Mumbai, 25 May 2018 15:54 IST
Updated: 26 May 2018 11:18 IST
The film, inspired by Rabindranath Tagore's Kabuliwala, tells the moving tale of the strong bond between filmmaker Minnie Basu and her childhood hero, Bioscopewala.
First-time filmmaker Deb Medhekar and producer Sunil Thakore Doshi look back at the enduring Rabindranath Tagore story, Kabuliwala, as an inspiration for their feature, Bioscopewala. The nice cinematic touch works well for the modern story.
The film follows Minnie Basu (Geetanjali Thapa), a filmmaker settled in Paris who returns to her childhood home in Kolkata after the death of her photographer father Robi Basu (Adil Hussain) in an airplane crash. Father and daughter have had an estranged relationship and Minnie finds it hard to grieve. However, there are more pressing matters.
Before he died, Robi took custody of Rehmat Khan (Danny Denzongpa), a prisoner convicted of murder. Khan, afflicted with Alzheimer's, is now Minnie's responsibility. Insensitively, she lashes out and asks their longtime caretaker Bhola (Brijendra Kala) to send him away. Staying in the house where she grew up and being around Khan, her childhood memories slowly awaken.
Rehmat is actually Minnie's childhood hero, Bioscopewala, a refugee from Afghanistan, who inspired her to become a storyteller. He was a large part of her life when she was five, playing with her and showing her cinema clips of Raj Kapoor and Charlie Chaplin. However, one day he just disappears.
The adult Minnie tries to peel back the layers of the mystery around Bioscopewala and why her father was on his way to Afghanistan when he died. Along the way, she meets characters from their past - Rehmat's and hers - who help her solve the puzzle of Bioscopewala, his life in his home country and why he left his family behind.
Bioscopewala is perfectly cast, especially with the adult and young Minnie. The supporting cast of Kala, Hussain, Tisca Chopra, Ekavali Khanna are terrific with little that they have to do. Thapa's Minnie is the main focus of the film, even over Bioscopewala, which is a shame. The great Danny Denzongpa is cast as the Afghan with the big heart but for a large part of the film, he's remains silent.
The film deviates quite a bit from the original material and the beloved 1961 film starring Balraj Sahraj, but its twists and turns don't have the same impact of Kabuliwala.
The title song, written by Gulzar, works as a wonderful theme in the film. The flashbacks of Denzongpa in his element as Bioscopewala hit all the right notes. It makes one feels nostalgic about celluloid cinema.
The first half builds up the mystery of the connection between Robi Basu and Rehmat Khan, but writer-director Medhekar is not able to deliver and stick the landing in the second half. Minnie gets more and more emotional, as should the audience, as we discover the real reason for Khan's imprisonment and reasons for leaving his homeland.
The sections of Khan's idyllic life in Afghanistan and as a man who showed old Hindi films in his house are too brief. The arrival of the Taliban in 1990s and the fall of Afghanistan and the effects on its people is also touched upon. It seems like there is too much story and not enough time to tell it.
The story has its heart in the right place and there are several updated elements that hit the mark, but the last ten minutes of the film seem muddled by Medhekar and Doshi, who also contributed to the story. The focus of Bioscopewala should have rested on Denzongpa. If you are a fan of the veteran actor, you'll walk away wanting more.
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