Bengali Film Review

Asche Abar Shabor

Ashche Abar Shabor is the third installment of the Shabor series. This time Shabor Dasgupta  is seen investigating the cases of gruesome rapes and  murders of three girls at Kolkata and Chandannagor. Dasgupta (Saswata Chatterjee) begins his investigation and finds a similarity in the modus operandi of the killings.

Shirsendu Mukhopadhyay, one of the most outstanding litterateurs in contemporary Bengali fiction, is better known for his short stories, literary sketches and novels than for his thriller series centered on a very atypical detective, Shabor Dasgupta, who is the assistant commissioner of Kolkata Police. He is assisted by Nandalal Roy (Shubhrajit Dutta), a pious young man dedicated to Gods and Goddesses of the Hindu pantheon and the strapping young SI Sanjib Das (Gaurab Chakraborty) in his adventures.

In this film of the Shabor series, director Arindam Sil chooses to take his film beyond Kolkata to Lucknow and Chandannagor, famous for its French colonial ancestry on the one hand and its Church and the renowned lighting of Jagadhatri Pooja on the other. Lucknow looks like a tourist’s paradise while Chandannagor is not very different from some pockets of Kolkata specially the ancestral house near the rive banks where Bijoy Sen’s estranged wife lives, apparently alone. But this width of the geography gives a panoramic horizon to the visual intensity of the film.

This is Sil’s most glamorous among the three Shabor films, spilling over with a lot of sex and chutzpah and leg show and the like which takes us away for some time from Shabor’s tongue-in-cheek caustic comments delivered in a staccato voice with his deadpan face.  But it does not really add to the thrills because looking back, the story is focussed more on relationships (read ‘adultery’ and sex)  and on growing children from stinking rich families going astray, one, because of too much affluence and two, because their parents do not quite care about what they are at while they are busy divorcing and remarrying or getting into live-in relationships.

Saswata proves his amazing versatility through his sterling performance in the lead role dotted with the character’s emotion-stripped face and voice counterpointed by his agile physical action.. His lines are pithy that point out to Nanda’s weakness in English, his own fascination for food of all kinds and his insightful comments on history among other things. Within this scenario, his moralistic outpourings in the end stand in stark contrast to his apparently poker-faced attitude. The final chase in the climax moves miraculously through the lanes of what appears like Kumortuli, the potter’s hub where idols of gods and goddesses are crafted, through carts being overthrown, a small wheelbarrow/handcart holding a small Durga idol, narrow lanes with gawking people, right up to Howrah as we see the Howrah Bridge rising in the backdrop. All this could create confusion among the audience of Kolkata. The revelation of the villain of the piece unfolds with twists along the way but the real glimpse of the villain is a bit disappointing because the character is not fleshed out enough through the film.

The girl playing Rinku walks with a slouch and tends to overact. The other two beauties, of which, one who claims she charges Rs.12000/hour, seems enamoured by the simple and highly religious bachelor Nanda who cannot get her off his chest, literally. Anjana Bose as Rinku’s beautiful mother is at her best in an atypical character while Arunima proves how underutlized her talent is in Bengali cinema. Mir Afsar Ali does not have much to prove his acting ability in a small cameo. Indraneil Sengupta meets the challenge of playing the much-tortured prisoner-suspect where he hardly has a line to speak except in the flashbacks. However, considering his sex maniac stance with his wife on the nuptial night, his stand-offish demeanour with beautiful women falling all over him does not quite jell.  Veteran actress Lolita Chatterjee makes her presence felt as the doting old grandmother who remains tight-lipped about what she has seen.

Bickram Ghosh’s musical score suits the changing moods of the ambience but one wishes it was a little low on the decibels. Sanjib Dutta’s editing and Soumik Halder’s cinematography invest the film with the breathless pace it demands and both, a panoramic view of the wide horizon and a glimpse of the lanes and bylanes of the city, respectively. The wide and high-angled vistas give an overall sense of the spatial layout of the final chase  dotted with a clutter of obstructions whizzing through the foreground.

Tanmoy Chakraborty’s art direction is fitting but Saborni Das’s costume design does not quite jell with the low-middle-class background of one of Rinku’s friends who envies his rich friends because he is not rich but wears what appear like branded clothes, an expensive and expansive tattoo on his back and a funky hairdo.

The credit of this unveiling of another Shabor story goes to director Arindam Sil for two reasons – one, he has transcended the limitations of Sirsendu’s original novel by contemporizing it and adding the ‘escort’ service bit and two, making it much more exciting than what the drab and dull original reads like.

Score58%

Bengali, Thriller, Drama, Color

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