Bijoya movie review: Kaushik Ganguly crafts a flawed albeit satisfactory sequel to Bishorjan

Bhaskar Chattopadhyay

Jan 11, 2019 16:55:38 IST

3/5

Director Kaushik Ganguly’s new film Bijoya is a sequel to his National Award winning 2017 film Bishorjan. The events of the second film are heavily dependent on those of the first, and to fully comprehend and enjoy Bijoya, a viewing of Bishorjan is mandatory. That caveat aside, Bijoya is a wonderful film – although it does lose itself in indulgences at times – and boasts of some brilliant performances by its lead trio.

A still from Bijoya. Image via Twitter

A still from Bijoya. Image via Twitter

In the first film, a Hindu widow named Padma had stumbled upon a Muslim Indian named Nasser when the latter’s body had washed up on the banks of the Icchamati river on the Bangladeshi side. Much to the discontent of the local chieftain Ganesh Mondol, who has his eyes on the beautiful Padma, the two begin to fall in love amidst growing religious tension. When it becomes impossible to hide Nasser’s true identity anymore, Padma strikes a deal with Ganesh Mondol and agrees to marry him, in return of Nasser’s safe passage across the border, back to India.

The second film is set in contemporary times, and the story travels from Sripur village in Bangladesh to Kolkata. Mondol has been diagnosed with a heart condition that needs immediate surgery. The local doctor advises them to go to Kolkata for the treatment, and accompanied by his trusted lieutenant Lau, Mondol travels to Kolkata with his wife. As luck would have it, though, the two go to the hospital where Nasser is now working as a salesman in the pharmacy – having left his wayward days behind, and making an honest living out of filling prescriptions. Padma and Nasser are overwhelmed to see each other, and although Nasser is distraught to find Padma as Ganesh Mondol’s wife and the mother of his son, he helps them – mainly out of gratitude for what they had done for him. With Mondol now in hospital, there is now a strong sexual tension between Padma and Nasser – but they maintain a respectful distance from each other. However, Nasser’s neighbours do not seem to think so, and this bothers him no end, until one day, he learns a shocking truth.

Kaushik Ganguly’s intentions are rather obvious in the sequel. He wants to show that whether it is the other side of the river, or this one – the human condition, with all its flaws and glories, is identical. And in that sense, Bisorjan and Bijoya are mirror images of one another – identical, and yet, not entirely so. Issues such as societal pressure, the ease with which a man can reclaim his life but a woman cannot, the value of sacrifice, the notion of selfless love, the essence of duty – these are all dealt with in admirable detail. In a film that primarily set in grim circumstances, centred around the impending death of a lead character, Ganguly adds the much-needed garnishing of dark humour. So, Mondol has a rather strange way of looking at life – and having lived a self-admittedly content life, he is prepared to embrace the inevitable outcome that the helpless doctors have said is dashing his way. But his sense of responsibility towards his wife and son make him want to survive the ordeal. It is this dichotomy that the director (who also stars as Ganesh Mondol himself) manages to portray beautifully. What’s also heartening to see is that he does this without coming across as pompous and self-righteous. Ganguly is in complete control of his character, and imbibes him with many affable quirks – such as his bittersweet relationship with his aide Lau (played with brilliant restraint by Lama Haldar), or his habit of making friends wherever he goes. What I really liked about the character and the way Ganguly played it is that despite all this, the shades of grey have not been entirely disappeared from his persona. Through a twist at the end of the film, we realize that come what may, Ganesh Mondol’s priorities are in order.

Abir Chatterjee reprises his role as Nasser, and although he puts in a brilliant performance, I am not sure his character came across one that I could wrap my head around. I wasn’t quite certain of his motivations, and it almost seemed to me that I saw two entirely different Nassers in the same film. If that was the filmmaker’s intention, then he is successful in conveying his message, but somehow, it made for a rather unconvincing storytelling. Chatterjee stays true to his character though, and certain scenes, in which he fiercely argues with his prying neighbours to protect Padma’s family, are particularly good. Jaya Ahsan, too, does a commendable job with her portrayal of Padma – the woman whose destiny is strewn with sacrifices that she has had to make all her life. Ahsan’s diction is spot on, and she portrays a village woman with the conviction that the role demands.

There were one or two things which bothered me while watching the film, though. Granted, that the film is primarily dialogue-based, and nothing much can be conveyed without words. But such a constraint could have been better managed by making the conversations more concise and less rambling. On multiple occasions, the film tries to say the same thing over and over again, for far too long, and although the message is important, after sometime, it does begin to become a bit frustrating. Also, while the dashes of humour I mentioned earlier come as a relief in the otherwise hopeless situation, there are at least one or two scenes in which the humour is misplaced. I felt the scenes could have been something much more beautiful sans the humour. These blemishes aside, Bijoya is a good film, and an able accompaniment to its prequel. I don’t know if Ganguly has planned it that way, but I can immediately see the need of another film to complete a trilogy.

Updated Date: Jan 11, 2019 16:55:38 IST