Aatwaja movie review: Atanu Bose’s latest is an absolute farce of a film bound to make you laugh out loud
Aatwaja is one of those movies that neatly fall into the category of so-bad-they-are-good films, and is clearly in the same league as Kanti Shah’s Gunda or Tommy Wiseau’s The Room.
Note: The actual rating by the reviewer is zero. However, our software system does not reflect ratings below one.
Director Atanu Bose’s new Bengali film Aatwaja (‘The Daughter’) is such a ridiculous movie, that I actually had a fun time watching it in the theatre. It is one of those movies that neatly fall into the category of so-bad-they-are-good films, and is clearly in the same league as Kanti Shah’s Gunda or Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. Right from its opening scene, and through its 120-minute running time, the film continued to evoke chuckles and guffaws. That it did so by telling what writer director Atanu Bose believes is a tragic story, tells us volumes about his ability as a filmmaker.
The spoilt brat of a daughter of the richest man in Kathmandu learns that her father has passed away, and that he has left her a letter. On reading the missive, the girl further learns that the man he had known to be her father all her life wasn’t really so, and that contrary to what she had been told all along, her mother is still alive. Accompanying the letter is an old photograph, in which her mother appears. The girl embarks upon a journey to Kolkata, where she learns that the woman in question is an extremely popular and successful actress and that she had apparently abandoned her as an infant for the sake of her acting career. In the process, the girl also happens to find her father. And a boyfriend. Who isn’t really her boyfriend. Or…is he? Well, don’t bother, because it doesn’t matter.
Loud acting and exaggerated expressions are highlights of folk-theatre, not of cinema. In the words of acclaimed director Satyajit Ray himself, ‘if you raise it by even a tiny notch, the camera will amplify it several times’. The master’s advice seems to have fallen on deaf ears, because Atanu Bose has clearly instructed his actors to yell at the top of their voices while speaking their lines, and to underscore each emotion they want to exhibit by summoning an expression that cannot, under any circumstances, be mistaken for any other emotion. So, when someone is angry, she is gnashing her teeth and making grunting noises. When someone is sad, he is bawling like a baby. And when someone wants to appear cool, he says stuff like ‘I am so-and-so, the fantastic!’ Yes, that’s what we are dealing with here.
Atanu Bose exhibits deep understanding of the urban way of life in India, by showing that colloquial Bengali is often interspersed by sentences in English. Unfortunately, without exception, none of these sentences are spoken with correct grammar. You will cringe in sheer disgust when you see characters confidently mouthing wrong English with a fake accent, scene after scene. What I simply fail to understand is that the writer may have written bad and grammatically incorrect dialogues – how can such actors as Koushik Sen and Jaya Prada say those same lines without bothering to correct them?
As with folk-theatre, all scenes have background music, and there is no silence in the film. The editing is horrible, the camerawork horrendous. There is no continuity, and unnecessary shots have been placed just to show foreign locales and product placements. And the entire thing is so shamelessly done, that it is bound to make you laugh out loud.
Koel Dhar plays the titular ‘Aatwaja’, and she has exactly two expressions in her artillery as an actress. One involves holding a cigarette between her lips and staggering around in an intoxicated and irreverent manner. This is to show that she is cool, and that she doesn’t care. The other is to grimace and bare her teeth to show that she is seething with fury. That’s it; that’s all she can do. Beyond this, she is literally incapable of acting.
Koushik Sen – an otherwise fine actor – hams his way to high hell, that too while wearing a wig that makes him look like a cross between Albert Einstein and Magica De Spell. In an early scene in the movie, he flings a bottle at the protagonist, and misses the mark – leaving you wishing for the rest of the film that he hadn’t.
What yesteryear heartthrob Jaya Prada saw in the script – if there ever was one – I will never know. But it is painful to see an actress like her being misused and mishandled – let’s not forget that – to such an appalling extent. Bose’s crass sexism and stereotyping of female film stars literally reduces Jaya Prada’s character to the level of a cold, scheming and miserable wretch.
Saheb Bhattacharya is a lipstick wearing ‘best entertainment journalist of the year’, who conveniently forgets that he is engaged to his colleague and sleeps with Koel’s character at the first chance he gets. There’s more. The colleague in question is a newsroom producer, whose position of power in the office is shown by all employees rising from their seats as soon as she enters the room, and staying on their feet till she asks them to sit down with a wave of her hand. Oh, and one would imagine that the house of the richest man in Kathmandu would be a little bigger than what is shown in this farce of a film.
Watch Aatwaja at your own risk. At the end of the day, the laughs coming from the unintended humour are not worth the scars on your psyche.
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