Mitin Mashi movie review: A flawed detective caper that's saved by strong performances and laudable idea
In the film, Mitin Mashi, or Pragyaparamita Mukherjee, is a private detective with her own Kolkata Police approved agency
With no dearth of fictional detective characters to choose from the literature of Bengal, filmmaker Arindam Sil seems to have carved out a niche for himself by making as many as seven film adaptations on such characters. After Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay’s sharp-eyed and quick-witted Lalbazaar cop Shabor Dasgupta and Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay’s immortal bhadralok super sleuth Byomkesh Bakshi, Sil seems to have now turned his attention to Suchitra Bhattacharya’s much-loved (and much-needed) female private eye — Mitin Mashi, or Mitin Aunty.
Questions of versatility aside — for that is a filmmaker’s personal choice — the treatment of these films leave a lot to be desired, and do very little justice to the wonderful stories they have been adapted from. If any. Sil’s first Mitin Mashi outing, unceremoniously titled Mitin Mashi is no different.
In the film, Mitin Mashi, or Pragyaparamita Mukherjee, is a private detective with her own Kolkata Police approved agency titled ‘Third Eye’. Her husband runs a printing press, and her niece Tupur — who has come to live with them for the summer holidays — is her satellite, or assistant, as she puts it. Mitin Mashi is fiercely independent, dignified, courageous and has a keen eye and a sharp analytical mind that detectives are known for. When the son of an affluent Parsi businessman is kidnapped from his school, Mitin Mashi is hired by the father to find the boy. There are a number of suspects, and everyone seems to be hiding something or the other.
Adapted from Suchitra Bhattacharya’s ‘Haate Matro Tintey Din’ (referring to the three-day deadline that the kidnappers have set for the ransom money to be arranged), the film’s story itself is not very strong. The puzzle at the crux of the story is astonishingly weak, and by interval, I was thoroughly bored. It did not matter to me, then, that by the end of the film, one of the suspects turned out to be the culprit, because the very manner in which the deduction was done and the problem was solved was very insipid. But I do not blame the makers for that. They may have found something interesting in the story, or perhaps their imagination may be easily ignited.
No, there were several other things about the film that bothered me. But before getting to those, let me talk about a few things that I did like about the film. First and foremost among these is the sheer joy to see a female sleuth on screen. This is so refreshing, such a welcome change from the male-dominated detective protagonist space, that this feature of the movie itself carries it a long distance. The second is the casting. Koel Mullick is believable as Mitin Mashi, and I was willing to invest in her performance. As an actress, she has done some pretty ordinary work in the past. Who hasn’t? But there were some fine nuances of her skill that I got to see in Mitin Mashi. Perhaps the most important among these is the way she observes people. If you think about it, these scenes are not easy to act out. And Mullick does them to perfection. I also liked Vinay Pathak’s performance, and I could easily see how he saved some poorly written scenes from turning out to be total disasters. Pathak’s performance was the second pillar on which the film stood tall. Some of the other performances, including those of Koyel Das and Riyal Banik, and Sil’s delicious cameo as a stuttering DMV Babu, were also quite nice.
But what is this strange fascination for showing brainy detectives as ones with the brawns too? Mitin Mashi taking on a bunch of hoods barehanded? All by herself? Why? Do note the question I am asking is not ‘how?’ I understand that Sil and his team might have felt the need for a woman empowerment turn to the story. It is as necessary as it is relevant. But it is not a question of gender here. I had asked the exact same question — why — while watching Sil’s Byomkesh films. I did not ask why in Shabor’s case, because the character demanded that. But Mitin Mashi does not need to step out of a speeding vehicle and then shut the car’s door with a kick. No! You don’t do that with Mitin Mashi. It is in total contrast to her character. I also understand that Sil wanted to allude to her childlessness, but I felt it was overdone.
The film also turns out to be unnecessarily long, with too many reconstructions. At one point of time, they even go ahead and commit the grave blunder of showing the culprit’s face, hoping that it would not spoil the fun. It does, because orthodox connoisseurs of whodunits will tell you that this is totally unacceptable. I personally felt cheated.
What Mitin Mashi does have, is some brilliant cinematography by Subhankar Bhar. There is a scene in an underground parking space — where nothing much happens story-wise — which I absolutely adored, simply because of the cinematography. Bhar also manages to light up his scenes remarkably well, and is a great addition to the project. The music by Bickram Ghosh is also quite nice, although the percussion set pieces can become a tad monotonous after some time.
Mitin Mashi is certainly not unwatchable. Some of you may even end up liking it. I, for one, would not mind seeing what Sil does next with the character. I only hope that he is able to tell frivolity from the gravity, and has the cinematic courage to choose the latter.
Watch the trailer for Mitin Mashi here:
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