Mayurakshi movie review: This Prosenjit Chatterjee starrer could have been a great film but leaves you wanting more

Bhaskar Chattopadhyay

Jan,03 2018 17:59 39 IST

2.5/5

There are some films in which everything seems to work, everyone seems to have done his or her bit, and yet, there remains an undeniable gap between what was finally offered and what could have been a delectable treat that members of the audience could go home with. Atanu Ghosh’s new film Mayurakshi is exactly that sort of a film, where the whole is significantly less than the sum of its parts.

A middle-aged man named Aryanil, with a chronic history of failed marriages, comes to Kolkata from Chicago to visit his father – a renowned historian named Sushovan, who is now eighty-three years old, and who has just begun to show signs of geriatric dementia and cognitive dysfunction. Sushovan’s housekeeper Mallika informs Aryanil that he has been asking for someone named Mayurakshi lately, although no one knows who the said person could be.

A still from the film.

Thrown in, primarily to lend the story some support, and also to offer relief from the purely paternal-offspring goings-on, is Aryanil’s long-time friend – the debonair Shahana – who, like a true friend, stands rock-steady beside Aryanil through his troubled times. The rest of the film shows the octogenarian scholar slowly sink into the throws of old age, while his only son – riddled with his own problems, as it is – tries to cope with his father’s rapid decline down the inescapable spiral of time.

The strength of the film lies in its cast and their impeccable performances. Veteran actor Soumitra Chatterjee is on-point in the role of the aged patriarch. Even when he simply sits in a chair and stares into the void, he is a treat to watch, and easily makes you believe that he is completely lost inside – a man engulfed in dense sheets of fog, clutching at bits and pieces of memory to survive and make sense of the world around him. You can’t help but feel sorry for him, when on being asked to try and remember something, he grimaces in visible agony and says – ‘I can’t, and don’t keep asking me over and over agan. Why won’t I, if I could have?’

In perhaps his most subtle and muted performance after Rituparno Ghosh’s Dosar, Prosenjit Chatterjee is brilliant as the ailing man’s son. Being tugged in several directions at the same time, his is a live-by-the-day existence, as he walks through his life without any shred of pleasure or hope whatsoever. Chatterjee offers a nuanced performance, one which makes us wonder who is more lost – he, or his father. There are scenes, of course, in which you feel that he has very little to work with, and despite his best and most well-intentioned efforts to hide the gaps, they show. Consider, for instance, the scene in which, weary and exhausted, he simply falls asleep in his friend Shahana’s lap. Or the final scene of the film, in which, riddled with the guilt of being an escapist, he breaks down in the middle of the airport. One wishes these scenes would have been written better, so that Chatterjee would have had something more to offer.

As the carefree and yet emotionally invested Shahana, Indrani Halder does the job entrusted to her quite well. She brings in a sense of hope to the otherwise grim situation, and there are times when we root for the beautiful relationship between her and her friend Aryanil. She is the proverbial silver lining in the story, and shines just enough to make us like her. Hers, one must understand, is perhaps the trickiest role in the film, one that could have been messed up completely, with even the slightest bit of overacting. But Halder has her grip firmly on the role, and does not disappoint.

Something similar can be said about Sudipta Chakraborty’s role as the housekeeper Mallika, who comes across as someone who truly cares. Responsible, sensible, dutiful, intelligent and emotionally attached to her patient, she is easily the most likable character in the film. Chakraborty has always been a natural actress, and once again, she shows that in the medium of film, less is more.

It is the writing that does the film in, though. The plot – and there is one, mind you – begins beautifully, the premise set up remarkably well. But somewhere in some bend of the meanderings, write-director Atanu Ghosh loses his grip on the plot. In the end, the film goes nowhere, and fails to make either a comment or a lasting impression. Ghosh tries to end the film too quickly for comfort, and in no way keeping with the pace of whatever has been happening so far.

The effect is jarring, to say the least. One almost feels as if he has taken the easy way out, leaving his audience wondering what in the world just happened, and why is it that the film ended where it did. Mayurakshi could have been a great film, had it not been for the indulgence that the writer-director allows himself. It left me wanting for more, and not in the positive sense of the term.

Published Date: Jan 03, 2018 17:59 PM | Updated Date: Jan 03, 2018 17:59 PM