s confused state of mind, his ambivalence about perspective and focus. This does not apply to Probhu Nashto Hoi Jai because the focus is clear. The message of the film, that is, if this writer has read it right, is that sex between a man and a woman knows no barriers of age, status and relationship. Black-and-White defines the gray areas of human conscience where sexual morals fly out of the window to embrace any feelings of lust towards anyone of the opposite sex. It also underscores the polarities between what is moral and what is not, a question yet to be answered in a sensible and acceptable manner by any culture in any age.
The characters seem to float as if in a vacuum, without a history of their own, or, even geography for that matter, where everything seems to hang in a state of perpetual limbo. The acting however, is classic, with special kudos to the two spontaneous but cynical youngsters, Arunima and Ananya. The small screen has given them command over the exacting demands of the close-up. Locket appears self-conscious perhaps because Sudipa Basu dubs her voice. Kunal Mitra has precious little to do except appear unaffected by everything that goes around him, including his wife’s one-night-stand’s sudden reverence for his spirit of tolerance. Sometimes, his discomfort is obvious. Koushik is as good as he always is, this time partly in a drunk state.
If you meant this to be an experimental film Agnidev, then it does manage to raise questions about the potential of the cinema medium and language. One must be cautious with experimentation in one’s debut film because such films can neither fetch a distributor-exhibitor, nor an audience. It can get into the festival circuit easily but do festivals really ensure the life span of a new director? The form is fine. The structure is okay too. But it is the contradictory and
confusing content that fails to take the film’s argument further. If this is a pointer to the futuristic state of the family and of man-woman relationships, then Probhu Nashto Hoi Jai seems quite scary. Really.
Ashok Pramanik’s Black-and-White cinematography is brilliant while the editing (Santanu Mukherjee) is an amalgam of sequential frames and anti-narrative ones. Indradeep Dasgupta’s music is esoteric and mood-centric at the same time. Is Probhu Nashto Hoi Jai a mainstream film? Not really because it does not fulfill the popular eligibility criteria of a commercial film such as big stars, a conventional story with a conventional narrative structure, lots of songs, and so on. Yet, the director takes the easy way out by having Anupam kill Maitreyee after they have made love. Why? Amitabha Chatterjee’s story and screenplay carry shades of a Samaresh Basu novel with some ideas from RGK’s Nishabd. Add to this a conceptual note from a famous Hindi play Bin Baati ke Deep where the husband used to write the novels his blind wife would dictate to him and give them his own byline. The roles are reversed here.