Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Bong Connection

Anjan Dutta's 'crossover' effort is not entirely crossover, neither does it offer anything entirely new to the viewer. Yes, a decently packaged product, but that's about it. It will please the Bengalis a bit, but might leave most others a bit bemused about what all the fuss was about.

The story moves on two parallel tracks. Andy, an NRI musician, returns to Kolkata in search of some musical inspiration, a muse of sorts. Apu, a software engineer on the other hand is waiting for the first opportunity to leave Kolkata, a city he thinks has permanently stagnated. He leaves for the US and is quite oblivious of some of the resistance from his girlfriend and his family. He harbours NRI dreams of big money, fancy cars and the high life. For me the Andy track is the more interesting one...Kolkata befuddles the young man... its laid back attitude, the work culture, and this richness of its culture. He sees the youth blindly following western trends, without once turning to the rich and vast cultural heritage of Bengal. He visits a pub, the hallowed Someplace Else, and on hearing the band perform Dylan, he comments, 'How come they're all singing English songs, this is Bengal isn't it, why don't they sing a few Bengali ones as well?' He gets increasingly frustrated with it all. To add to that, all is not well with his own family in Kolkata, his cousin beats up his wife, while the elders chose to completely ignore this almost daily ritual. His retired uncle wishes to sell the family house for a lot of money and settle down to a hum drum life, surviving off the interest. The buyer would probably turn it into a hotel...Andy asks, 'Why can't you run a hotel? You abuse the Marwari for ruining the Bengali and then sell him your house to just to take the easy way out?' The facade of the Bengali Bhadrolok is shattered. The end sees Andy succeed in his musical endeavors and move back to the US, with an offer to score the music of Mira Nair's 'Namsake'no less!

Apu,on the other hand has a more difficult time of it. When he has spare time from bouts of vomiting (as a result of an old Bengali affliction of not being able to hold much liquor) and nodding his head, he works, befriends a Bengali-American girl and an illegal homesick Bangladeshi taxi driver. He has his fun times, falling in love with the Bengali American and drinking (and vomiting again) with his taxi driver friend. However, he is unable to completely come to terms with the life in the land where his dreams are supposed to come true. He is shocked at discovering that his flatmate and coworker is gay. But then stands up for him when he is fired by their homophobic boss. His own frustrations, coupled with his deep rooted Indian grounding, sees him head home to Kolkata, not defeated, but disillusioned. This track is entirely unremarkable, the only highlight being a Bengali party he attends, where every Bengali stereotype is poked fun at. Is Netaji still alive or is he dead? Does Jyoti Babu still drink Blue label? Rabindrasangeet or Nazrulgeeti? How were the pujas this year? This year the hilsa harvest hasn't been good! Its all good fun.

In essence, similar to most 'crossover' NRI-returning-to- India', ABCD-type movies. A light, mildly refreshing little film, with good music (Neel Dutt), average to bad dialogues (more suited for reading) and decent direction. However, the film belongs to the husband-wife duo of Shayan Munshi and Peeya RaiChoudhury. Shayan as Andy is believable and is surely Munshi's best performance to date. Peeya is great as well, both of them having visibly worked really hard on their American accents. Parambrata Chatterjee as Apu is adequate. The supporting cohort of Mamata Shankar, Victor Bannerjee and June Maliya are good. Raima Sen is sincere as usual and turns in a decent number as Apu's girlfriend and Andy's love interest. GOd only knows why Soumitra Chatterjee decided to partak in this venture Andy's paralysed grandfather. All he does in the few minutes he gets is blink twice. The actor playing the Bangladeshi taxi driver is spontaneous and one hopes to see more of him.

So there...for those of you curious enough, or game for a quiet chuckle on a lazy Sunday afternoon, a sample of this may not be too bad. It will obviously help if you're a 'Bong'.




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