Review: THANA THEKE AASCHHI – GOOD
By: Shoma A. Chatterji
Thana Theke Aaschhi reinforces a universal theme that transcends borders of language, culture, time and geography. The poor are exploited by the stinking rich across the world at all times. The oppression worsens when the subject is a pretty young girl trying to lead a life of dignity. One should not compare the earlier, Hiren Nag (1965) version with this one. Contemporary Kolkata is distanced from 1965. Uttam Kumar and Sabyasachi Chakraborty have distinctly different acting styles. Filmmaker Saron Dutta’s treatment and interpretation is different. He has structured the narrative to suit contemporary Kolkata, giving more screen space to the girl forced to change her name each time she is fired from one job and joins another.
The opening frames show a dimly lit room at night where daily workers from Bihar and UP are singing their native folk songs. The camera tracks back. A young girl (Paoli Dam) in a green sari stands silently, oblivious to the music next door. Her sad eyes, with black circles around them, glitter in the darkness of night. With quick jump-cuts between the girl slowly cutting her wrist with a blade, and an engagement party in a posh Kolkata home, when the girl cuts her wrists, the camera cuts to red liquid flowing out of an upturned wine glass somewhere else. Sounds of lightning and lashing rains fill the soundtrack. Party over at rich industrialist-politician Amarnath Mullick’s (Dulal Lahiri) house, Mullick himself, wife (Alakananda Ray), daughter Rinita (Srabanti Banerjee), son Arin (Parambrato Chatterjee) and Rajat (Rudraneel Ghosh), the daughter’s fiancé, carry on the hangover of the party. Inspector Tinkori Haldar (Sabyasachi Chakraborty) suddenly barges in, a green diary in his hand. The complacent snobbish world they live in soon crashes around them, like shards of broken glass, or a mirror, perhaps?
The film moves back and forth between the girl who committed suicide and the Mullick family members being dissected live by Tinkori Haldar. He reads out passages from the diary that refers to every family member responsible for the girl’s suicide. Who is this girl? For Amarnath Mullick, she is Rekha who worked for a brief stint at his factory. Mullick forced her to resign when she refused to withdraw her official complaint against a high ranking officer caught molesting another female employee. Mullick’s daughter Rinita, who did not even know her name, unwittingly got her thrown out of the boutique in a shopping mall because someone pointed out that the dress Rinita had picked would suit a slimmer person like the sales girl. Rajat, pretending to be the Good Samaritan, took her on as his secretary and gave her a complete makeover to suit her post. He knew her as Swapna Chakraborty. In Mumbai for a business assignment, he raped her, pretending to be drunk. Shocked, humiliated and insulted, Swapna broke down. A frightened Rajat pushed a wad of currency notes in her hand. She threw the notes on the bed and went down the elevator.
Arin, a director of art films was introduced to Sonali Sen as a junior artist. He fell in love, proposed marriage and put her up in his apartment. But when he told his parents, they promptly organized a trip for him to Cannes and other festivals and threw Sonali out. When Arin came back, he saw the door locked and was told that she had gone away. A desperate Sonali approached the NGO for distressed women headed by Arin’s mother to tell her that she was carrying Arin’s baby. The lady threw her out.
Saran’s unique touch is taking away the victim’s voice from her and from the film. The girl never talks. When she does, the soundtrack remains silent, focussing on her moving lips. The only time we hear her voice is when Tinkori is reading out from her diary, Tinkori’s voice taking over soon after. Saran uses silence as a strong political statement against the wrongful indictment of a poor, young, pretty and helpless girl by vested interests symbolised by Rajat and the Mullick family. Its dramatic impact is part of the director’s design. The marginalized are forced to recede into a shell of self-imposed silence, because the rich have rendered kept them mute the film points out. Tinkori shows the photograph of the girl to each member of the family separately. Were they photographs of the same girl? It does not matter. Changing her name to wipe out her past life and begin a fresh one makes no difference to girls like Sandhya, Rekha, Swapna and Sonali. Sandhya Mandal is a metaphor for all girls oppressed, insulted and humiliated because they are poor, they are pretty and they are women.
