Asche Abar Shabor movie review: A protagonist like Detective Shabor Dasgupta deserves better
Asche Abar Shabor (Here Comes Shabor Again) is the third film in his Detective Shabor series, and while the effort to bring the character to screen is quite commendable, the film itself is let down by poor writing, a ridiculously slow pace, dull characters and what has come to be known as the curse of the second half.
castSaswata Chatterjee, Indraneil Sengupta, Gaurav Chakraborty, Lolita Chatterjee
Bengali literature has a rich tradition of detective stories, and among a starry firmament of brightly twinkling sleuths and goendas (detectives), veteran writer Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay’s creation ACP Shabor Dasgupta is a relatively dim one, having by and large gone unnoticed over the years, overshadowed by his dazzling cousins like Feluda, Byomkesh Bakshi and a few others.
In the last few years though, owing to a mad rush of bringing Bengal’s detectives on to the big screen — a movement of which director Arindam Sil is perhaps the most active proponent — people have come to know a bit more about the character of Shabor Dasgupta. Sil himself has, believe it or not, as many as five detective films to his credit over a span of three years. Asche Abar Shabor (Here Comes Shabor Again) is the third film in his Detective Shabor series, and while the effort to bring the criminally underrated character to screen is quite commendable, the film itself is let down by poor writing, a ridiculously slow pace, dull characters and what has come to be known as the curse of the second half.
Based on the story Prajapatir Mrityu O Punorjanmo (The Death and Reincarnation of a Butterfly) by Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, the film begins with a series of brutal rapes and murders — all identical in nature — of beautiful young women. ACP Shabor Dasgupta is called in to investigate, and the tough-talking, no-nonsense middle-aged detective soon finds himself knee-deep in the murky and fragile world of teenage romance, dysfunctional families and unrestrained sex, finally bringing the criminal to justice in the film’s rather jarring and overly preachy climax.
To his credit, Sil does manage to hold his audience’s attention in the first half of the film, and despite all its flaws, the film does create a sense of intrigue. Like me, the audience did seem to be invested with a let’s-see-where-this-is-going sort of feeling going through their minds. But creating intrigue is far easier than unlocking mysteries with logical explanations, and that’s where the film falls flat on its face in the second half. Subtlety is compromised with unnecessary chase sequences and cacophonic background scores, and even the humour, which was a clear highlight of the first half, seems to come at all the wrong places in the second. As with most films of the genre, writing is once again the problem, and the film is at least twenty minutes too long, if not more. Instead of letting the visuals speak for themselves, the makers seem to be more interested in throwing a barrage of questions at the audience in trying to keep the puzzle fresh, but frankly, after a point of time, it becomes all too murky and we simply stop caring.
Among the actors, Saswata Chatterjee is an absolute treat to watch. His hard-as-nails detective Shabor Dasgupta is believable and I felt myself rooting for him for the significant portion of the film. His poker faced and wry humour, laced with just the right mix of sarcasm and critique is the one true winner of the film. His light-hearted bantering with his assistant Sub-Inspector Nandalal Roy, also played beautifully by Subhrajeet Dutta, are the best moments of the film. One almost wishes that there would have been no mystery in the film, no case in hand, and that these two — the guru and his protégé — would sit down and have a rib-tickling conversation over two hours. That would have been a far more enjoyable film, truth be told.
There’s nothing much to be said about the rest of the actors — all of whom are forgettable. Indraneil Sengupta is wasted in a role which leaves us with a list of unanswered questions so long that by the end of it, we are frankly not interested in looking for logic anymore. And you know that the final denouement in the climax is insipid when you see at least three people around you in the theatre beginning to book their cabs back home as the culprit tries to justify why the crimes were committed. A brilliant actor like Saswata Chatterjee and a fantastic protagonist like Detective Shabor Dasgupta deserves much better.
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