There is a sense of self-assurance that comes with success and it extends to popular sentiments that are added to elements of truth, the art of story-telling and the ability to draw impressive performances. The contradiction is glaring but it has distinguished the films of Nandita Ray and Shiboprasad Mukherjee. Thus there is no reason to move away from the proven formula in Posto.
The idea of a working couple trying to adjust their time and way of life to the needs of the child has a relevance that should keep serious interest alive. But there is a lot more to be done for the sake of a larger audience. It has raised questions about the work of this directorial team that don’t finally matter. The abundance of frills again dilutes the statement but make the film a vehicle for popular consumption.
The team has never been short of ideas. In one case, an old man wanted to find personal freedom after his 50th wedding anniversary. In another case, a divorced couple discovered that they had acted a little too soon in trying to sort out the problems of giving each other adequate space. Belasheshey was bizarre in its concept but thrived on its conscious effort to tickle soft hearts. Much the same objective fetched handsome returns in Praktan — characters that were lovable and sharply etched, situations that were developed with a sense of craftsmanship, acting that was rooted to the soil and well above average songs that were pleasing to hear. If all this comprises an irresistible package that is reinforced with a narrative flow with some popular twists at the end, one has no reason to believe that audiences will be disappointed with the new film.
But the questions survive as Posto develops as a running battle between father and mother over custody of the child who has grown up with his grandparents in Santiniketan. They, in turn, have become excessively possessive about the kid while his parents are a working couple in the city. The battle may have been taken beyond reasonable limits for the sake of the drama that moves from household rituals to a sudden outburst on the highway and finally to court. The directors have thrived on such dramatised excesses, especially when the performances are good enough to conceal the liberties that are taken in the script.
One can only be shocked at the manner in which the battle is played out in which the heart goes out to the old man in his desperate bid to checkmate his own son while the audience is convinced that the grandparents are fighting a losing battle. Soumitra Chatterjee has seldom played such a desperate character that stretches well beyond the realms of reason. He is under a cloud on account of the unnatural death of his elder son but claims abundant doses of sympathy for his concern for the child who has not felt the absence of his working parents. The treatment of the character itself is seriously flawed. But it is capable of striking a popular tone in the confrontations with the son, whom he considers a failure in fulfilling his responsibilities, and in the climax in court that hits another high point and finally ends with an excess of tears.
What survives is the string of good performances rather than the relevance of the statement or even the contrived solution to the family dispute. Jisshu Sengupta handles the internal conflicts of the pathetic loser, redeemed by his determination to play the responsible father, with remarkable assurance. The film makes related statements like the dubious justification of “quality time” that cry out for a purposeful debate. But within the limited scope, Mimi Chakraborty does reasonably well to present her professional and human side.
Sadly, the child actor becomes merely a symbol in the running conflict rather than a character with its own human qualities in the splendid environment of Santiniketan where he has grown up with his grandparents. The manipulation is taken to extremes in court, especially during the final twist that allows popular expectations to survive after the family dispute has been palpably blown out of all proportion. Why there had to be so many sub-plots or contrived situations is a question that the directors have not answered in the past or in their latest work. Clearly, the licence they are inclined to take is justified by the fact that they never aim too high in terms of organic treatment or cinematic ideas. They thrive on the core of simple sentiment, the visual attractions of the locations and the polished performances that include outstanding cameos like those of Paran Bandopadhyay and Sohini Sengupta as the lawyers (barring the final tears the latter is required to shed as well).
Posto will perhaps never be included in a serious debate on the plight of children growing up with working parents. That can hardly happen when the truth is so blatantly eroded and finally survives as impressively mounted popular drama with unmistakable warmth. That is what the film is meant to be and, in the prevailing environment, enough to make it a talking point.