Review: REHMAT ALI –NOT AS EXCITING AS A MITHUN STARRER
March 2 (Calcutta Tube): Rehmat Ali (Bengali Film), directed by Parto Ghosh, marks the return of Mithun Chakraborty to the Bengali screen after a not-too-brief hiatus. The grapevine insists that the film is the Bengali duplication of Ghosh’s Ghulam-e-Mustafa (1997), a big hit. But the shift in the locale to West Bengal, the move from Hindi to Bengali, the change in the acting cast from Nana Patekar-Raveena Tandon to Mithun Chakraborty-Rituparna Sengupta, and the leap in the time frame from 1997 to 2010 distances Rehmat Ali from the original in texture, approach and perspective, though the storyline is almost a complete duplication and the director is common. Mithun’s stylized execution of the title role is a far go from Nana Patekar’s style of monotone and flat dialogue delivery and poker-faced expression. Raveena’s flatness is in sharp contrast to Rituparna’s mellowness and then there is the supporting cast too.
Mithun portrays Rehmat Ali with his usual signature brand of acting but a little slow on the uptake, a bit low-key in portraying a rather loud character with multiple layers. He metamorphoses from a ruthless, cold-blooded, brutal goon of Abbaji, to an empathetic human being trying to rescue a victimized and oppressed family in its desperate days. Abbaji is the mafia don who brought him up and turned him into his right-hand man ready to do his bidding be it threatening, attacking, oppressing, humiliating and even killing people he is asked to. He has no moral values. His thought and action is completely at Abbaji’s mercy. Mithun’s dynamic action is now replaced by his favourite tag-line and oratory. His pace has slowed down and his dance lacks the electric energy it had even a couple of years ago. It could be his age and his girth catching up. He could equally be trying to evolve a different style with glowering looks, a serious and sober appearance that veils the cold-blooded action he is capable of.
The sudden and tragic death of Sapna, the only love of his life functions like a catharsis and turns Rehmat into a different man with a different ideology. She taught him that one good deed could wipe out a hundred sins. Rituparna looks beautiful in a sari in a song sequence and tries to do justice to a brief role. The audience breaks out into squeals of joy when they see their favourite hero hugging his lady-love (on screen) after a long time. Biswajit Chakraborty as Abbaji does a completely different take on the celluloid don we are used to. He is sedate, sober, quiet and sophisticated, looking more like a professor than a don. Roopa Ganguly looks really tired and ill as the principled and very conservative Sabitri Mukherjee who hates the very thought of sharing her roof with Rehmat, a Muslim. The dubbing of her voice by someone else weakens her performance. Biswanath Ghosh as Sudama, Rehmat’s lifelong companion, sometimes overacts but is good on an average. Rajatava Dutta is very good as the lecherous vigilance officer Surya, infusing the character with a touch of the comic. Among the action scenes, the wheelchair one is the best.
The Hindu-Muslim harmony issue is not focussed on the Abbaji-Rehmat relationship where we learn that Abbaji is Hindu. Nor does Ghosh bother to pick on Rehmat’s love for Sapna, a Hindu. He rightly brings this out in Rehmat’s evolving and positive relationship with the Mukherjees he is out to rescue from victimization by the powers-that-be. Each member of the Mukherjee family responds to Rehmat in different degrees of emotional proximity. Sabitri remains unmoved and recalcitrant but when she relents, her acceptance of Rehmat is complete, though a bit too late. The editing is a bit jerky. The production design is very authentic in the tea shop where Rehmat and Sudama are picked up by Bhabani Babu (Abbaji) as small boys.
Bappi Lahiri’s music is okay but not a patch on his earlier hits that throbbed with life both in melody and in rhythm. The song picturisations are jarring, barring the dance bar number executed rather amateurishly by Rituparna and chorus. Damodar Naidu’s camera work makes the best of the script’s limitations. I would not give this film a rating of more than five on ten.
by Shoma A. Chatterji