But is it fair—or relevant—to judge a work whose attraction may significantly derive from its potential to offer confusion, tension, and surprise after you know what to expect? My answer, after thinking about it for a few days, is a tentative "yes." If it's well done, it will probably recreate that intrigue for you, perhaps through different angles or in different voices than it did the first time. Or it might re-inspire you to create it for yourself by having layers of clues or previously-unobserved routes to follow through the story.
The film has a solid if familiar skeleton: a serial killer has terrified Kolkata with a string of killings peppered with poetry-laced clues, and the only police officer in all of India who has any chance of figuring it out is the disgraced, abusive, foul-tempered, my-way-or-the-highway, and very probably alcoholic Probir Roy Chowdhury (Prosenjit Chatterjee).
This thread of Amrita and Shurjo is such a waste, especially when somehow that pairing has a million times more chemistry and, more importantly on my scale, actual affection than Amrita and Abhijit. I'm pretty sure we're supposed to hope for Abhijit's reunion with Amrita, but he just isn't a very pleasant or interesting person. He is...gosh, what can I say about him? dutiful? willing to memorize facts? tall? I don't think it's fair to call him "nerdy" because I'm not convinced he's terribly smart, and he doesn't even have the tenacity that often gets assigned to "dull but hard-working" stock cop types. Maybe it's the writing, because Parambrata Chatterjee made Kahaani's inspector Rana into such a quietly emotional and empathetic dream. But Rana is kind, careful, and engaged, whereas Abhijit comes off more like a half-heartedly motivated teenager. This is where the John Abraham Conundrum enters. At least half the time he is on screen, Parambrata makes a mostly blank, vaguely negative expression that could indicate any number of unhappy states: depression, confusion, ignorance, inebriation, annoyance, failure, loneliness, etc.
|In a flashback to happier times, Abhijit and Amrita try to frolic on a snowy mountainside, but when he does the hero arm-fling gesture, he accidentally smacks her in the face. LOL.|
|Shurjo is tired of waiting for Amrita to finish holding Abhijit's hair while he pukes. I agree with his attitude 100%. C'mon, Shurjo, I've got something better for you to do.|
However, this is a very important and nicely done scene (even if it could have been founded on a different emotional problem) that embodies the ethical crux of the story. Abhijit is clearly a supplicant, and as the film's primary representative of law, order, protocol, the dimness of the common man, and probably even basic human decency, it's important to the rest of the story that those values and truths have submitted themselves to an unpredictable, violent man who holds court in a disordered, decaying mansion. The power dynamic of people and ideals is firmly cemented now.
|Chess as a motif of power struggles and brainpower again? Srsly?|
My other major problem with Baishe Srabon is that while it has great bones—a mystery that also contains a psychological portrait of Probir and some rich, if brief, sketches of a few other minor characters and throws a few lights on issues in contemporary Kolkata (hyperactive media, no true sense of democracy, the dumbing down of society)—it stumbles a few times as it tries to flesh them out. The love triangle, the tv story, and a short but MIND-NUMBINGLY PEDANTIC Wikipedia-style lesson on Hungrealist/Hungry Movement poetry. As Probir and Abhijit start off on their daily investigations after their big bonding moment, the subtitles go like this:
Probir: How is the Hungrealist movement related to Bengali poetry?Was this less dry and more naturalistic in Bengali? There are other poetry lessons too, most notably voiced by the off-balance, funny disgruntled poet Nibaron Chakraborty (Goutam Ghose), who by his vocation actually has a reason to expound on what poetry can mean to society and how powerful it can be (and has been).
Abhijit: Through history. In 1960 this Hungrealist or Hungry Generation movement was launched. It's [sic] propounders were [list of names] Their poetry challenged the stability of the establishment. Very hard hitting poetic language...that declared war against corruption and the system. A lot of their work was banned on grounds of obscenity. The state filed a case against them. Some of the famous poets were involved in it as state witnesses.
However, there are many details in Baishe Srabon that I just loved. It looks gorgeous, showing the beauty and darkness (architectural, visual, psychological) of Kolkata just as well as Kahaani.
Admittedly I have not searched extensively, but I know of very few blogs (in English) that discuss any Bengali films that aren't by Satyajit Ray. Upper Stall and Totally Filmi have seen Baishe Srabon too, and I recommend both posts if you want to read reactions by someone who seems to have managed not to muddle herself thoroughly before writing. Paayaliya and I watched this movie together, so maybe she will post on it too? Hint hint!