Review Bengali

Professor Shanku O El Dorado review: Underwhelming representation of Satyajit Ray's popular story, with poor graphics

Release Date: 20 Dec 2019 / Rated: U / 01hr 34min

Cinestaan Rating

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Roushni Sarkar

Actor Dhritiman Chatterjee’s dignified rendition of Shanku defies all the traits Shanku inherits.

Satyajit Ray set most of his detective Feluda stories within India, so that his Bengali readers could relate with the locations and visualise them. Feluda’s contexts are also true to life and hence, are easy to transform into cinematic adaptations as well. However, he unleashed all his imagination within the periphery of science fiction with Professor Shanku. His world is bizarre yet fascinating and opens doors of imagination for the readers as well.

Laying hands on this popular literary creation is not easy and hence, Professor Shanku remained untouched, when it came to cinematic adaptations, all these years. The recent technological advancement in visual effects and graphics in Bengali cinema perhaps pushed Sandip Ray for the first cinematic adaptation of the story titled Nakur Babu O El Dorado into Professor Shanku O El Dorado (2019).

However, the vision of his son did not quite seem to convey the true flavours of Professor Shanku, conceptualised by Ray himself. First of all, Professor Shanku is not a suave man, who fits to the image of a noted academic by normal standards. He is an eccentric genius and his inventions are fictitious too.

Ray purposefully lent this flavour to make the readers aware of the fine line between fiction and science, since his readers were mostly teenagers. The film, on the other hand, misses this particular essence of humour and amusement throughout the plot. It is hard to watch Shanku in such a monotonous and simplistic cinematic representation that doesn’t contain a single element to excite the audience.

Dhritiman Chatterjee’s dignified rendition of Shanku defies all the traits Shanku inherits. His narration in the beginning sets the tone of the film, that misses a spark throughout and so does his performance. His conversations with fellow scientists with his newly invented hologram technology are portrayed as the most mundane act, with a screenplay, that doesn’t for a moment gives out the essence that Shanku’s world is beyond the perception of normal human beings.

In the film, Shanku gets invitation for a conference in Sao Paolo, Brazil, after an article on his inventions are published in Cosmos magazine. An interesting man called Nakur Babu (Subhasish Mukherjee) pays him a sudden visit. The clairvoyant simple man informs him of impending dangers in Brazil and Shanku decides to take him along with him to the conference.

The original story was titled Nokur Babu O El Dorado, precisely because the character has the primary role in the story. The director intentionally changed the title to make it a Shanku film, but could not achieve success with it. Throughout the film, Nakur Babu continues to be the most intriguing character, not because of the script but also for Subhasish Mukherjee’s dramatic performance.

While Shanku’s presence doesn’t lead the audience towards a single moment of anticipation for a twist in the narrative, Nakur Babu does intrigue the audience about his next move. On the other hand, the conspiracy of the enemies and the whole episode of the mystery surrounding ‘El Dorado’ are treated with such a linear narrative that it doesn’t allow the audience to feel a moment of suspense. The climax doesn’t come across as surprising at all. 

To amaze and entertain the audience through visual effects and graphics, Bengali cinema has to go a long way. The makers should remember that if they want to impress the audience with a visual treat, they must keep the fact in mind that the audience is now exposed to international content on the digital platform.

Dhritiman Chatterjee’s appearance is nothing but boring throughout the film. Thankfully, Subhasish Mukhopadhyay compensates for the experience through completely transforming himself into an avatar of Nakur Babu that comes across as naïve but has a lot to reveal at the right moments. His facial expressions are engaging and poignant too.

Soumik Halder doesn’t engage into any kind of experiment with his camerawork, following the footsteps of the director, who seems to have refrained from taking any kind of risk, while taking a safe route in cinematically representing the story. Sandip's music adds to the monotony of the film, with an outdated version of his father’s ideas of background score.

Professor Shanku O El Dorado is an underwhelming adaptation that offers nothing but a glimpse of how actor Subhasish Mukherjee can transform himself into various shades of characters with ease. Apart from his and Shanku’s cat Newton’s on-screen presence, the film ruins the experience of a joy ride with Shanku.

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