Bioscopewala, a modern day adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore’s well known short story, Kabuliwala, written in 1892. The Nobel Lauereatte’s earlier works have been adapted by master filmmakers like Satyajit Ray, Paul Zils and Tapan Sinha, who incidentally adapted Kabuliwala in the 1950s, starring the great Chhabi Biswas. Debutant director Deb Medhekar, an alumnus of the Film and Television Insitute of India (FTII), Pune takes the challenge head on, unfazed by the big boots he has chosen to fill. Bioscopewala reflects the honesty of intent, as Medhekar boldly chooses to interpret the text from Minnie’s, point of view, set in comtemporary times.
So we have Minnie Basu (Geetanjali Thapa), pursuing film studies in Paris, when the death of her her father, Robi Basu (Adil Hussain), in an air crash brings her to Kolkatta. Minnie has had a difficult relationship with him, hence she seems more irritated at his untimely death rather than grief-stricken. Her irritation is compunded when she gets to know that an aged man, Rehmat Khan (Danny Denzongpa), suffering from Alzheimer’s disease has also taken shelter in her house. She wants Rehmat to leave for he was convicted in a murder case. However, a visit to the Afghanistan embassy thaws Minnie towards him. She soon realises that Rehmat Khan is none other than her favourite friend from childhood who introduced her to the magical world of moving images. He is her bioscopewala…
Admittedly, Bioscopewala, takes time to come into its own. The first half moves rather choppily, denying one the required emotional gratification, its pacing affecting the overall rhythm of the film. It is only in the second half that the film settles down, leading to a poignant end.
The film succeeds in creating a wonderful atmosphere around which the tale is told and one actually feels the film, 90 odd minutes long, could have done with another half an hour of run time to smoothen its issues. Minnie’s fractured relationship with her father is left unattended and her realization that Rehmat is her bioscopewala is a mite too sudden to be entirely convincing. Bioscopewala also tries to take on too many issues without sufficient film time to dwell on them and integrate them into the plot. For example, the skirting reference to the Afghan burqa boxers of Kolkatta or Minnie’s discomfort with her father’s relationship with Shobita (Ekavali Khanna).
The film boasts of a first rate ensemble and it is wonderful to see the dashing Danny Denzongpa back on screen in the title role. I only wish he had more to do in the film. Bijendra Kala, Tisca Chopra, Ekavali Khanna and Adil Hussain are reliably efficient in their small parts. But it is Geetanjali Thapa as Minnie to whom the film belongs. And she carries the film on her frail but firm shoulders. Her face, a melting pot of conflicting and complex emotions, is a picture of restrained grace and vulnerability.
On the technical side Rafey Mahmood’s cinemtography is first rate. Mahmood with Ankhon Dekhi and now Bioscopewala, can justifiably claim some mastery over the art of evocative yet unobtrusive camera work. However, Dipika Kalra’s editing is a tad inconsistent, while Resul Pookutty’s sound mixing, is (surprisingly) strictly functional. Lyricist Gulzar and composer Sandesh Shandilya combine well for a wonderful title song.
All in all, Bisocopewala marks an honest and promising debut for Deb Medhekar. One can say with some surety now that one is truly looking forward to what he does next.
Hindi, English, Bengali, Dari, Drama, Black & White