Bagh Bandi Khela movie review: Year's biggest Bengali masala entertainer lacks logic, coherent storytelling
Bagh Bandi Khela is an unapologetic full-on masala entertainer which sadly does not hold your attention or instil a sense of curiosity
castJeet, Sayantika Banerjee, Soham Chakraborty, Srabanti Chatterjee, Prasenjit Chatterjee, Rittika Sen
This year’s big commercial Bengali cinema release Bagh Bandi Khela is an anthology of three unconnected stories directed by three directors, and starring – arguably – three of Bengali cinema’s most popular heroes. If that is not the recipe for a full-on masala entertainer, I don’t know what is. While the three segments in the film by themselves have virtually no semblance of logic and coherent storytelling, it comes across as pretty unapologetic about it, because clearly, its target audience is a section of the masses who do not go to the theatres looking for either of those two traits – logic or coherence.
The first segment of the film – titled ‘Bagh’, or tiger – refers to the nickname given to an undercover spy (I am not sure if there is any other kind), whose job is to protect the chief minister of the state from forces sworn to kill him. Bagh’s wife, who is often referred to in the film as ‘Baghini’, or tigress, is anything but – because all she does through the film is look pretty, cook, chatter, and complain that her husband does not spend enough time with her. At home, Bagh comes across as a timid cat, who spends an abnormally large amount of time in the bathroom – which, believe it or not, has a hidden panel with satellite phones and high-tech gadgetry! The story shifts to Bangkok soon, and the couple get caught in a rain of bullets by an unknown assailant, who even the most dim-witted member of the audience will see from miles away. I have never seen a film about an intelligence officer made with so little intelligence.
The second segment – titled ‘Bandi’, or prisoners – is the story about a young man and his pretty friend, who have partnered to set up a wedding planning company in Kolkata. The two are always bickering with each other, but are thick as thieves too. The girl is about to get married herself, but you don’t have to be Jane Austen to see that the boy is secretly in love with her. The boy is fidgeting around with a video camera at the wedding (because – holly molly – the videographer did not turn up, but sent his camera!) when he inadvertently captures a murder. The killer and his henchmen see him and give chase, and the boy drags the girl along with him (because – yeah, that’s what’s logical) and goes on the run. Hang on, don’t go, there’s more! The duo ends up in Benaras, where, among other things, they hide behind a flank of well-oiled wrestlers to dodge their pursuers. This is genius of a higher level, and it just feels good to see that this kind of cinema is still made today, and that big stars still sign up for them.
The third segment, titled – yes, you guessed it, ‘Khela’, or game – tells the story of a renowned criminal lawyer, who draws tremendous flak after defending a trio of rapists. He doesn’t flinch, though, because to him, it’s just a job, and a game (not sure which one it is, the makers state both). His wife leaves him but his daughter supports him, till her own best friend is brutally raped by the trio her father had helped set free merely a few days ago. It is then that the lawyer develops a semblance of conscience. He decides – of all things – to take the law in his own hands, and goes on a rampage around the city to bump off each of the three culprits in strange and outlandish fashion.
Even with all its flaws, the third segment is clearly the most logical of all the three. However, none of the stories are able to hold your attention or instil a sense of curiosity in you. Not even for a single minute do you feel invested in any of the tracks. Such names as Prasenjit Chatterjee, Jeet, Soham, Rajatava Dutta, Srabanti Chatterjee and others adorn the banner, but I wish I could say anything nice about their acting tropes. The film comes across as a job, a task that they have to carry out as quickly as possible and get it over with. And it all shows, because as we all know – the screen is ruthless and unforgiving.
The locales are exotic but overcoloured, you literally forget the songs the moment you step out of the theatre and in most parts, the actors just ham it up. But there is one thing that has to be said, and that’s pretty much the only positive thing I can say about this otherwise atrocious film. Not even for a second does it try to portray itself as anything but a masala entertainer. In fact, right at the outset, it declares through its title track and opening sequence that cinema is for entertainment, and nothing else. And in that sense, I must say, that Bagh Bandi Khela is guilty of all crimes in the good book of cinema – all except hypocrisy.
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