Ahaa Re movie review: Ranjan Ghosh's direction boosts this simple story about love and food
Ahaa Re ssuredly establishes Ranjan Ghosh as a filmmaker to watch out for
Sometimes, even the simplest of stories, if told well, can touch your heart. Filmmaker Ranjan Ghosh’s third feature film Ahaa Re is a fine instance of that fact. It’s not that Ghosh is telling us a story we haven’t heard before. But the way it is told, the setting on which he mounts the tale, and the potent, brilliant, and yet, remarkably restrained performances by his actors are only some of the things that successfully set the film aside as one of the best that I have seen this year so far.
Simplicity is a recurrent theme throughout the film, and it manifests itself in Ghosh’s story too. Farhaaz Chowdhury, or Raja, is a popular chef in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Almost in a bid to nurse a heartbreak, Raja takes up a job in Kolkata, in the restaurant of a college friend. In the city, he meets Basundhara, a middle-aged lady who runs a family-owned catering business. The two bond over experimentation with food, and very soon, Raja becomes very close to Basundhara’s family – that comprises of her father and a younger brother. Over time, Raja begins to fall in love with Basundhara, but realises that due to the usual social hurdles of religion and age, Basundhara simply wouldn’t accept him.
That’s all there is to the story, really. But my word, what fantastic performances the actors put in. My favourite, hands down, is veteran actor Paran Bandopadhyay. Every single gesture, or intonation of his carries meaning, and the gentleman speaks with his eyes. Towards the beginning, for instance, he is sceptical of Raja’s intentions, and is wary of the fact that he is gradually turning into a frequent visitor. Understandably, he is at an age when all the jackals close in, and he puts up an invisible and unwelcome barrier around himself. But sincerity and genuine honesty does not remain hidden for long, at least to a perceptive man such as him. He draws Raja closer to him with great fondness, and opens up to him about his own life. In a long time, I have not seen an actor bring in both comic as well as tragic elements into his performance so brilliantly and balance them so well. An actor par excellence.
Bangladeshi actor Arifin Shuvo puts in a measured, restrained performance. His calm demeanour, king charm, and empathy help endear him to you, making you root for him throughout the film. Shuvo knows his territory well, and never, for once, crosses his boundaries. Here is an actor who never lets his machismo rule his game. And hats off to Ghosh for making the best use of him. The fact that Raja is a few years younger to Basundhara could have been a challenge to portray on screen. It could have been easily overplayed, or the audience could have totally missed the point. But casting Shuvo ensured that he drove the point home without so much as a wrinkle in the story.
Rituparna Sengupta is a treat to watch in this film. Food – as the film itself says – is something that needs to be treated with love and respect, whether you are consuming it, or cooking it. You have to see Sengupta in Ahaa Re to believe how much this is true. Every single frame of her cooking a dish, or even preparing to do so, is filled with so much love. Almost as if she is in a silent worship. Love, nourishment, gentleness, fondness – she defines these words with her performance. Her Basundhara is a woman who does not wear her emotions on her sleeves, but there is a scene towards the end of the film, when she can’t take it anymore and just breaks down. Keep your handkerchiefs ready.
The film also boasts of some fine acting by other characters who play an important role in the story. Anubhav Pal – most popularly known for his stand-up comedy acts – makes his film debut and comes across as that heart-warming buddy everyone craves for. Amrita Chattopadhyay does the job given to her with admirable sincerity – she is perfect as Raja’s ruthlessly ambitious girlfriend who life deals a cruel hand. Veteran actors Dipankar De and Shakuntala Barua play small but significant roles, and they have such a graceful and dignified approach to it. Particularly commendable are two actors. Shubhro Sankha Das plays Basundhara’s football-crazy brother, and the young boy takes a fond liking to the man in his elder sister’s life, so much so that when tensions rise, his angst and frustration brim over. It is a beautiful performance by a young man, one that I will remember for years. In another, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it role, Amit Saha plays Haru-da, the owner of a tiny snacks ‘cabin’ in the heart of the city. That a man can play such a small role with such sincerity – you will have to watch him to believe it.
The music of the film fits the mood of the story beautifully. The slow camerawork adds a relaxed vibe. The editing too is extremely commendable. But there is one thing that is bound to steal your heart – and that is all the beautiful scenes involving food. The fantastic trivia about various dishes from India and Bangladesh, the scenes of a 5-star chef cooking a sophisticated dish in a restaurant kitchen and those of a middle-class, middle-aged woman cooking traditional fare at home – both with equal love, the scenes of all the famous food hotspots of Kolkata – all these are bound to make your mouth water, and fill your heart with warmth.
I loved Ahaa Re. It assuredly establishes Ranjan Ghosh as a filmmaker to watch out for. His simple story, superlative writing and fine direction make him one of the few directors whose next film I will be eagerly waiting for. Whether you are a foodie, a film-fan or someone who has for once, fallen in love, you simply cannot afford to miss Ahaa Re.
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