June 27, 2011 (Calcutta Tube): ‘Ronjona Ami Ar Ashbona’ is a 2011 Bengali movie directed by Anjan Dutt with Anjan Dutt, Kabir Suman, Kanchal Mullick, Parno Mitra, Koushik Ghosh, Mamata Shankar, Abir Chatterjee and others in the cast. Read the Bengali film review at Calcutta Tube.
RONJONA AMI AR ASHBONA – ROCKING
Producer: Rana Sarkar
Story, direction, dialogue: Anjan Dutt
Music: Neel Dutt
Cinematography: Supriyo Dutta
Editing: Arghya Kamal Mitra
Cast: Anjan Dutt, Kabir Suman, Kanchal Mullick, Parno Mitra, Lew Hilt, Nandan Bagchi, Amyt Dutta, Usashi Chakraborty, Koushik Ghosh, Mamata Shankar and Abir Chatterjee
Date of release: June 24, 2011
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[ReviewAZON asin=”B004IURTY8″ display=”inlinepost”]
Abani Sen (Anjan Dutt) is a legendary singer of Bengali Rock. Between his concerts across the state with his old friends who are his musical and emotional support system, he fills in his lonely hours with alcohol, cigarettes and women, zigzagging his way, glass in hand, along the half-lit corridors of his mansion. His Man Friday Elvis (Kanchan Mullick) sometimes with affection, sometimes with reluctance and annoyance manages his affairs (pun intended) and his home. His life topples over when 20-year-old Ronjona (Parno Mitra) takes his ‘welcome’ to Kolkata seriously and lands up at his door one night, alone, guitar strapped on her back, wanting to learn music. He gets a heart attack when she resists his attempt to molest her. Abani’s brazen irreverence and his gloating over his vices is a subconscious attempt to veil the guilt of his wife and unborn child’s death in a car crash when he was at the wheel, completely sozzled. His wife’s room is kept locked and no one is allowed to enter never mind the dust and the cobwebs which are oblivious to strange expressions of human grief.
Ronjona Ami Ar Ashbona is named after a famous song recorded in one of Anjan Dutt’s first single albums, Shunte Ki Chao in 1994. It was a runaway hit and is still hummed by those who were teenagers at the time. 17 years later, Anjan picks the first line of the song and gives Ronjona concrete shape in the form of this dreamy-eyed young girl with aspirations of becoming a great singer with his help and tutelage. His arrogance, irreverence and self-indulgence shock her but she stays on to nurse him back from his heart attack. The film is a mind-blowing musical that celebrates music in all its forms but zeroes in on Bengali Rock where the lyrics are as significant and memorable as the beat, the melody and the rhythm. At the same time, it delicately weaves its way through the labyrinthine lanes and bylanes of Abani Sen’s mind, life and his relationship with all those who he is involved with – his Man Friday Elvis, his accompanists and lifelong friends (Hilt, Ronnie and Amyt), his doctor friend (Koushik Ghosh), the young CEO of his recording studio (Abir Chatterjee), his mentor Stanley Bose (Kabir Suman) and Deepanwita (Ushashi Chakraborty), the young woman who is making a documentary on him. His volatile relationship with Ronjona runs like a trembling, shimmering constant, evolving into an undefined area that hovers between friendship and affection and love in its layered manifestations. .
Music and Abani Sen are the two protagonists of the film, complementing, competing, confronting and challenging each other over their 30-year rocky journey to find and add new meaning to life. In the final round, it is music that wins hands down leaving Abani behind gasping for life in his hospital bed and taking on the new talent Ronjona as the new protégé. Abani is forced to back out on of his rigid belief that women cannot sing Rock when he sees the silent determination in the young girl who has something he lost long ago –conscience. The film closes on the dramatic irony of life –Ronjona belting out her hit song tumi ashbey bole at a crowded concert intercut with shots of Abani in hospital gasping for life and finally giving up. It is a somewhat melodramatic cliché for a film that is truly different in content and characterization but surprisingly, it works.
