Shantilal O Projapoti Rohoshyo? movie review: Pritam D Gupta's insipid film suffers from clunky writing
Perhaps the only two things I liked in Shantilal O Projapoti Rohoshyo? are Chakraborty’s sincere attempt, and the background score by Arko Pravo Mukherjee.
castRitwick Chakraborty, Paoli Dam, Goutam Ghose, Alokanonda Roy
directorPritam D Gupta
With a title as intriguing as an '80s Bengali detective novel, and a premise that is bound to appeal to your curiosity, with one of Bengali cinema’s finest contemporary actors in the leading role, and the promise of a great mystery, what could go wrong with a film such as Pratim D Gupta’s latest offering Shantilal O Projapoti Rohoshyo? Well, in a word – everything. Because when the writing is not up to the mark, nothing works.
A jaded and burnt out weather reporter, working for a Kolkata newspaper, chances upon a rather disturbing secret, involving a popular actress, who is on the verge of joining politics. In his inherently insatiable urge to know more, and also to make a difference in his otherwise meaningless existence, this self-admitted non-entity of a journalist embarks upon a slippery journey into the dark world of sleuthing and sleaze, literally crossing oceans and taking grave risks that he himself seems to be unaware of.
I cannot even begin to tell you the immense potential that the story has. The weather-guy Shantilal’s journey is essentially one of self-discovery rather than an attempt to uncover the truth. His pursuit for facts is, in reality, an attempt to do something meaningful, to achieve something, to not be a ‘loser’, as his boss often addresses him in public. His journalistic instincts can sniff a story from a mile away, but his luck seems to do him in. His relationship with his mother is symbiotic, and he fears he might lose it if he gets married. His is a character that one could have done so much with. But with writing as flat as the paper it is written on, this gem of a character is hardly explored to its full potential. His motivations are so ill-defined, and the stunts involved in perhaps setting up a justification for his actions are so childish and silly, that the character just does not seem to come across as one we would care to invest in.
Then there is Nandita, the star, smiling in front of the camera, weary and exhausted behind it. Carrying the burden of a bitter truth, one that she does not want to forget because it is that ugly truth that gives her strength and purpose. Her motivations, though marginally more defined than that of the protagonist, also never receive the focus they deserve. She is reduced to a rather foxy caricature by the end of the film. Her Samaritan objectives are so briefly dwelled upon that it remains unclear whether she is genuine in her intentions or is putting up an act. Once again, it is an instance of lazy writing.
There is no other way to describe the climax – if one could call it that – other than to say that it is downright dull and boring, so much so that it fails to engage you even for the briefest periods of time. The scenes involving Shanti’s overbearing boss are rather cliched and done to death. And if the scene involving a South Indian aunty, whose husband has ‘run away’, is supposed to be funny, then either the standards of humour has fallen so low in the industry that I have simply failed to notice, or – and this is more likely – the writer-director tried to inject a scene in his film just for the sake of it. Either way, the said scene was cringe-worthy to say the least despite – once again – the immense potential of the occasion the scene demanded in the first place.
I clearly remember that while watching Gupta’s previous film Ahare Mon, I had the distinct feeling that the actors were helping the director more than the director was helping them. In Shantilal O Projapoti Rohoshyo too, it is Gupta’s actors who make a valiant attempt to save the film. Chief among them is Ritwick Chakraborty. A natural actor, a man with doubtless finesse, Chakraborty takes his space, his character, and the arc given to him and plays with them in his own brilliant way. There are moments in which he makes you feel his pain without so much as uttering a grunt of grief. For instance, in a scene in which he comes home drunk, and sits down to gulp down a cold meal. Or in another, in which he sneaks into office early to use a colleague’s computer, because he himself has not been assigned one. Chakraborty’s efforts make the film watchable, but only in parts.
I wish I could say the same about Paoli Dam, though. The quality of her performance in this film is the epitome of inconsistency. A fine actress otherwise, Dam has had a seemingly never-ending run of poorly written scripts come her way. Her lacuna – if any – has been her inability to choose her projects with the same wisdom with which she once commanded her craft. In Gupta’s film, she comes across as so silly at times that despite our best efforts, it becomes difficult to empathise with her, or with her intentions. Goutam Ghose is potent in parts, and I enjoyed his turn. I also felt that Alokanonda Roy played her part quite well as Shanti’s mother.
But overall, characters come and go in the film, leaving behind questions regarding their relevance and need. Unnecessary scenes, death of logic, melodrama, and some very ordinary and immature writing plague what is, essentially, a brilliant logline. Perhaps the only two things I liked in the film are Chakraborty’s sincere attempt, and the background score by Arko Pravo Mukherjee. Everything else is just a sad case of wasted opportunities. And as for the title, I think Shantilal O Projapoti Rohoshyo might as well have been christened Shantilal O Projapoti, because there is no rohoshyo or mystery in this film.
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