Review Bengali

Sa review: Singer Arijit Singh's directorial debut is a visually appealing film

Cinestaan Rating

Release Date: 21 Nov 2018 / 01hr 49min

Blessy Chettiar

However, the same cannot be said about the story. Simply put, it meanders.

Singer Arijit Singh's compulsive need to be elusive adds an element of mystery to the reticent man. It is ironic that he has made inroads into the life of the common man through the emotions in his voice but refuses to express himself in any other way.

Arijit Singh has now found another creative outlet in the form of filmmaking.

Calling his film Sa (Small Notes), Arijit Singh makes it clear that music would be a huge part of the narrative. With Anoushka Shankar and Asad Khan on the sitar and many big names on instruments like the dotara, flute, esraj and dhak, Sa is a rich aural experience. 

Director of photography Anirban Chatterjee captures the beauty of a Bengal village with a keen eye. Frogs, snakes, vegetation, paddy, cane baskets and other village views are captured with so much love that the screen is lit up with them. The visuals are so stunning they hook you when the story meanders through the fields. 

Sa brings back memories of Rima Das’s Village Rockstars (2018) that continues to enthral the audience after it was shown at the International Film Festival of India in 2017.

Cinematically, Sa can be called a treasure as every scene has been carved with love, edited with care, and presented beautifully to let the audience soak in the atmosphere of rural life. 

However, the same cannot be said for the story. Simply put, it meanders. In essence, it's the story of a family of four in which the mother drowns in a pond while collecting water spinach. The scene of the woman tethering herself to a broken tree trunk and walking slowly into the pond, covered with lush creepers and vegetation, is cinematically brilliant.

The scene is also poignant, not for the death but for the way it is shot, almost romanticizing a cold winter death due to drowning.

Before this important scene, we don’t quite know what is happening. Even after it, as daughter Tukai, infant son Lalu and the woman’s husband Lokhai try to come to terms with the loss, the focus shifts completely.

It is now on Lalu who is older. A gifted child, Lalu can mimic the sounds of birds. After a chance encounter with his father’s friend, a classical singer, Lalu starts training in classical singing. The senior singer takes him under his wing and the innocent Lalu excels.

Arijit Singh has cast his own son Pragun as Lalu, and the boy revels in the attention, cutely soaking it all in. Srija Ghosh as Tukai is brilliant in a childlike performance. She is a delight to watch as a little girl forced to grow up after her mother’s death. Anindya Pulak Banerjee as their father brings a wide range of emotions to the screen. 

While technically Sa is resplendent, the story falters every now and then, making you question the point of it all. The visuals are stunning enough to distract you, but not enough to make you ignore the lack of coherence. Among the other flaws are the costumes in some scenes. Even as the family struggles for two square meals, the father and Lalu are seen wearing neatly ironed, crisp cotton kurtas.

If you can overlook these major holes, Sa offers a delicious cinematic experience.

Sa was screened at the 49th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) on 21 November 2018.

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