Paoli Dam is brilliant with her expressive face and almond eyes, with her timid, diffident and unsure body language, with her firmness in deciding to opt out when Mullick asks her to pick one of the two envelopes. The next best actor is Rudraneel as Rajat keeping pace with veteran actors like Dulal Lahiri as the slow-talking and dignified Amar Mullick and Sabyasachi’s sarcastic, piano-playing, scathing Tinkori. Srabonti is a bit shrill but it befits her loud snobbery. Parambrato as Arin is an irony. He is scathing about his father’s unfair means of making money yet has no compunctions about making films with that same tainted money. This makes the script’s whitewashing of the character quite unconvincing.
Soumik Haldar’s colour coding is perfect. The rape scene is dominated by bright red, as a metaphor for blood, violence and Sandhya’s loss of virginity. The suicide framing is dark and dimly lit. The party scene is dominated by bright colours and numerous objects de art captured often in top angle shots to express the vulnerability of the rich and the famous to scandal and murder. The shopping mall is brightly lit. Arin and Sonali’s affair is captured with a remix Tagore number playing on the soundtrack spanning different locales of Kolkata effectively. Jeet Ganguly’s mood music is fitting. Sandhya’s downhill journey – the long-winded staircase in Mullick’s old office, the escalator at the shopping mall and the elevator in the Mumbai hotel are pointers to the girl’s downfall showing her in degrees of so-called socio-economic ascendancy.
Thana Theke Aaschhi is a psychological thriller. The dramatic climax is revealed through layers – the blank pages of the diary Tinkori has left behind, there is no one called Tinkori Haldar at the police station he referred to, no Mechhobazar exists anywhere in the city, no suicide case by any young girl has been reported the previous night. The final twist comes with a telephone call followed by real police banging on the door everyone is afraid to open.
Rajat’s scenes with his like-minded friend are repetitive and cheap. How Swapna comes back from Mumbai to Kolkata is puzzling. Arin’s falling in love with a junior artiste is a bit too much, placed against the temptation of Cannes he falls victim to, his forgetting to call up Sonali even once fails to jell. Minor flaws apart, Thana Theke Aaschhi merits a rating of 7/10.
Thana Theke Aaschhi (2010)-Bengali Movie Review by Anirban De
Thana Theke Aschi is a 2010 movie by filmmaker Saron Datta with Parambrata Chattopadhyay, Paoli Dam, Rudranil Ghosh, Srabanti Bannerjee, Dulal Lahiri, Alokananda Roy, Sabyasachi Chakrabarty in lead roles. Read the user review at CalcuttaTube.
Saron Datta’s “Thana Theke Aaschhi”’s opening credits acknowledges adaptation of Ajit Gandopadhyay’s play of the same name but to us, who had never seen the play, it was the remake of the black & white version directed by Hiren Nag with Utaam Kumar, Madhabi Mukherjee, Dilip Mukherjee in lead roles and I just couldn’t help comparing the new one with the earlier throughout the whole two hours.
The story starts with a collage of two simultaneous events that are horrifyingly opposite. On a rainy evening, celebration seems to be at its peak at the business magnate Amarnath Mallick’s residence on the occasion of his daughter’s engagement with Rajat Datta, son to another business mogul of Calcutta. The festive scenes are soon interspersed with shots where a distressed Sandhya Mandal, in her darkened and gloomy corner of a slum, slowly prepares herself for suicide and ultimately slits her veins that coincides with the final chink of the crockery as it dies for the day in the Mallick mansion.
The film now shifts to Mallick’s drawing room where Amarnath and his socialite wife Rama are seen relaxing accompanied by their daughter Rinita, son Arindam and the groom-to-be Rajat discussing on the preparations of the forthcoming marriage in a festive mood. But then discord strikes in the most unusual manner with the appearance of one Tinkori Halder, sub-inspector of Padmapukur PS with the news of Sandhya Mandal’s suicide and with it he displays a diary that he says belonged to the late Sandhya containing references to each of the persons present there.
