Kolkata, 12 May 2019 7:00 IST
The film is unable to establish an emotional connection with the viewer and come across as inspiring and relatable.
Shiboprosad Mukherjee and Nandita Roy’s film Konttho is the journey of a voice artiste who, despite losing his voice box to laryngeal cancer, strives to find his voice again with speech therapy and emerges victorious. This much was known from the trailer itself.
In such films, where the climax is known before the audience has even stepped into the hall, the journey towards it needs to be woven with finesse, with great detailing, for the protagonist to establish an emotional connection with the viewer and come across as inspiring and relatable. Mukherjee and Roy’s film is unable to do that.
Instead of inspiring the viewer, the film only ends up entertaining her at some moments with melodramatic sequences and high-pitched performances.
The portions that were not revealed in the trailer can easily be anticipated along with the progress of the storyline. The directors have not attempted to delve into the depth of the character of the voice artiste, who has lost his voice, with silence; instead they have focused on bringing out his frustrations and anger through violent expressions. His helplessness is loud most of the times.
His desperation would have been justified if the emphasis had remained on his personal struggle to get his voice back. But the narrative turns his speech therapist into a more glorious figure, endowing her with vivacity, undaunted spirit and a sense of sacrifice.
Not only the characterization and the screenplay but also the performances lack balance, shifting the protagonist into the shadows. An overly dramatic, chest-thumping victory song at the end does not lend the protagonist the heroic attributes he has essentially lacked.
The beginning sequence of famed RJ Arjun Mullick (Shiboprosad Mukherjee himself) saving a young woman, who is on the verge of committing suicide, on his night show Mon Amar looks superficially staged. While the entire city seems to be listening to the woman conveying her last words but not panicking to save her immediately, the mother’s attitude towards her daughter, who is ready to end her life, lacks desperation and comes across as flat, bereft of fitting dialogues.
Arjun is married to Pritha (Paoli Dam), his soulmate with shared interests and a voice artiste herself. Both conduct recitation classes and perform together as well.
Arjun finds something strange about his voice when receiving the award for Voice of the Year. He suddenly finds himself choking when trying to deliver his acceptance speech. The entire sequence is composed so theatrically that it turns out to be unintentionally hilarious. The actress, who enacts the announcer, is exceptionally over the top, despite being an RJ in real life.
When Arjun is diagnosed with cancer, neither he nor his wife seems to be devastated, as if cancer were just another ailment. The reality seems to hit them only when the doctor declares that Arjun's voice box needs to be removed to stop the spread of the disease.
As a voice artiste Arjun faces a dilemma. He is unable to decide whether his life will be left with any significance without his voice. However, these moments of discussion before the final decision is taken are composed so casually that they hardly convey his helplessness.
Arjun plunges into deep depression as he cannot speak properly after the operation and refuses to attend speech therapy that requires him to learn how to speak through his œsophagus. However, in a dramatic moment, he realizes that if for nothing else, he requires his voice to protect his son.
Enter speech therapist Romila Chowdhury (Jaya Ahsan) who not only pledges to teach Arjun how to speak but also urges him take up a challenge to restart his radio show within a month.
The directors introduce the novel way of speaking without the use of the larynx convincingly. Clearly, they have done their research as far as this part is concerned to portray the process naturally on screen.
The moments of Arjun’s insecurity at having to learn all over again the skill of speaking even as he loses his importance in all spheres of life are depicted with the required dramatic intensity. The director has also shown how in moments of acute depression and incapability, one tends to vent one's frustrations on the person closest to one's heart.
The sequences of Pritha’s struggles at seeing her husband in hardship while she is repeatedly mistreated by him and has to bear the brunt of Arjun’s unrestrained emotional outbursts are portrayed with greater nuance than other portions of the narrative.
The first half of the film is not engaging. In the second, Jaya Ahsan's Romila brings certain entertaining moments against the grim moments of struggle. However, Arjun is reduced to an obedient patient under her supervision. Rather than emphasizing his inner fire and individual attempts, the narrative lends more importance to the Romila-Arjun equation and to the experiments done together.
Shiboprosad Mukherjee’s performance while trying to speak through the œsophagus with his physical movements is quite convincing. He also manages to remain natural in the moments Arjun almost submits to his fate.
Paoli Dam is more dramatic in the emotional sequences and looks much more involved in the sorrows and despair of her character.
Jaya Ahsan brings life to the narrative with her upbeat performance though she appears a bit over the top in certain sections. She seems both passionately involved in her job with vested emotional interest and a bit overenthusiastic as well.
Koneenica Mukherjee is convincing as a close and compassionate friend. Chitra Sen’s act is too loud and her character is an unnecessary addition to the narrative.
Prabuddha Banerjee’s background score doesn’t carry the finesse of his works in many other films. Anupam Roy’s 'Alote Alote Dhaka' is a beautiful composition and could have been used in the film for a longer duration to bring out the pathos that it currently lacks.
Subhankar Bhar’s camerawork and Malay Laha’s editing capture the suffocating atmosphere around Arjun’s depression well and also retain a consistent pace throughout the plot progression.
The director duo took up an inspiring story based on the real-life journey of voice artiste Bibhuti Chakraborty but have tried to turn it into a mass entertainer. This is an average attempt that neither allows the story to unfold to its fullest potential nor provides much scope for the actors to exhibit their prowess.
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