Bengali Film Review

Belaseshe

A couple discover love for the first time when their marriage is about to celebrate 50 years of togetherness!

“The relationship between a publisher and his author is like the relation that sustains between a husband and wife. The publisher works in the public domain while the writer lives within the privacy of his writing and his interior world.” Biswanath Majumdar, 75, (Soumitra Chatterjee), a successful and noted publisher says this to his wife Arati (Swatilekha Sengupta), 66, towards the end of the film when he finally realises that he does not cherish travelling alone to Norway or Greece without Arati beside him. Notwithstanding the strong patriarchal note in this revelation, Belaseshe is a rarity in contemporary Bengali cinema that deals with a mellow couple at the fag end of their life within marriage.

The Majumdars have three daughters and one son. The son Barin (Shankar Chakaraborty) looks after the publishing house but his wife (Indrani Dutta) is unhappy. The daughters are married either to wealthy men or successful men and are attached to their parents. An earthquake like disaster happens when on the eve of their 50th wedding anniversary, Biswanath declares that he wants to divorce his wife! The children are devastated but Arati remains calm because she thinks he has played a trick to bring all the children and their families together on Bijoya Dashami. Majumdar tells her that his announcement was honest and straight from the heart. Arati is shocked. The judge asks the couple to go on a holiday all by themselves for a fortnight but Arati insists that she wants her entire family along with grandchildren around her. The large family spanning three generations proceed on holiday and the film changes channels for the couple to rediscover themselves after 49 long years.

Directors Nandita Roy and Shiboprasad Mukhopadhyay have made it their credo to make wholesome family entertainment that leaves behind a feel-good sensibility when the film ends. Their earlier film, Ramdhanu, reflected the same mood through a storyline that focussed on the woes of parents who are obsesses with admitting their tiny tots to high-funda English medium schools. This time, they have made it their responsibility to carry the message of how within patriarchy, the husband does not even know what his wife likes to read, whether she reads at all or not, which film star she is a fan of, what she loves to eat and so on. This is a grim reflection of reality as it exists within a husband-wife relationship where the husband is 75 and the wife is 66.

The film takes sneak peaks at the lives of the adult children and their spouses to show that everything is not as sweet and syrupy as it might seem. These are brought out in slices but one feels that these ‘slices’ could have been slimmer than they are. The eldest daughter bathes a dozen times a day and puts off her horny husband each time he gets close. Aparajita Addya is outstanding as Kaberi – crying away at the slightest go but poor Kharaj as her husband is reduced to a joker made to overdo his act often. The middle daughter (Rituparna Sengupta) is married to a music-minded, stinking rich young man (Sujoy Prosad Chatterjee) who is glued to his music when he is not heating up the dinner for his adulterous wife.

The youngest, Priya (Monami Ghosh) is married to Polash (Anindyo Chatterjee) and the two are into producing television software and are so glued to their respective cellphones that sex has flown out of the window and love is an unknown word. Together, they create a fake illusion of one big happy family but taken separately, they have problems they do not know how to deal with. The acting is okay but uneven – loud at certain times and understated in others but the most outstanding performance comes from Swatilekha as Arati who changes channels when her husband does not return with them from Santiniketan and she learns to live independently. Among the grown children, Monami and Shankar Chakraborty stand out. Gopi Bhagat’s cinematography captures the arid locales of Santiniketan beautifully.

The morning walks the couple takes everyday in Santiniketan bring out layers of hidden facts each one did not know about the other and unwittingly, created pain for both the one loved and the one loving. “For me, the small habits I have evolved over the years – taking your wet towel to bath just to get the smell of your body for instance, to me, is what love is all about,” says Arati to Biswanath when he asks her if they really loved each other or had their lives together was just a habit. There are a lot of literary and intellectual anecdotes from the literary world one doubts a major slice of the audience will wizen up to. Alternately, it can also be a learning experience.

As Biswanath and Arati begin their morning walks in Santiniketan and discover each other for the first time in 49 years, the grown children with schism in their own relationships learn to look at themselves and the fragments of their marriage mend themselves. The music is well-placed with high points to Anupam Roy for his lyrics and the song he sings towards the end. But the Santiniketan holiday segment is somewhat disturbed by the obviously touristic designs woven in. The intrusion into the private, intimate moments of the old couple through the camera fixed in their bedroom is a bit unethical because the rough edges would have smoothened out by elderly pair all by themselves without their children sneaking up on them. Not in very good taste but an imaginative add-on for the kind of humour the videocam generation will curry up to.

Belaseshe is a reminder of the family drama genre Tarun Majumdar was so good at though they were drawn from original literary sources. Nandita and Shiboprasad have taught themselves the magic of the box office and the cash counters are jingling away merrily already. One sadly misses their first film Ichhe. Why don’t they make them like that anymore?

Score55%

Bengali, Drama, Color

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