Kolkata, 19 Apr 2022 0:11 IST
Directed by Parambrata Chatterjee, Abhijaan is a well-written film that allowed Soumitra Chatterjee to celebrate his life with all the glory and the blemishes.
Legendary actor Soumitra Chatterjee, often considered the last Renaissance Man of Bengal, has left a legacy of works that is certain to inspire generations. As it is, it is fascinating to look back on his journey. It becomes even more enriching when the man himself becomes the guiding star on a trip to explore his multi-faceted artistic self.
In the biopic Abhijaan, directed by Parambrata Chatterjee, Soumitra, who died of COVID-related complications in November 2020, soon after completing shooting for the film, narrates his life story to doctor-turned-aspiring filmmaker Sanjoy (Parambrata). Instead of merely documenting a chronological retelling of the story, Sanjoy attempts to capture how the prolific man was driven by his philosophy and politics through multiple creative outlets.
Though a fan, Sanjoy adopts an introspective rather than hagiographic approach while doing his research on Soumitra. For the same reason, when Soumitra speaks, his intellect shines through the spontaneous narration. In the beginning, the veteran says his grandson's accident made him insecure and he felt there was a lot that needed to be said about his work and hence he accepted Sanjoy’s proposal to do research on him despite initial hesitation. Through the film, the director, and Sanjoy in the movie, allows Soumitra to come forth and celebrate his journey with all its highs and lows. The intimate conversations between the two are the most precious moments of the film.
The journey of young Soumitra in flashback, featuring Jisshu Sengupta, has some beautiful moments. The turning points in his career, where he takes big leaps with his insatiable creative hunger, are captured in dreamy sequences by cinematographer Appu Prabhakar. The transition between the flashback and the recreated frames from some of Soumitra's classic films is smooth.
The director has mostly picked moments from the past to illustrate the actor's anecdotes from his journey as a politically conscious artiste, his take on his star persona, and the conflicts he had with some of his co-stars, in particular Uttam Kumar, as also the continuous dilemma he had within himself, as a cerebral and creative individual. However, while it is clear that the director did not remake the frames from Soumitra's films just for the sake of his creative pleasure, it was personally difficult for me to accept Sohini Sarkar as Charulata’s Madhabi Mukherjee, or even Prosenjit as Uttam Kumar.
The film has a huge ensemble cast depicting different chapters from the thespian’s life. Despite lacking much variation, Jisshu Sengupta has done a commendable job as the young Soumitra. However, Sengupta's physical transformation with time and age is missing here.
Of the other artistes, Paoli Dam delivers a convincing performance in her brief appearance as Suchitra Sen and dramatically recreates the scene from Saat Pake Bandha (1963).
Parambrata Chatterjee has done justice to his role of an inquisitive admirer who gets deeply affected by his close association with the thespian. Sanjoy coming to terms with his own complexities, while reflecting on the artiste’s philosophy of going ahead with the flow of life with all its rewards and dissatisfactions, does add to the length of the film, already rich with content, but also makes it more wholesome by depicting the direct enriching influence of Soumitra Chattterjee on his follower.
Basabdatta Chatterjee as the young Deepa Chatterjee, Soumitra’s wife, is a natural while Sohini Sengupta delivers an endearing act as his daughter Poulomi Bose.
Editor Sumit Chowdhury deserves credit for lending a compact length to the colossal content in the film, while colorist PV Mani Kumar has made the film visually rich.
Prabuddha Banerjee’s background score lends a classical touch to the journey of a man who traversed from the golden era of Bengali cinema to a not-so-glorious period with dignity. The fluidity in musical genres in the background score does justice to the simplicity Chatterjee retained amidst complexities.
Parambrata Chatterjee’s sincere dedication to preserve Soumitra Chatterjee’s legacy within a rather limited scope is evident throughout his and Subhendu Sen’s writing of the film. It is a rewarding experience to watch the octogenarian as the evergreen man who continued his journey as a star with his accomplishments and failures while remaining unapologetically true to himself instead of trying to create a deceptive larger-than-life aura. The veteran has delivered one of his best performances playing himself in this film, making it certain that he is going to remain, for a long time to come, a point of reference for lovers of cinema.
Abhijaan was released in theatres across West Bengal on 15 April.
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