Amazon Obhijaan movie review: This is not the expedition we signed up for

Bhaskar Chattopadhyay

Dec,31 2017 15:54:28 IST


In a scene somewhere in the middle of director Kamaleshwar Mukherjee’s latest action adventure offering Amazon Obhijaan (The Amazon Expedition), a villainous character (with villainy written, painted, embossed and engraved all over his face, just to ensure that we know that he is, indeed, a villain) tells the film’s protagonist Shankar – ‘In the jungle, the fittest survive. Gunpowder talks in the wild’ – to which, our hero smirks and replies with a swag that could put any Khan, from Salman to Genghis, to shame – ‘In that case, mine is an orator.’

A still from Amazon Obhijaan. YouTube

A still from Amazon Obhijaan. YouTube

In another heart-warming scene, after a giant anaconda claims his co-explorer’s head (quite literally), Shankar vows revenge – embarking upon an elaborate process of capturing the beast and injecting it with a venom secured from Amazonian poisonous frogs (in a test tube, nonetheless). When the serpent finally presents itself before our hero, he (our hero, I mean, not the snake) swings around a tree like the Earl of Greystoke, ensnaring the massive constrictor and pumping the poison into its body with the help of giant Amazonian thorns. Need I say more?

Amazon Obhijaan is being presented as the sequel to Kamaleshwar Mukherjee’s previous action adventure film titled Chander Pahar (The Moon Mountain), an adaptation of Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay’s novel of the same name. The lead character from the previous film returns, played by Bengali cinema’s ruling ‘Mahanayak’ Dev, who decides to embark upon a dangerous expedition right in the heart of the Amazonia to look for the city of gold, or El Dorado.

While lavishly planned and mounted, the film is ruthlessly slaughtered by its absolutely shoddy writing and equally cringe-worthy execution. Literally all the cardinal sins of film writing are committed in this film – from unnecessary characters to side plots that are introduced and either conveniently dropped or plain forgotten, to lack of both depth and economy. The film is a farce, to say the least, as amply proved by the peals of laughter ringing through the theatre where I watched it, every single time a character mouthed a dialogue.

The dialogues make you shrink in disgust, the hamming is done with grave sincerity, and the unintentional humour reminds one of the 1998 Kanti Shah venture Gunda, which has deservedly earned a cult following in the so-bad-it’s-good genre among film fans over the years. The film’s lead actor Dev’s only achievement in this ridiculous venture is that he sets the world record for the highest number of yawns that any protagonist in the history of film has been seen breaking into. Ever. He tries to play Indiana Jones, Tintin and Tarzan – all in one film, but fails to pull off even the simplest of scenes.

Is there any saving grace in the film? After much contemplation, I have come to the conclusion that sadly, there is none. Not one. This is 2017, for heaven’s sake. How can one have wrong subtitles? That too wrong English subtitles to English dialogues? The editing, the cinematography, the art direction, the background score, the sound design, the costumes, the makeup – everything suffers from tacky excesses. And sadly, so does the research.

Director Kamaleshwar Mukherjee, who has also been credited as ‘the author’ of the film, seems to have done extensive research for the story (if one could call it that) and its backdrop. But the outcome reminds me of that quote from Steven Spielberg’s film Amistad, in which ex-President John Quincy Adams, played by Anthony Hopkins, says to Morgan Freeman’s character – ‘You're quite the scholar, Mr. Joadson, aren't you? Quite the historian. Let me tell you something about that quality, if I might. Without an accompanying mastery of at least one-tenth its measure of grace, such erudition is worthless, sir.’

Even before Amazon Obhijaan begins, a title card shows the following words written in bold – ‘A Tribute to Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay’. Well, the veteran writer must be turning in his grave today, praying that he be distanced from the project as much as possible, even in the great beyond.

Finally, it has to be said that it is not a sin to dream, not even to dream big. In fact, every artist must do so. But one must, at the same time, have the competency to execute one’s dreams as well. One must work hard to ensure that what one creates actually has artistic merit and creative value. Sadly, Amazon Obhijaan has neither. It 

Half a star, simply for the audacity.

Updated Date: Dec 31, 2017 15:54 PM