Yeti Obhijaan is an adventure-thriller adapted from Sunil Gangopadhyay’s popular Kakababu series for children. Kakababu or Raja Roy Choudhury (Prosenjit), along with his pet nephew, Santu (Aryann), sets off to unravel the mystery of the legendary Yeti. They reach Goroksshap Plateau in Nepal in the present and find themselves in very harsh and challenging circumstances climate-wise and adventure-wise while trying to unfold the mystery of attacks reportedly perpetrated by the Yeti and the legendary local myths of its ‘exploits.’
Is Yeti a myth, a mysterious legend that does not exist? Or, it is a real entity responsible for spreading fear among the common man in general and people in Nepal where the Yeti is said to exist in particular? Some answers to these questions may perhaps be discovered in Srijit Mukherjee’s magnum opus Yeti Obhijaan. What stands out is the magnificent mounting of perhaps the first solid adventure thriller in contemporary Bengali cinema commonly known for its family melodramas and light-hearted romances spilling over with song and dance and some action and twists in the tale.
The grey areas of the story and the screenplay are rendered secondary to the incredibly rich visuals composed and orchestrated by Soumik Haldar whose cinematography willingly faces the challenge of creating one of the most beautiful visuals in geographically impossible circumstances. Take for example, the darkness of the igloo-like dome Kakababu and his nephew Santu are provided shelter in; or, the snow-capped mountains with steep climbs; hidden crevices in the snow that can swallow climbers before they even know what is happening; or, heavy drops of snow rushing in at an angle into the dome when the window crashes while the two adventurers try to mend the window; or, a trail of blood when a sherpa tries to crawl back to save himself from certain death. You have to see the camerawork to believe that this can be done, not in Hollywood or Bollywood but right here in Tollygunge, via Switzerland where almost the entire shooting is said to have been done.
This critic believes that his Kakababu series is far from Sunil Gangopadhyay’s best works. Srijit fills the lacuna by adding flesh and blood to the original story not only by placing it on celluloid but also by transcending the limitations of the original story. The first 15 minutes are a bit slow on the uptake and tend to drag. We are taken on a rather confusing journey through time and space leaps opening in Nepal in 2014 and then flashing back to China in 1930 back to somewhere in the US in 1954 to the present when Kakababu, under the guise of trying to climb Mount Everest, never mind his limp and his walking stick, actually arrives in Nepal to solve the mystery of the Yeti, which, he discovers, is dreaded by all Nepalis including the local sherpas. Why? The real reason unfolds only towards the climax. Between the slow opening and the jet-paced climax with every kind of editing cuts, hump-cuts, wipes and swipes one can imagine, we are witness to a series of thrills, mainly achieved by the camera that is the real hero of the film followed by the editing, and the acting of the few characters, their varied interactions and the adventures of being trapped for days without food or water, sucked in by a deep crevice in the snow, captured and held at gunpoint, and so on.
It is truly an adventure thriller shot entirely against and within the backdrop and the location of real snow, real mountains, real sherpas that must have been both a physical and a mental challenge for the entire cast and crew of Yeti Obhijaan making the shooting an “obhihaan within an obhijaan” – a journey within a journey where every step one takes is filled with the fear of failure, very unlike the success Raja Roy Choudhury has enjoyed right through his adventures, each one more dangerous than the one that went before.
The background score is okay but the theme song is a bit on the louder side that tends to jar on the ambience of fear the characters live within. Prosenjit, complete with a tinted, curly wig, his framed glasses and his limp carried over from Srijit’s earlier Kakababu film carries the typical arrogance of the traditional, know-all-flaunting detective to the hilt. Yet, there are touches of tenderness when he tries to hand the last two biscuits in the packet to the starving Santu who gives him one biscuit back and he just cannot refuse because he too, is starving. The sense of solidarity and the bonding between the uncle and the nephew is understated but unfolds more intensely precisely because it is understated.
Jisshu Sengupta as the officer on the Nepal side is marvellous, complete with just the right Nepalese accent both in English and Hindi matched by authentic make-up that takes one a few minutes to make out that this is none other than Jisshu Sengupta. Aryann as Santu is very convincing specially when he is starving and falls really sick and cannot even get up from the bed. But his wardrobe is a bit too fanciful and varied for the adventure they have embarked on. Firdaus is very good in a character he has probably never done before while the debutante actress who plays the officer from the Indian side is smart, confident and very attractive.
The mystery of the Yeti is no mystery at all but reveals the ugly underbelly of terrorism and international espionage at its most dangerous, if one can call it that. So, what gives? The long-drawn climax within the hidden cave is almost ruined by the foreign actor who plays the leader of the baddies. He cannot act to save his life and is constantly over the top when the screenplay gives him solid space and Haldar’s camera follows his misadventures more faithfully than he deserves. One wishes Srijit had used better discretion in casting a different and better actor to portray this important role. The film closes beautifully on a twist one would have never suspected Srijit to bring out of his conjuror’s hat. To give it away would be a terrible spoiler though.
Yeti Obhijaan is a worthy watch for the entire family because not only does it promise wholesome entertainment but also some of the most beautiful visuals in the history of contemporary Bengali cinema.
Bengali, Adventure, Action, Drama, Color