Kolkata, 24 Feb 2019 6:00 IST
Writer-director Ranjan Ghosh serves up a predictable and tiresome storyline with a screenplay that is way too slow and tests the patience of the audience.
Ranjan Ghosh's Ahaa Re promised to delineate the journey towards the union of two star-crossed lovers. One of them is a chef while the other is a home cook. Though they come from different religious backgrounds, Ghosh does not exploit their story in terms of the typical Hindu-Muslim equation, which is a relief.
According to Ghosh, two individuals can go through many crises beyond mere social identities and the director apparently intended to explore those hurdles in the way of forming a relationship.
However, in the film, the obstacles turn out to be rather one-sided. Only one of the protagonists goes through a lot of inner turmoil before giving in to emotions.
It might have been apt if the two individuals, both similarly interested in each other, had faced impediments and yet come across each other at every turn of their individual journeys and realized their love for each other.
What Ghosh actually comes up with, then, is a predictable, even tiresome, storyline with a screenplay that is way too slow and tests the patience of the audience a great deal.
Chef Faraz Chowdhury (Arifin Shuvoo) from Dhaka, Bangladesh, accepts an offer of the post of executive chef in a restaurant in Kolkata after his girlfriend Shaheeda (Amrita Chattopadhyay) leaves for Paris to study fashion designing.
While Faraz is exploring the new city renowned for its food, he bumps into a lady in an old and famous hotel. The lady disagrees with his appreciation of the food but pays his bill when he can't find his wallet.
Incidentally, he ends up signing up for home-cooked food from the same lady, Basundhara (Rituparna Sengupta), who runs the Young Bengal catering service. Under pressure from his friend and manager of the hotel, Faraz proposes to learn cooking the cuisine of West Bengal from Basundhara.
Initially reluctant, Basundhara agrees to teach him, but the situation turns topsy-turvy and Faraz ends up professing his love for her.
While Basundhara's family comprising a father figure (Paran Bandopadhyay) and younger brother (Shubhro S Das) does not have any problem with the match, Basundhara has her own reasons that stop her from committing to Faraz.
When the audience is already aware that Faraz and Basundhara are meant to unite, Ghosh could have attempted to show a bit of originality while framing the leading lady's story. Coupled with the slow screenplay and predictability, Basundhara's grim narrative, devoid of dramatic intensity, makes it difficult to sit through the film.
Also, Basundhara does not exhibit her inner turmoil of choosing between genuine feeling for Faraz and the burden of fate that she has decided to bear for life. She only seems to get frustrated with her regular duties towards the end of the film which conveys that she is unable to bear the burden anymore.
Faraz on the other hand is quite determined and when Basundhara refuses to respond to him, he tries to make his way through her family, indirectly lending a helping hand. Hence, the story becomes the typical one of a man hell-bent on winning the heart of the woman using several impressive tactics, with a lot of suavity and dignity.
Faraz's conflict with his ex-girlfriend only adds to the length of the film and so does his complicated relationship with his own family.
It would have not made much difference if the protagonists' common interest had been any other art form instead of cooking. Food in itself, its flavours, and the art of cooking do not have much to do with the narrative except for creating a mutual ground for exchange and being Basundhara's business, to which Faraz adds his contribution as he attempts to make a difference in her life.
Ghosh's writing could have been a lot more crisp. His dialogues, apart from the ones for Paran Bandopadhyay, hardly sound striking. The film is anyway too long; therefore, he could have easily avoided the sequence in which Faraz and his friend enjoy the state of being intoxicated on Holi day.
The camerawork of Hari Nayar is a bit puzzling when it comes to capturing two characters conversing. Ghosh and his editor Rabi Ranjan Maitra could have invested some more thought in composing their scenes. Most are burdened with unnecessary detail. The scenes in which all the famous eateries of Kolkata are shown are simply repetitive.
One of the few aspects of the film that stays in the heart is the feeling of home Ghosh has created with the four characters. Be it the brother or the father, each forms a bond of warmth and attachment with both Faraz and Basundhara that permeates the story.
Arifin Shuvoo is extremely natural and consistent in his avatar of a resolved gentleman and a chef, but he does not have the scope in the film to deliver a nuanced and thought-provoking performance.
Sengupta brings out the weariness of her character well, but her performance is mostly one-dimensional as she, too, does not get much opportunity to bring her acting prowess into play.
The characters of Paran Bandopadhyay and Shubhro S Das are sketched with a lot of investment and both actors keep the audience interested with their screen presence and meaningful dialogues.
Savvy Gupta's songs are diverse and soothing, but again they stretch the length of the film a great deal.
Ahaa Re reflects a lot of effort on the director's part but does not deliver a seamless experience. Throughout the first half, it appears that the film is building up slowly, but when the entire film runs at similar pace it just proves to be quite disappointing.
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