Sraboner Dhara movie review: Sudeshna Roy, Abhijit Guha's film suffers for a poorly crafted double narrative
The dichotomy in the dual narrative tracks comes in the way of Sraboner Dhara becoming a commendable work of art
castSoumitra Chatterjee, Gargi Roychowdhury, Parambrata Chatterjee, Damini Basu
directorSudeshna Roy, Abhijit Guha
Director duo Sudeshna Roy and Abhijit Guha’s new film Sraboner Dhara gave me the distinct impression that I was, for all practical purposes, watching two films. Adapted from a short story by Dr Subhendu Sen, the film's dual nature left me quite bewildered, and forced me to wonder what went wrong. On one hand, there are some laudable performances, a beautifully written script by Padmanabha Dasgupta and an excellent storyline. But existing alongside is a poorly crafted track – involving all the aforementioned names – one that made even such veteran actors as Soumitra Chatterjee look like bumbling amateurs. It is this dichotomy, then, that comes in the way of the film becoming a commendable work of art.
Nilabho Roy is a bright young and upright doctor with a promising career ahead. He hails from a modest background and therefore abhors the fact that his father takes a lot of pride in their humble and simple living. He wants to distance itself from his background as much as possible, and tries to focus on his clearly affluent future. But there too, he does not seem to find peace, as problems begin to arise between him and his wife. Amidst such tensions, an aged patient comes to him for treatment. The man is Amitabha Roy, a retired professor, who is now suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. His forgetfulness has been a source of worry for his wife, who is several years younger to him. Nilabho begins his treatment, but soon realizes that there is something mysterious about the old man’s wife, and she may not be who she claims she is.
The young doctor’s track is remarkably well-crafted. A slew of interesting characters – beautifully written, richly developed and extremely well performed – left me asking for more. There is the old-time neighbourhood friend, who Nilabho is now embarrassed to recognize, simply because he drives an autorickshaw. There is a nurse from Kerala who, despite a rather phoney accent, acts as a sounding board for Nilabho’s sub-conscious mind. Then there is Nilabho’s younger sister, who has chosen to side with their father. There is the dignified patriarch, who believes that his pride is far more valuable than all the riches and material comforts of the world. There is the workaholic physician’s wife, who drifts apart from him, but not without caring for his happiness and well-being. And finally, there are a bunch of characters at Nilabho’s hospital, who lay bare the shady side of the business of healthcare. All these characters – in themselves – could have made a wonderful film, with several layers of extremely interesting exploration of the human psyche. But that was not to be. In comes, the story of the forgetful professor, and out goes the semblance of logic from the film.
Not that the second track has actors who need any introduction. Soumitra Chatterjee and Gargi Roychowdhury try to make the best of their lines and the situation. Chatterjee, in particular, is a treat to watch, even in a bad role. Roy manages to keep the suspense quotient high. But this particular story is so poorly written, that even the joints efforts of such actors could not save it. For one, there was absolutely no need for the character to have been as old as the one Chatterjee plays on screen. The fact that it was, adds literally zero value to the film. What it takes away, though, is the credibility factor. You can accuse me of ageism as much as you like, but I, for one, could not accept Soumitra Chatterjee and Gargi Roychowdhury romancing on screen. It just did not fit. Add to this the fact that the resolution to the crisis involved in this part of the story is utterly childish and incredibly illogical – so much so that it can very well put even a Manmohan Desai potboiler to shame. Which, as I said before, is a shame, especially given the fact that the rest of the film is so beautifully made.
There is a scene in the film in which Nilabho finally comes around and decides to pay a visit to his old friend’s residence. That one scene – with everything that it conveys – is so elegant, that I am going to go on a limb and claim that if the great Satyajit Ray would have been alive today, he would have said a word or two in the praise of the scene. The writing, the performances, the dialogues, the detailing, the aesthetics of the scene are all simply unparalleled, and unlike anything that I have seen in Bengali cinema in recent times. Imagine my pain, then, when I see a poorly written scene such as the one in which Chatterjee’s character disappears from the hospital. This is the dichotomy that I was talking about at the beginning of this review. It is one thing to watch a good film, another to watch a bad one. But it is excruciatingly painful to see a brilliant film go down the drains simply because of some callous decisions. Sraboner Dhara is without a shred of doubt one such painful experience.
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