Bhobishyoter Bhoot movie review: A brave socio-political satire with hits and misses in equal measure
Bhobishyoter Bhoot has some brilliant technical wizardry in departments such as editing (an absolute marvel), cinematography, and sound design
castSanjay Biswas, Paran Banerjee, Sabyasachi Chakraborty, Sourav Chakraborty, Barun Chanda
The thing about sarcasm is that very often, people simply don’t get it. And when they don’t, there can be nothing more awkward in the world than sarcasm. But in the hands of the perfect connoisseur of wit and presence of a discerning audience, there is nothing more beautiful, relieving and creative than sarcasm. Director Anik Dutta’s film Bhobishyoter Bhoot proves that the filmmaker is clearly in possession of that magic touch with humour, which he opens from time to time, to let tiny clouds of laughing gas out, making his audience roll on the floor laughing until their sides ache. Two problems remain though: first – to take in the full essence of Dutta’s jokes, one has to have a good understanding of the history, culture and socio-political environment of Bengal, which in turn means that the film is not for everyone. Second – despite enjoying the film to the hilt, I am going to have to say that Dutta may have cracked one too many jokes. In every scene, that is.
The story of the film is outright zany. With rampant urbanisation and widespread deforestation, ghosts now have nowhere left to go. A few of them therefore decide to make an old abandoned movie theatre in the middle of the city as their new home. There are literally reality-TV and talent-show-type entrance tests to secure admission in the coveted theatre though. And every recently converted ghost has to prove their mettle before coming to ‘live’ there. When these bunch of ghosts learn that there is a massive protest against illegal usurping of farm land being organised in a village near Kolkata, and that a corrupt politician has cunningly planned to break up the protests by beating the farmers black and blue, they make a spirited journey to the village to teach the bad guys a lesson.
It is evident right from the first frame of the film that Dutta is deeply influenced by the works, thoughts and moral code of Satyajit Ray. Tributes to the master are hidden like Easter eggs throughout the running length of the film. Even the music, the dialogues, the camerawork – why, even the detailing is inspired by Ray’s cinema. But that is not to say that Dutta does not possess a distinctive identity of his own. On the contrary, I have come across very few filmmakers like him in India, let alone the Bengali film industry that are as unique as him. For one, his guts deserve a special salute. The Mumbai film industry should learn a thing or two on how to make a social satire from Bhobishyoter Bhoot. Line after line of dialogue is laced with piercing criticism of the government – both current and past.
Dutta does not spare anyone, and I mean anyone. He mocks literally everybody, so much so that he ends up mocking Tagore too. And that is simply brilliant, because it shows that he is not biased, and that his mockery is applicable equally across the spectrum of political beliefs, social customs, art, literature, music, cinema and culture. I was particularly thrilled and moved to peals of laughter on seeing him criticise us movie critics too. But it is easy to see why some people aren’t laughing, or why the film was taken off theatres within a day of its release. The fact is that not everyone can take a joke, especially if the joke is on something that one wants to hide. After battling the virtual ban in courts – and winning – Bhobishyoter Bhoot is currently running in theatres, and I urge everyone to watch it, just to make a statement, if nothing else.
The film has some brilliant technical wizardry in departments such as editing (an absolute marvel), cinematography, and sound design. The music is quite nice, and I particularly liked the song ‘Ekanore’. This is satire at its best. But since there is so much of it, there are occasions on which Dutta overcooks the broth by either forgetting how to make a gracious exit after telling a hilarious joke, or by cracking a joke which simply falls flat. I wish the writing would have been more constrained though, but I can also understand why Dutta chose to unleash his whole bag of puns, wordplays, skits, critique, jabs, pokes and whatnots upon the system. Just like a horse which is imprisoned in a stable or a barn gallops to his heart’s content when finally set free, Dutta marches on like a bruised soldier and raises hell with his humour. Naturally, there are bound to be casualties and undesirable consequences. Some of the jokes hit the sweet spot; others are crass. Some of the jokes are understood; others go right over the top of your head. Some are quick, sharp and effective. Others are long-drawn and diluted by the end of it. But one thing is clear: there are way too many of them in the film which is not good.
The performances are quite nice. A special shoutout to Kaushik Sen, in what is easily his best performance in recent years. I urge Dutta to make one more film – a spin-off, if necessary – with just the exploits of Kaushik Sen’s brilliant take on you-know-who. The other actor who is deservedly bound to bring in the loudest cheers in the theatres is Swastika Mukherjee, in a short but brilliant cameo as the ghost of a yesteryear film heroine who is fed up of men lusting after her. As in the first film of the series Bhooter Bhobishyot (Dutta refuses to call his latest film a sequel though), it is Mukherjee’s character which is the main attraction of the film and the fact that she managed to do that with just a few minutes of cameo is simply remarkable.
If you are a Bengali, and love a good socio-political satire, go watch Bhobishyoter Bhoot. If you are neither, but care about freedom of expression in our country, definitely go watch Anik Dutta’s Bhobishyoter Bhoot. I am going with three stars for the film, and another half-a-star, for the bravado that Dutta and his crew displayed by making a film like this. May their tribe increase.
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