Mumbai, 21 Sep 2018 11:03 IST
The film has fine performances from well-known actors like Subrat Dutta, Indraneil Sengupta and Mandakini Goswami.
The Northeastern part of India is considered heaven for travellers, just like Jammu and Kashmir. Travel shows have exhaustively exposed the natural beauty of the place, making one crave a visit to the Seven Sisters. While there is no denying about the positive aspects about the region, it also has its own problem areas, just like Jammu and Kashmir.
Director Sanjib Dey’s multilingual film III Smoking Barrel’s looks at the dark, disturbing and helpless side of the Northeast through an anthology of three stories about different individuals from age groups and strata of society.
Anurag Dutta (Indraneil Sengupta) hails from an upper middle class family. While he is travelling alone from Guwahati to Manipur, Janice (Shiny Gogoi), a 14-year-old girl, secretly enters his car, holds him at gunpoint and forces him to follow her orders. The girl has run away from a terrorist camp where she was forcibly taken three years ago.
This is an eye-opening story about how youngsters are forced into terrorist activities in the region. However, it lacks the kind of the execution that was required to make it stand out. The filmmaker only touches the surface of Janice's backstory even though it is a crucial part. Anurag having a oft corner for Janice is understandable. But to see him risk everything for her is hard to believe.
Sengupta delivers a mature act where he speaks more through expressions. Gogoi has the zest required to play the character of Janice. She could have been more convincing while delivering dialogues where she is threatens Anurag.
This story revolves around Ronnie (Siddharth Boro) and his ageing and widowed mother Nilima (Mandakini Goswami). Ronnie was sent to Bangalore by his mother to study engineering. However, he couldn’t complete his studies due to a lack of interest.
Now she wants him to find a job, but he is more interested in starting a business. The issue causes constant friction between the two. Nilima is aware that Ronnie loiters around with bad company. But she has no idea that her son is not only doing drugs, but is also a peddler. Where will the road lead Ronnie?
The film deserves to be applauded for portraying the breakdown of values among youngsters in a no-holds-barred manner. But it drags on certain occasions. Ronnie’s involvement with the underworld is also not justified completely. This makes the climax a bit unconvincing. Performance wise, Goswami, the veteran theatre artist, is excellent as a helpless mother. Boro makes the character of a spoilt youngster appear believable.
This story takes place at the India-Bangladesh border. Mukhtar (Subrat Dutta) lives a poor lifestyle with his wife Morjina (Amrita Chattopadhyay). He used to make some money selling fish. However, after the government banned fishing from the pond near his house, he has no choice, but to sell grass. It doesn’t earn him much and he spends his meagre earnings on liquor. Hence, he constantly faces the wrath of Morjina.
By chance, Mukhtar comes across a man who looks after the illegal ivory trade for a businessman. He offers Mukhtar big sums of money if he kills elephants and hands over their tusks. The chance of making a quick buck lures Mukhtar into the illegal trade. But how long will he be able to sustain?
What impresses you the most is the utter realism displayed in all departments. The locations and production design make you forget that this is a feature film. Dutta has gone all out to showcase his classy acting skills. His commitment is seen even in the minutest of mannerisms. Nalneesh Neil, as his mute friend Ikram, is outstanding. Chattopadhyay provides good support.
Despite these positives, the story doesn’t appear as satisfying as it should. There are moments when the narrative goes dry with nothing much happening in terms of story development. The story should have ended in the pre-climax. The portions that follow weren’t quite necessary.
In all the three stories, the sound design is top-notch. The camerawork juggles between normal and hand-held, which works to the film's advantage. The background score is effective and creative.
III Smoking Barrels has its problems, but the film still offers a good glimpse into the dark side of India’s otherwise mesmerising Northeast.
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