Kolkata, 25 Aug 2019 7:00 IST
Gotro is not about subtle and deep emotional experiences. It focuses on certain general sentiments of humanity which were ingrained in our minds once upon a time and many of us took for granted.
Nandita Roy and Shiboprosad Mukherjee's Gotro has a specific agenda: to convey a message of communal amity. Gotro does not deliver an immersive cinematic experience. The content attempts to preach for the most part. However, given the country's tumultuous scenario, when harmony and unity are visibly at stake, films like Gotro, which are conceptualized to entertain the masses while sending out a message of harmony, do serve a purpose.
Gotro is not about subtle and deep emotional experiences; instead, it focuses on certain general sentiments of humanity which were ingrained in our minds once upon a time and many of us took for granted but are now endangered by a particularly virulent strain of divisive politics.
It is important to refer to the current scenario to assess the film, otherwise there is not much to take away from the linear storyline infused with melodrama and elements that are quite unrealistic. For example, protagonist Mukti Debi (Anashua Majumdar) is a staunch Vaishnavite. But the rules she sets in her household are more unrealistic than strict. She is the owner of the old-world mansion Gobinda Dham where not only are religious rituals conducted regularly but the entire day is lived in adherence of Vaishnavite rules and customs.
Though Mukti Debi has certain unrealistic features, her character and Majumdar's performance constitute the pillar of the film. Mukti Debi is brave yet vulnerable, but she never allows her emotions to come out in the open. She takes on thieves at home alone but also does not hesitate to comment on the undergarments of the priest (Ambarish Bhattacharya) at her home temple.
Her only son Anirban (Saheb Chatterjee) who lives abroad is worried about his ageing mother's security, but Mukti Debi refuses to let a caretaker stay with her. She devises such ridiculous rules that no one can abide by.
Anirban's friend, a police inspector (Badshah Maitra), chooses Tareq Ali (Nigel Akkara), a former convict who was in prison for nine years and is now trying to lead a normal life by getting a regular job, to be the new caretaker. However, the nervous Anirban hides Tareq's religious identity from Mukti Debi. She on her part looks upon Tareq with suspicion, though she does employ him.
Tareq is an introvert and a straightforward man. He follows Mukti Debi's rules and regulations with such rigidity that the old woman is often shocked to get a dose of her own medicine back.
Jhuma (Manali Dey) stays with Mukti Debi and helps with the household chores. She is an overenthusiastic young woman and tries to attract Tareq's attention but in vain.
Amidst all this is the 'promoter' (Kharaj Mukherjee) who wants to acquire Gobinda Dham for redevelopment despite Mukti Debi's repeated rejection of his proposals to buy her ancestral property. The promoter is a greedy man and while he has a comical demeanour, he is not one to hesitate to cause harm if it will help him achieve his goals.
The promoter warns Tareq to stay out of it and threatens to harm Mukti Debi. Tareq, however, continues to serve the old woman with dedication, though he does get annoyed by some of her rules.
Tareq comes across as a rather uni-dimensional character. Nigel Akkara's stiff rendition of the character that is strong on the exterior and compassionate inside hardly makes an impact. The director duo was perhaps aware of Akkara's limitations and probably that is why they did not incorporate many shades in the role. However, a bit more drama in the character would have made the film more interesting.
From the trailer, it was already known that Mukti Debi becomes aware of Tareq's religion but accepts him and continues to fight for living in harmony with him despite societal pressure. The fight constitutes the crux of the film that attempts to show that religion does not matter in forming close bonds and people of different faiths are sometimes more full of love and compassion than one's blood relations.
Along with the goal of promoting harmony amidst diversity, Roy and Mukherjee have incorporated the sad situation of aged parents who are obliged to live alone with their children living abroad. In Gotro, Mukti Debi does not harbour much expectation from her son but gets an even more sensitive soul, who is but an outsider, to take care of her.
The directors perhaps infused certain ridiculous orthodox traits in Mukti Debi to emphasize her compassion and humanity. In Mukti Debi's house, one has to have a bath every time one enters the bathroom and wash all the clothes. At the same time, Mukti Debi does not think twice before offering puja in Tareq's name in front of her lord Krishna or meditating at a mazaar (tomb of a saint).
Manali Dey's performance is loud throughout the film. Thanks to her overacting, Nigel Akkara's performance looks even more pale. Apart from the love story of Jhuma and Tareq, which is not highlighted in the film, Jhuma's narrative is included in the storyline simply to elevate Mukti Debi as the epitome of kindness.
Anashua Majumdar almost singularly carries the film on her firm shoulders, exhibiting authority, kindness and humour with equal finesse. She is dramatic and though many of her dialogues are quite superficial, she does justice to them with her convincingly natural portrayal.
Badshah Maitra and Saheb Chatterjee deliver decent performances. Ambarish Bhattacharya captures attention with his comical turn in his brief appearances. Kharaj Mukherjee delivers a gripping performance, switching between vile inclination and humour with ease and balancing the two aspects well.
Supriyo Dutta's cinematography is mostly clean while editor Malay Laha enhances his craft with proper pace and temperament in cinematic composition. At times, perhaps keeping in mind the mass-entertainer aspect, Laha and Dutta have attempted to project Tareq as a larger-than-life character. Anindya Chatterjee's songs 'Rongoboti', 'Momo Chitte' and 'Maa' are apt for enhancing the emotional sequences.
Shovan Mukherjee's background score fills the ambience of the film with soothing sound.
Nandita Roy and Shiboprosad Mukherjee have not allowed too many sinking moments in the film, lest the predictable storyline end up boring the audience. There is a twist in the climax which does not really come as a surprise though the sequences to anticipate the twist are rather confusing. All in all, an audience that loves to be fed with preachy sentiments is bound to enjoy this film with its clichéd moments of humour.
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