Kedara movie review: Kaushik Ganguly is superlative in Indraadip Dasgupta’s perfectly executed debut film
In his debut feature film Kedara (The Armchair), Indraadip Dasgupta has shown exceptional potential in dealing with a sensitive subject and creating a heart-warming film out of it.
Unlike Vishal Bhardwaj, who came to the city of dreams with the hopes of becoming a music director, but became a filmmaker instead (because no one was willing to let him score their films), Indraadip Dasgupta’s story is somewhat different. Dasgupta has been a celebrated music director in the Bengali film industry for two decades, and has scored some of the best known songs over the years. But as he has himself admitted to me, it was the call of the spot behind the camera that he has not been able to ignore. His debut feature film Kedara (The Armchair) is certainly not going to be his last — Dasgupta asserts — and I wish it isn’t, because he has shown exceptional potential in dealing with a sensitive subject and creating a heart-warming film out of it.
They say all great films are born out of simple premises. Kedara is no different. Narasingha is a jaded, defeated ventriloquist who lives in a perpetually dimly-lit house in Kolkata all by himself. His wife has left with their son, presumably because the artist has refused to part with his knack of mimicking sounds, voices and creature calls — a precious art form that is rapidly dying in the face of quick and easy glamour. To make matters worse, Narasingha seems to have problems of delusion, and is generally meek and soft-natured in his day-to-day life. Never saying a word against those giving him a hard time, he walks through life with a certain sense of detachment, until the advent of a simple piece of furniture in his barren and eventless existence turns his life around and gives him the self-respect and self-love that he needed so badly.
Some of us may find Dasgupta’s film to be excruciatingly slow in pace, but this is the sort of film that is best relished in an unhurried and languid manner — because it perfectly captures the fact that there is literally nothing happening in its protagonist’s life. In that sense, Srijato Bandopadhyay’s script is apt for a story such as this, in that it dwells on the seemingly insignificant aspects of Narasingha’s life: how he shops for fish, or ogles his maid, or kicks aside an invisible pebble in his path, or ignores cat calls and wolf whistles by the good-for-nothing loafers of the neighbourhood, so on and so forth. It is this fact — that his life has no meaning or purpose of any kind — that is the essence of Narasingha’s story. Without this fact, the film would have fallen flat on its face, but Dasgupta and Srijato skilfully invest the much-needed time in establishing this background before getting into the heart of the story — the armchair.
The chair, in itself, acts as a metaphor for redemption for the Narasinghas of the world. It could have been anything — a pen, a memory, an emotion or perhaps a goldfish in a bowl. In Narasingha’s tale, it is a highback chair. And it helps him break out of the rut of his life and gives him back the confidence that he seems to have lost when the phone stopped ringing and the shows started drying up. In perhaps one of the most tragic tracks of the story, Narasingha mimics the ringing of his residence’s telephone that has now been long dead, to give himself a false sense of hope. But at the same time, he is not entirely detached from the reality around him, which is why, when he answers the call and no one speaks, he feigns acute irritation, and wonders who is bothering him over and over again. In doing so, he creates a grand delusion around him that wallows in self-pity but keeps him going at the same time. He keeps reminding himself that it is not his fault. And this keeps him alive.
For all practical purposes, Kedara is a one-man show. Veteran actor-director Kaushik Ganguly is not a heartbeat short of superlative in one of the best performances of his career. Not a single gesture is overdone, not a single laugh or frown is out of place. Ganguly’s understanding of his character’s bruised pride is visible not so much in the way he performs the bits in which the forgotten artist is talking about his tragedy, but more so in the way he navigates the silences. Narasingha’s loneliness, his fond memories of his grandmother, his remembrance of the wife who has left him, and his relationship with the neighbourhood junk dealer (played with remarkable skill by a top-of-his-form Rudranil Ghosh), all come together beautifully through Kaushik Ganguly’s performance. An extremely difficult part to pull off, but handled with the dexterity of a seasoned performer.
The film is also remarkable in its technical aspects. The foley work, the make-up, the editing, the sound design, the cinematography are top of the order, and they help create a very grim world of decay and demise. One of the things I liked about Dasgupta’s handling of the subject is that it is not preachy, it never tells us what to do or how to save the dying art of ventriloquism. It is merely a commentary on the life of an artist who has not been able to move along with the times. There are certain parts of the film that could have been better handled, though. One of these is the performances by some of the supporting actors, including but not limited to that of Narasingha’s domestic help. I also felt that some of the delusions of the central character were weighing too heavily upon the film and may have been overdone. Some of the events in the film also seemed to have come in a tad too late.
But overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Indraadip Dasgupta’s Kedara. It is a fascinating premise that is executed nearly to perfection. For a debut film, it is a commendable feat, aptly supported by an actor who gives his heart and soul to his director’s vision.
Watch the trailer here:
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