The film is dotted with some beautiful moments – touching, dramatic, stunning and shocking by turns that punctures the soft melody of music that runs through the film. The scene where Abani asks Ronjona to sing a Tagore song and she promptly begins to sing one shows the bonding that has grown in them naturally, seamlessly without their having been aware of it. In one scene, Abani lands a stinging slap on the faithful and affectionate Elvis who threatens to walk out but remains to serve tea, or, pour out drinks, or, negotiate a contract, or, carry the guitar to the car before a trip. It is a moving scene enriched by Kanchan’s incredibly realistic performance. Ronjona screaming out at him when he makes a scene at his surprise birthday about his wife’s favourite wine glasses having been brought out of the locked room makes Abani look at his real self finally. Abani books a room at a hotel to spend the night with Dipanwita, the documentary filmmaker as quid pro quo for letting her complete her film on his life. But he changes his mind and walks out. Dipanwita confessing to Abani how, in her saddest days, it was Abani’s music – Bela Bose, Ronjona, Haripada and Ali Baba that kept her going. Elvis scolding Ronjona for having left her home to come to Kolkata is another humane touch.
Abani has his first attack soon after the film opens and the title song he is singing at a concert comes to an end. He has his second attack when he tries to molest Ronjona and she fights him. In the last attack, he just gives up. It is Anjan Dutt’s film all the way much more as actor than in his other avatars. There are few frames in which he is not visible. You see him in big close ups, tight close-ups, mid-shots, long shots, mostly sizzled with a cigarette dangling from his lips even while he is singing at a concert, or a mid-shot of his back as he fingers his piano. He does more than justice to the footage the director Dutt gives the actor Dutt. He is natural justifying his reported claim that the film is around one-third autobiographical. One hopes that he had spared his audience watching him wearing jeans cut off much above his thighs especially when Ronjona’s aunt comes visiting. He looks positively uncouth in them.
But we cannot accuse Dutt of having been self-indulgent to a fault, because he undercuts this squarely, almost defensively by fleshing out every single character in the film. This begins with Ronjona to include his doctor-friend, his three musician friends, his mentor Stanley who has given up performing in public to open a fresh page in life, his Man Friday Elvis and even the CEO of the recording company. The best thing is that Amyt Dutta, Nandan Bagchi and Lew Hilt are no actors but they are wonderful in the film. They add the right touch of humour to the scene in the hotel where they have come to ‘kidnap’ Ronjona though that is stretching reason a bit too far. Lew Hilt deserves special mention. Koushik Ghosh as the doctor is spontaneous. Kabir Suman’s songs are like liquid golden honey but his acting is really not worth writing home about. Parno’s debut is sparkling, fresh, angry and gutsy by turns and her dusky skin adds the right bit sultriness the character demands. Usashi is very good in a layered role – chasing Abani with her camera to catch him singing or cursing or drinking away. When persuasion fails, she becomes desperate. Towards the end, the relationship mellows and the two find emotional comfort in each other.
The tight close-ups of Abani gasping for breath during the first and last heart attacks carry with them a sense of unease and acute discomfort. The black mannequin in the corridor of Abani’s ancestral home is a mystery, as if it is silent witness to everything that is happening. The car crash is only by sound suggestion and the wife is kept completely out of the frame which is very good indeed. The camera catches a huge poster of James Dean in one of the walls of his home. Once we also see a big blow up of Marylyn Monroe. Cameraman Supriyo Dutta’s use of various kinds of lighting especially within the interiors of Abani’s home is imaginative and challenging because this is his first film. Neel Dutta has done justice in his revival of his father’s and Kabir Suman’s old numbers and Somlata will soon be complimented for being the female discovery in vocal music. The voice she lends to Ronjona, be it the wonderfully rendered Tagore song or the Rock number, is like smooth silk falling over your bare skin.
So, what gives? The footage Mr. Dutt is a bit too long and the about-to-die scenes could have been clipped. Stanley’s turn of going back to the ‘village’ is a bit cliché to this critic’s mind. But all said and done, Ronjona Ami Ar Ashbona points out that Dutt is as good a director as he is a singer-composer-writer.
– Shoma A. Chatterji