It was a rare honour and privilege for the film makers of Benche Thakar Gaan for being the first Bengali inaugural film at the 22nd KIFF.The selection was appropriate enough to usurp the position of the opening film which realistically mirrored the trauma of old age and how senior citizens bear the grudge of domestic neglect by family members that drive them to the old age home.
Set in sylvian surroundings, far from the madding crowd, the location and central focus of Benche Thakar Gaan viewed from a different cinematic perspective by the film makers whose inspiration is purportedly drawn from life. The film is not just about a hapless group of elderly men and women dumped by their relatives but, it also deals with financially-independent old denizens making a choice between their families and the inmates of the old age home known as sunshine.
The screenplay also unravels the different case histories of the past of the aged inmates imparted to a shrink; a young woman who endeavours to change their mindsets and lifestyles towards the more positive, bringing some happiness to their lives. The film also manages to highlight the different circumstances that lead to the isolation of the elderly inmates.
A young psychiatrist (Gargi Roy Chowdhury) for some undisclosed reason breaks up with her fiancé, and takes a break to rein in the mismanagement of the home. In the process she manages to generate a lot of sunshine empowered with compassion and love into the lives of the senior citizens who were previously under the scanner for indiscipline by the management of the old age home. She eventually wins over the doctor (Tota Roychowdhury), a stern disciplinarian who runs the home and mollifies his tough stance of dealing with the elderly people.
The film has a human interest angle too which work at both emotional and comic levels with a tragic climax. It’s a good Bengali film coming from the joint directorial efforts of Abhijit Guha and Sudeshna Roy who have managed to sustain the enduring qualities of a refreshing family entertainer. It is well-crafted with commendable performances of its cast members especially Paran Bandhyopadhyay and Anamika Saha with their comic capers.
The other film Hothat Dekha directed by Reshmi Mitra also screened at the last KIFF did not hold the same audience interest as Benche Thakar Gaan. Ms Mitra’s film was apparently influenced by Rabindranath Tagore’s poem of the same title, though well intended in bringing back Bengali literature to the world of celluloid, she could realize that some literary work may not lend itself so easily for adaptation on the screen.
Hothat Dekha builds around the romance around Manasi (Debashree Roy) and Amit (Ellius Kanchan) who hails from a highly educated royal family. They grow old and meet quite unexpectedly after several years during a train journey. Their dalliance of youthful romance is shown in flashback when the whole story unfolds. The film revolves around the past and present coupled with fleeting moments which never wither despite the passage of time which makes their romance all the more enduring and eternal.
The ambience of the feudal mansion and its environs set in rural Bengal has been authentically picturised cinematographically but the verbose dialogues are somewhat sleep- inducing and gives little scope for the cinematic visual language. Produced under the banner of Reshmi Pictures and Bidu Das, Hothat Dekha is Reshmi Mitra’s fifth venture as feature film maker; her maiden vehicle being Bhalobasa Zindabad, followed by Machomastana, Priti Kataler Kata, and Mukti.