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Inspiration derived without conviction

Statesman News Service |

One director with a reputation for original work like The Bong Connection and Bow Barracks Forever turns to Hamlet for adapting the revenge drama to the lacklustre tensions within the Bengali film industry. It results in a non-starter from which Anjan Dutt can only recover with the help of a hard-hitting original idea. Another director has come up with an attempted thriller that, he claims, was inspired both by Chaplin and Hitchcock. It makes pathetic viewing both in terms of the idea that defies logic as well as treatment that is seriously lacking in conviction.

The film is called Mister Bhaduri, made by Subrata Sen, who had arrived nearly 15 years ago with a film that had produced quite a spark. None of the directors now in circulation, with the exception of Anjan Dutt, were known then. The film, Ek Je Achhe Kanya, had introduced Kankana Sen Sarma, who had gone on to perform in more unconventional roles, including the one in Mr and Mrs Iyer for which she won a National Award. It was a different story with the director who may well claim to have started making films quite by accident after having been a journalist for several years. The first attempt raised hopes — the idea of a young girl with a crush on an older man with tragic results. It had a semblance of truth and was reinforced by convincing performances from both Kankana and Sabyasachi Chakraborty.

The promising start appears to have been wasted. The concentration on urban themes was understandable since he may not have wanted to explore territories with which he was unfamiliar. But an extraordinary interpretation of the aspirations of youth resulted in films like Neel Nirjane, Hatath Neerar Janya, Those City Girls and Sada Canvas, which left practically no impression on young audiences that were presumably targeted. A gap of a few years has now produced a film that is supposedly inspired by the dark images in Chaplin&’s Monsieur Verdoux and some of Hitchcock&’s anti-heroes. Chaplin and Hitchcock had styles that had never overlapped. None of the echoes that they produced through their own devices are heard in this film. While both have left a permanent impression with cinematic ideas that are firmly associated with their creative genius, it is difficult to imagine anyone in a contemporary setting trying to merge the inspiration derived separately from the two legends into a crass interpretation of unrequited love.

This is what Mister Bhaduri finally becomes. A corporate boss has a somewhat ambiguous relationship with one of his beautiful colleagues but then turns to a desperate pursuit of a broken relationship with a married woman. The stream of telephone calls that find the woman rejecting the man and the tensions that erupt between the married couple are not just uninspiring but wholly unconvincing. The caller, with all his corporate responsibilities, has a lunatic streak that should have led to the natural consequences. Instead, there is a deadly climax that is meant to shock but leaves one totally confused.

What does it say about the man other than the fact that he is unfit to live in civilised society. More important, what does it say about a director who pretends to be inspired by the serial killer in the Chaplin film that had sustained the twists and turns and finally delivered justice to the man who claimed to have been tormented by the horrors of war. The idea had come from Orson Welles but that added a footnote which is hardly as relevant to Mister Bhaduri as the unwarranted reference to Hitchcock.

It is difficult to relate the mannerisms of the protagonist here (Rahul) to the deadly character of the serial killer. Nor does one find any of the suspense in the Hitchcock classics that the director claims to be his source of inspiration. Why do literary and cinematic icons keep figuring in Bengali films when the inspiration is far from convincing and, worse, when the final result is wholly inappropriate?.

For some time, the trend involved Satyajit Ray. One film was supposed to have been inspired by Nayak although there was nothing to suggest that the protagonist or the main idea had any connection with the Ray film. It thrived on the music, in particular a song that became a resounding hit without anyone caring to recall what the film itself was all about. Someone else was cocky enough to attempt a modern interpretation of Charulata that sought to create a wave for all the wrong reasons relating to the extra-marital affair.

There is nothing to prevent contemporary filmmakers from deriving inspiration from the past when there are possibilities of a treatment with a fresh significance. Some important adaptations of Shakespeare texts that have done reasonably well in Bollywood may have encouraged similar ventures in Bengal. Genuine adaptations never lose the sense of originality and one can only marvel at misconceived efforts to relate tasteless plots with little or no social or aesthetic significance to classics that remain reference points. It does no credit to the filmmaker and, more often than not, makes an effort like Mister Bhaduri quite forgettable.