Onek Diner Pore movie review: Debarati Gupta turns a school reunion drama into a wholesome work of art
Debarati Gupta draws such beautiful performances from all her actresses in Onek Diner Pore.
Debarati Gupta’s Onek Diner Pore is a beautiful film about four middle-aged women who used to be classmates, and who now happen to live widely different lives by what seems to be their own volition. It is never easy to make a film that hinges on nostalgia, but Gupta ensures that there is not too much of the candy-flossed variety in a film that does not deserve it. What she chooses to focus on instead is the way the lives of these four women have changed over the years, and how – or if – they have been able to cope with such drastic changes that their warm and debonair days of girlhood have undergone. And that is precisely what makes the film work.
In the present day, when the idea of a batch of ’99 reunion of a city convent school is proposed, a lot of promises are made. But as it turns out, only four are kept. Swagata – a homemaker, who put her daughter and husband before what could have been a brilliant post-IIT career is the one to arrive first. Soon to join her are Debolina – a successful HR manager in a private company, and Sayantani – the popular anchor of a cookery show on television. The last to arrive – with her son in tow, nonetheless – is Kuhu, a proud single mother who lives stateside and was once the class rival of Swagata. The four girls – women now – relive and reminisce the good old school days and are overcome with a sweet sense of nostalgia. But as we move along, we slowly begin to see glimpses of the brutal toll that life has taken on each of them. As old skeletons keep tumbling out of carefully guarded cupboards, and childish rivalries begin to flare up, things begin to take an ugly turn, as each woman fails to contain the frustration of their current lives – no matter how strong they claim to be.
The most interesting thing about this film is that I never realised when or how the 2 hours of its running length went by. Which is great, because the setting of the film does not change at all, and there is a likelihood of the turn of events getting boring and repetitive. But it does not. In fact, I was so engrossed in the film, that the ending came in an unexpected way, and I wanted to see more of the four women’s lives. What was interesting for me (as a man) to note is how, and how much, a woman’s life changes over the years, and how this change is so different from the one we men have to go through. It was also a revelation to note that most of the choices women seem to make as they progress into their middle age are hardly choices. In fact, they seem to be bound by the constraints of their circumstances to such an alarming extent, that by the time they seem to make these ‘choices’ they are left with merely an illusion of doing so. Motherhood, or the lack of the same, a healthy sex life, career, financial freedom, a supportive and fulfilling relationship with one’s partner – everything becomes a matter of compromise. What would such a life be like, after all? One that is full of compromises? One wonders.
Yes, Gupta’s film makes you wonder, makes you think. You see them every day – seemingly happy, seemingly content with their lives. But just behind those smiles and those weary faces, there are glimpses of unfulfilled desires, and dreams that are too good to be true. I am so glad that I watched Onek Diner Pore. Like any great film does, it made me stop and think.
There is very little to choose from the performances of the four leading ladies of the film, in the sense that it is virtually impossible to say that any isolated one outdid the other. And that’s the hallmark of a great director, I would imagine. Palomi Ghosh exudes natural flair and a calm confidence as she explains her life choices to her awed friends. Her reticence has a dark secret which she cautiously guards. In Rupanjana Mitra, we see a slightly nervous fading actor who is struggling to stay afloat and clutching at straws in trying to do so. Hers is a life that is full of mishaps and bad choices compounded by errors of judgment. Mitra portrays the fragility of her character so well, that it will break your heart to see her so much as smile. Sudiptaa Chakraborty comes across as the snooty my-life-is-better-than-yours sort of woman who loves to rain on everyone else’s parade, but we soon realise this is more an act of camouflage than of mere ill will. And Swastika Mukherjee is vulnerability personified as she stands in front of a broken mirror and desperately attempts to force a smile on her face. Her weary, exhausted looks bear evidence to her pregnancy – one that she has perhaps brought upon herself as a last ditch attempt to rectify her husband’s failing loyalties towards her. All four women are thus pictures of just one common characteristic – helplessness.
Kudos to the director for making a film in which the mood and the tone changes every minute, and for making it an effortless and wholesome work of art. Kudos also to her as she draws such beautiful performances from all her actresses. Debarati Gupta is a filmmaker whose work I would definitely love to watch more of. Because she has proved in a beautiful way that she understands the psyche of a woman, and is able to weave a lovely story around it. I strongly recommend Onek Diner Pore.
Onek Diner Pore is currently streaming on Zee5.
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