The mood immediately changes to a serious tone as each seems to have a premonition of something ominous! Their suspicion turns correct with the start of Tinkori Halder’s peculiar style of interrogation and everybody is pulled out from the respective don’t care attitude and subjected to an intense mental grilling when shocking facts are revealed as Tinkori starts reading out excerpts from the diary and showed them, each in turn, the photograph of Sandhya. It was gradually revealed that each knew Sandhya in a different name and the way they treated her, steadily drove her to the edge that culminated in her suicide. The intense exploitation that she was subjected to wrenched out all the hopes in her and left her with nothing but despair. Though each time a different person other than her committed the crime, it was always Sandhya who was on the receiving side. Thus as Tinkori departs leaving the diary at Mallick’s drawing room, the whole family with Rajat gathers round the diary, lost in a mixed sense of guilt, cowardice, grief and an impending doom.
But shocks are still in store both for them and the audience when Arindam reopens the diary only to find the pages blank. Immediately Rajat calls the DC of police and discovers that no one with the name of Tinkori Halder exists at Padmapukur PS. Thus though each heave a sigh of relief, but the intriguing fact still remains as to the real identity of Tinkori and how he came to know matters so personal to each. As no satisfactory answer can be sought, it seemed, as Arindam later reflects, that Tinkori actually was the manifestation of their conscience that each had tried to vainly evade while wronging Sandhya. That our conscience always nudges us whenever we are at fault seemed to be the motto of the movie as it ends with a final twist that will surely have a lasting impact on the audience’s minds long after the end of two hours.
As to the performances, Rudraneel was perfect in his characterisation of Rajat and Parambrata fits in well with the role of Arindam as he correctly conveys the later’s gradual evolution to a more mature being in such a short span.
Paoli Dam was outstanding in her role as Sandhya as she elegantly and effortlessly plays her part that though was devoid of much dialogue but the silent gazes and stares flawlessly conveyed her thoughts.
Srabanti Bannerjee seemed just the correct choice for the spoilt Rinita and Dulal Lahiri and Alokananda Roy’s selection as the heads of the Mallick household could not have been a better pick.
Expectations were high for Sabyasachi Chakrabarty or maybe it was my personal bias, but he never seemed a good choice for the polite but firm Tinkori Halder. He voice and stature seemed to be make him over qualified for the role of sub-inspector.
Jeet Ganguly’s music direction deserves a special round of applause with the melodious notes that were equally well complemented by the voices of Shreya Ghoshal and Gayatri Ganjawala. The fusion of Rabindra Sangeet with modern tune has been delicately handled and though the music was superbly orchestrated but the song itself seemed a bit out of synch with the mood of the movie at the Rabindra Sangeet part of it.
Direction and more:
Soumik Halder’s cinematography is another treasure of this movie with his stylish panning and correct angles.
Finally Saran Datta must be complimented for his direction and his thinking that gives the audience a new look at human nature. Personally speaking three scenes will last for a long time in my memory due to their spontaneity and creativity. The first one occurs when Sandhya slits her vein and the scene immediately cuts to another shot showing a wineglass crashing with the crimson content spilling out as party ends at Mallick mansion. The second is Rajat’s flight following Sandhya’s furious stare moments after he dishonours her. But the best and the most unique one occurs when each of the five offenders realizing the wrongdoings, starts accusing the others and the background plays bickering of street dogs thus accurately summing up the situation.
But all these said and done, the film is not short of inconsistencies that were very much noticeable.
From the start of the film, though Amarnath Mallick had been projected as a business tycoon but his office never reflected the same and showed a huge contrast to Rajat Datta’s office. Also the size of the dining and the drawing rooms that were shown seems to show injustice to the riches that Mr. Mallick seemed to possess. Also, it is rather curious that being so wealthy, the Mallick household seemed to be short on the helping hands as Rama was seen bolting the doors when Tinkori left. Finally, when Rajat calls the DC of police at such a late hour, he directly goes to the point without as much as excusing himself for such a late call and the receipient on the other end seemed quite cool about it.