Kolkata, 01 Dec 2019 7:00 IST
Though filmmaker Arijit Biswas seems to lose his conviction in building the political allegory in the second half, the brilliant performances by the three powerful leading artistes and a compact cinematic composition leave a positive note in the viewer's mind.
Arijit Biswas’s directorial debut Surjo Prithibir Charidike Ghore is based on the real-life character KC Pal, who believes the sun goes round the earth and has been trying to prove his theory.
However, the film is more than just the biopic of an eccentric man, and presents a narrative in which the struggle for faith and ideals is the central point. To magnify and bring out the universality of the struggle, Biswas connects it to the course of the leftist movement in Bengal, which has gradually lost its stronghold on account of its hypocrisy.
The audience will be able to draw a connection between the primary narrative and the subtext. And though Biswas seems to lose the conviction in building the political allegory in the second half, the brilliant performances by the three powerful leading artistes and a compact cinematic composition leave a positive note in the minds of viewers. The film delivers a climax that celebrates two ends of the consequences of following one's ideology. One speaks of eternal faith; the other shows how personal interest overpowers faith.
While TC Pal, the fictionalized avatar of KC Pal, is an idealist, the other two characters are full of grey shades. If Pal (Meghnad Bhattacharya) and Chiranjeet Chatterjee (Chiranjeet Chakraborty), a yesteryear leftist activist and famous film personality, stand at two ends of the spectrum, unsuccessful filmmaker Sanjib (Anjan Dutt) hangs beautifully in between the binaries, as a sensitive and free soul who refuses to fit anywhere in the categories of faith and idealism, and surrenders instead to changing times.
Pal is stubborn, passionate and singularly focused on his theories with which he thinks he can change the course of the history of science. He is ridiculously honest about his ethics. He doesn’t bother to take up his family responsibilities since that would compromise his passion; instead, he chooses to live on the footpath, trying to manage his days on 20 bucks so that he can spread his theories to passers-by. He is indomitable. His son’s scorn, wife's complaints, and even threats from the police don’t sway him; neither does he agree to sell science in the name of religion.
Chatterjee happens to come across Pal one night. A guilt-ridden former leftist, the actor feels he can prove his accountability by lending support to this man who personifies determination. Sanjib joins him in the hope of finding a story, a quest that has become his refuge as his own family falls apart.
In the end, Chatterjee hardly realizes that his ego and urge for self-satisfaction overpower his faithfulness to an ideology that promotes equality in society and, perhaps, demands certain actions from him as he happens to be an influential person.
Biswas keeps Pal’s character at the centre of the story, choosing to keep him constant, unaffected by external forces. Characters come and go; Pal remains untouched and focused on his theory.
Sanjib, who set out in search of a story for distraction, begins to inject himself in the unfolding of every situation. The man who initially laughs at his wife’s adultery and tries to associate with a union movement for a lark finds himself vulnerably shaking in realization when he faces himself in the mirror. In the end, he stands in the stormy wind to have all the tangled parts of his consciousness taken away.
When the narrative shifts a bit to the subtexts, it begins to weigh heavily on the mind. While it is easy to relate with the fast-paced and intense unfolding of events in the first half, which mostly involve Pal, the narrative of Chatterjee associating with the union movement seems a bit much. The episode has less energy and appears dull compared to the first half. However, the director deserves credit for cutting down the unnecessary length of the plot.
The conception of the families of Pal and Sanjib also proves Biswas to be an adept scriptwriter. While one is drowned in misery and turns into a victim of circumstances, the other offers a clever and sarcastic depiction of the degradation of values.
Mansoor Bhai (Suprovat Das) is an interesting addition to the plot. He represents the class of simple people who give their blood and sweat to earn a living and believe in genuine compassion and camaraderie.
In short, Biswas presents some characters around TC Pal that are real and relatable because of their common traits, not their uniqueness. The characters embody different strands of faith which are visible in the current days of grave political turmoil and intolerance.
Meghnad Bhattacharya not only gets into the skin of the character but also turns into an impassioned bundle of energy on screen that is addictive. It is difficult to segregate and appreciate different facets of his performance since they are so much in synch.
Anjan Dutt’s act of a man in the crowd is so relatable that it evokes great empathy. He beautifully maintains the harmony in Sanjib's journey. While in the beginning of his journey he laughs easily at his surroundings and people, by the end he finds it hard to control his tears in the crowd.
Chiranjeet Chakraborty is powerful and honest in the depiction of the superficiality of his personality. He gracefully maintains a balance between a famous and vain public figure and a common man who looks for validity of his existence.
Sreela Majumdar, Suprovat Das and Paran Bandopadhyay all hit the nail on the head in bringing out the essence of the surroundings and the beliefs that they represent. It is a delight to see Bandopadhyay play a manipulative character.
Shirsha Roy’s meaningful cinematography and Sourav Sarangi’s editing infuse life into every frame without bringing any kind of intervention in the cinematic experience.
Art director Sudip Bhattacharjee brings alive TC Pal’s world and also magnifies the clumsiness in Sanjib’s life through a suitably messy decoration of his house.
Prabuddha Banerjee’s background score is minimalistic. His sound arrangement in the credits prepares the audience for the unique journey the film eventually offers.
Surjo Prithibir Charidike Ghore is worth the watch for the brilliant performances and the cinematic craft Biswas has achieved in his first attempt. He also leaves a mark as an experienced scriptwriter with dialogues that keep the audience interested as events unfold rapidly in a comparatively short span.
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