Kanchanjangha movie review: Zubeen Garg's hackneyed film is one Assamese cinema neither needs nor deserves

Bhaskar Chattopadhyay

Sep 17, 2019 14:02:48 IST

1.5/5

Right at the outset of this review, I have a confession to make: I am inherently biased towards Assamese cinema. Having grown up in the lap of the unparalleled scenic beauty that the land of Assam has to offer, and reminiscing about several fond memories from my school and teenage days, I cannot say I walked into the theatre to watch Kanchanjangha with unadulterated objectivity. Especially since the film is directed by a man who was once our teenage idol, and whose music we boys used to sway and jig to.

In these intervening years, Zubeen Garg has courted his share of controversies; but this is a critique of his film, not his personal views and gaffes. And despite all my biases, and the hero worship that my younger self had borne towards Garg, what I came out of the theatre with after approximately 100 minutes of his film, was a harrowing headache.

With so many fascinating films coming out of Assam, with such fresh ideas and original thought, there is no excuse for a film such as Kanchanjangha to be made.

First up, the very premise of the film has been done to death, resurrected, and butchered over and over again in our cinema — at a time which is generally considered by film scholars to be one of the worst periods of our cinematic history. Bright and promising young man returns home, parents are happy, girlfriend is super happy. Bright and promising young man witnesses corruption and crime, takes a stance against it, is badly burnt, changes into a hardened criminal who resorts to vigilantism in order to reboot the system.

 Kanchanjangha movie review: Zubeen Gargs hackneyed film is one Assamese cinema neither needs nor deserves

Poster for Kanchanjangha

The fingers of all the people in the theatre would fall short in counting the number of films that have been made with the same central premise. Why then would writer-director Zubeen Garg want to add to this already crowded and mostly dubious tally? Did he have nothing new to say? No fresh take to offer? Why make his protagonist — who he himself plays with skills that even a 10-year-old child would scoff at — rise from his Texas Burial all Beatrix Kiddo style, and then go on a Parashuram-like rampage against his wrongdoers, armed with (you guessed it) an axe? Why would he introduce an excruciatingly irritating moll in the name of what he and only he thought was comic relief, the appearance of whom even one more time — I swear in the name of everything dear to me — would have led me to claw and shred the screen to bits?

I could go on and on. Archaic values, a twist in the plot that comes and goes without so much as making an atom of impact, characters whose biggest challenge seem to be staying in character, and some unimaginably lazy writing — these are all highlights of Garg’s film. I gave it a lot of thought and yet failed to find anything original in the film — anything at all.

In one of the most unintentionally comic moments of the film, the film’s protagonist Anirban has been deprived of a job despite doing very well in his UPSC exams, and the young man is cursing the state of decay and corruption our country is in (I find it surprising that he took so long to take notice of this fact) — by mouthing line after line of emotionally supercharged monologue, interspersed with low grunts, followed by breaking the fourth wall and uttering the word ‘system’ with great disdain. I don’t know about the rest of the people in the theatre, but I was laughing so hard that I could not possibly feel bad for the poor chap’s state of mind.

The villain of the film — a big mafia boss — is a ruthless land-grabber who seems to be forever upset with his squeeze (said annoying moll who is always seen with her pet dog, saying some of the most inane things ever in cinematic history). I contest the disclaimer given at the beginning, right before the title credits. That poor animal has been subjected to unforgivable cruelty in the making of this film.

But not as much as we — the audience — have had to face, for the dog was not present in every scene. We were. I have nothing nice to say about the performances, except perhaps the one by a madcap friend who always seems to be appearing out of nowhere in order to instigate everyone to take up arms against injustice. Garg’s own performance — as I said before — is amateurish at best. I could not connect with a single character, including and especially not with the ones who were wronged. The only thing that perhaps kept me in my senses was the music, which had some grace and elegance. A song titled ‘Panchana’, accompanying the tragic separation of Anirban and his girlfriend, stands out. Having said that, the scene itself is so silly, that the song is best enjoyed with your eyes securely shut.

Assam has given us some great films and filmmakers. It offers a much sought after glimpse into a unique lifestyle, a beautiful terrain and a rich culture. With such a grand and magnificent land as its backdrop, one should not — rather cannot — go wrong with beautiful stories to tell too. Alas, Zubeen Garg’s Kanchanjangha is just not one of those stories. With all my bias towards Assam, I can state, with no hesitation that Assamese cinema deserves better.

Watch the trailer for Kanchanjangha here —

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Updated Date: Sep 17, 2019 14:02:48 IST