Kolkata, 21 Apr 2018 21:33 IST
If only the director had paid more attention to the pacing and twists of the plot than to unnecessary cinematographic and musical effects.
Sayantan Ghoshal’s crime thriller Alinangarer Golokdhanda is the culmination of thorough research into Bengal's rich history. The director has not only carefully woven his hard-earned historical information to create an apt plot of a treasure hunt, but has also added a dramatic storyline, with a few loopholes, to support it.
The riddles as clues to the ultimate location of the treasure are fascinating as they help to uncover numerous historical locations of Old Calcutta.
Screenwriter Sougata Basu does a commendable job of highlighting obscure places such as the Burrabazar library, the Black Pagoda, the grave of Lady Canning, and the mansions of some influential residents of British Calcutta that carry historical significance and yet remain largely unknown.
The storyline, too, hints at the period of the declining babu culture of Bengal. Many of the zamindars who once led lavish lifestyles at the convenience provided by the British rulers had to sell off their belongings to maintain their image and the luxury they had grown used to.
Some of the lineages thus went extinct; others took recourse to immoral ways to sustain themselves. In days gone by, the British took advantage of their misery. Now, international smugglers do the same.
The plot of Alinangarer Golokdhanda touches upon all these aspects quite well. The film begins with a zamindar who has been reduced to penury putting all his prized possessions on sale without knowing their value, so that he can buy imported liquor instead of the cheap local brew.
After a few of those antiques are sold at throwaway prices, a stranger, later revealed to be Somenath, surprises the auctioneer and the zamindar by paying a thousand rupees for a heavy jewel-encrusted sword.
The plot immediately shifts to the hunt for the sword by smuggler Amirchand Mittal (Goutam Halder). Amirchand approaches Somenath with a huge amount for the sword but in vain.
A CID officer becomes aware of the hunt. But before he can proceed with his investigation, he is pursued and killed by Amirchand and his goons. Coincidentally, Somenath happens to be at the same place. He witnesses the crime and is also chased by the thugs. Amirchand wants him captured alive but while running for his life Somenath meets with an accident and dies.
The plot then moves to the present time. Birshti (Parno Mittra) drives a Jeep (though quite an unfamiliar scene these days) on the Howrah Bridge while her companion Soham (Anirban Bhattacharya) recounts the story of the foundation of Calcutta.
Back home, she approaches her father Asutosh Singha (Kaushik Sen), a descendent of the Singha zamindar family, to arrange for a scholarship on her grandfather’s memorial to fund research on Bengal conducted by Soham.
Soham manages to impress Asutosh by answering a difficult question on Kaliprasanna Singha, an important author and social figure of 19th century Bengal, and gets the scholarship. As Asutosh arranges for his stay at his house, he also shows him an old letter with a riddle, posted to him by Somenath. He says the riddle is a clue to a gift which Somenath intended to give him before his death.
Meanwhile, Asutosh keeps receiving weird tokens at his home with accounts of the death of several traitors from nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah’s era. Asutosh is also the author of a historical book called Banglar Ayna and most of the information in the book was provided to him by Somenath.
A keen researcher, Soham quickly takes up the riddle. As he goes about solving it, the plot unfolds.
The beginning of the film seems amateurish, with poor acting and flawed cinematography. As history seems to be the backbone of the film, at least during the climax Basu could have explained how the sword travelled to the zamindar from its source.
The elements of secrecy, revenge and fight for power are present in the film, as any thriller demands. However, Alinangarer Golokdhanda lacks the suspense quotient in finding the answers to each riddle.
In keeping with the storyline, if the plot had offered a few twists at each juncture, the film would have become a lot more dramatic. On the other hand, it is true that dragging the plot would have increased the film's length.
Anirban Bhattacharya plays the passionate and curious history student with ease, without unnecessary embellishments. At the same time, he portrays dramatically his helplessness and despair at his knowledge being taken advantage of.
Parno Mittra delivers an average performance and fails to react well to the unexpected revelations during the climax.
Kaushik Sen gets into the skin of his character as Asutosh Singha and subtly brings out mysteries from under his gentlemanly appearance. While in the first half he is not much more than someone keen to conserve his heritage, he does give the audience a feeling that there is more to him.
Goutam Halder etches a dramatic act as Amirchand Mittal. He tries to appear shrewd, but sometimes his theatrical act gets unbearable.
Paran Bandopadhyay, one of the most underrated actors, wins the audience's heart with his natural portrayal as Sakhigopal.
The camera work of Sudipta Majumdar is disappointing as the framing in some of the sequences is just confusing. The background score, too, is overpowering and does not enhance the intensity of the plot. These unnecessary effects do nothing for the drama in the film and one wishes the director had worked on the pacing of the plot instead.
The film wins points for content and the performances. The inclusion of Manasa Puja, currently a not-so-popular ritual in Bengal, and the emphasis on collecting information from libraries rather than by searching on the internet merge well with the film's approach.
The historical location and the décor of the zamindar house have all the components required but the cinematography fails to create the right ambience. If only the camera work had been as good as the story, the film would have emerged as a fine piece of art.
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