A poetic film that explores the interstices between reality and dreams, auteur Buddhadev Dasgupta’s film Tope/The Bait leaves a lasting impression on one’s mind, long after the film is over. Based on Narayan Gangopadhyay’s short story, the film explores exploitation, entrapment, enchantment and disillusionment in various forms through three interlinked stories.
Raja (Sudipto Chaterjee) is an eccentric aristocrat who is subject to getting “dance pangs” and so carries a gramophone with him wherever he travels. He lives in a decaying palace with Rekha (Ananya Chatterjee), a voluptuous woman who wishes to be free and dreams of a nightly visitor outside her window.Advertisement
Both of them seem to be living in a fantasy world of their own making, when a documentary film crew, making a film about the dwindling tiger population in the forest nearby, approaches Raja and decides to stay and capture the irresistible footage of Raja hunting down a tiger.
Raja’s story is interspersed with that of a young street performer, Munni (Kajal Kumari) who performs tightrope walks to provide for her family. She wishes to get married one day and hopes for a different life. There is also the character of Goja (Chandan Roy Sanyal), a postman who has made his abode on a tree with the monkeys for company and has renounced his job, family and home, to offer prophecies of the future to people passing by.
The film has an extraordinary background score and lush cinematography that reinforces the poetic element. The exploitation of the less fortunate at the hands of the remains of the aristocracy, who hold on to some vestiges of power, is explored in a vivid manner as the film leaves us asking the question, who is the bait and for whom?
When asked about the intermingling of fantasy and reality in the film, the auteur responded, “Reality is very boring, it’s predictable but if you put in a bit of magic in it, it becomes different.”