Review Bengali

Sanjhbati review: Exhausting screenplay that fail to raise awareness about a glaring issue

Release Date: 20 Dec 2019 / Rated: U / 02hr 09min

Cinestaan Rating

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Roushni Sarkar

The extremely tedious screenplay, with a narration of episodic descriptions of mundane life and predictable treatment of issues, Sanjhbati mostly tends to bore. 

While watching Leena Gangopadhyay and Saibal Banerjee’s Sanjhbati (2019), one might feel they are watching the episodes of a long mega serial. The extremely tedious screenplay, with a narration of episodic descriptions of mundane life and predictable treatment of issues, Sanjhbati mostly tends to bore. There are chances that throughout the film, the audience might not find a single moment to engage themselves with, to relate with a revelation or anticipate for a dramatic unfold in the plot.

The film attempts to highlight the plight of age-old parents, who are left with no choice but to live alone, as their children travel far from them due to work purpose. While they live alone, they sometimes depend on companions outside their blood relations or are sent to old-age homes.

There have been numerous films on this issue before. Siboprosad Mukherjee and Nandita Roy’s Gotro (2019), follows almost a similar line of thought, addressing the issue. While the director duo managed to infuse a message of communal harmony in Gotro, Sanjhbati presents an extremely black and white story, stereotyping the characters and without going deep into the root of problems.

Also, both the films show how the lonely parents get coerced by goons to sell their properties. In Sanjhbati, the children are blatantly portrayed as villains, without any grey shades attributed to them. Here, they are the insensitive souls, who do not bother to overthrow their parents out of their homes, because they are more concerned with accumulating money to buy properties in the foreign land and living a secured life.

Sulekha (Lily Chakraborty) lives with her maid Phuli (Paoli Dam) and is friends with her old suitor Chana Da (Soumitra Chatterjee). Sulekha’s son (Sudip Mukerjee) is apparently concerned about his mother’s safety and hence, he engages Chandan (Dev), a distant acquaintance of his to take care of her.

His concerns regarding his mother is superficial. He doesn’t hesitate in calling her selfish when the latter refuses to sell her house and go and stay with them. On the other hand, Sulekha is happy with her maid and caretaker, who make her life eventful, with their little joys and quarrels. Sulekha is empathetic towards Chana Da too. Whenever she gets the opportunity, she sends him food via Chandan.

The central conflict arises as some goons begin to pressurise Sulekha to sell her property, backed by her son’s wish. It also leads the film towards an illogical climax. When Sulekha is shown to be battling high blood pressure and the constant loud sounds of firecrackers  that make her more tense, both her loving and attentive caretakers choose to leave her isolated in a room, without bothering to sit in vigil the whole night and making sure that she is alright, leading her health to get worse.

The problem is the film only paints the sad scenario of these elderly people, without attempting to highlight the reasons behind it. Had the director duo intended to raise awareness regarding the situation, they should have created an argument out of the plot, to raise awareness in both parents and children regarding the trend of ignoring the value of the most important people in their life.

What is the point of a narrative that picks up some characters, who are all victims of their respective situations and chooses to stereotype them in their roles? The audience and the parents need to know why the children are raised in such a manner that they choose to grow so insensitive in a stage of life, when they are supposed to take responsibility.

The director should have pointed out the flaws in the entire system that run through generations. The flaws not only lie in raising the children but also in determining the roles of females and males in the household. On one hand, Sulekha repeatedly says that she has wasted her valuable years in raising her kids, who don’t bother to care for her little wishes,a and on the other hand, Chana Dadu complains how he never had the experience of managing a household on his own and hence, now he has no choice but to lead the last days of his life in an old-age home.

Instead of highlighting the ground reasons, the director duo has written cliched and melodramatic dialogues, meant to raise sympathy for the victims of situations and perhaps, so that the audience shed a few tears too. It is sad to see that the directors expect the audience to enjoy repetitive dialogues that describe Sulekha sending her maids to the bazaar, ensuring her Chana Da eat his food at the right time, and going on the same interactions with goons. Also, Chandan’s statement, Ami hate churi porini [I am not wearing bangles] to announce his masculinity is quite problematic.

It appears that the narrative of Phuli and Chandan were only incorporated for the sake of making the audience laugh at times, while the rest only allows the characters to complain and cry.

Lily Chakraborty appears to have felt her character with all her heart and soul. She is extremely natural in her moments of showing compassion and anger too. Soumitra Chatterjee is natural in his usual self.

Dam moulds herself well into a spirited, simple and talkative girl, who is not afraid to speak her heart and express her true emotions. Adhikari has tried his best in his attempt to maintain a calm countenance and not break out into a macho avatar.

Raja Narayan Deb’s background score is sometimes too imposing and it interferes with the narrative too. Anupam Roy’s 'Kagoner Bari'and 'Khoma Koro' are soulful compositions.

Shirsha Roy’s cinematography is a delight to the eyes. However, both the camerawork and editing could have been used for a better purpose, rather than a thoroughly exhausting and predictable screenplay that doesn’t offer a plot to deeply delve into or relate with to the audience, who are exposed to experimental content from all over the world on digital platforms.

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