By Anirban Halder
Film Song Lotke Debo Shotke Debo Korbo Calendar from Prem By Chance (Bengali, 2010)
CALCUTTA, Oct 18, 2010 (Washington Bangla Radio) The beginning of Sudeshna Roy-Abhijit Guha on big screen was made with a sensible mainstream venture called Shudhu Tumi in 2004 (buy Bengali movie DVD) with the superstar Prosenjit in the lead and the rising Koel and famous television face Gargi Roy Chowdhury opposite him. In the movie they tried to strike a balance between their sensibilities and mainstream elements and had new age music scored by Zubeen Garg, much before days of his Bollywood glory. Sudhu Tumi wasn’t a success story, and it was followed by the director duo with a realistic, no-starcast Tin Yaari Katha which is in the cans for years on end. However, the director duo proved somewhat third time lucky with a moderately successful new age rom-com Cross Connection (DVD release) in 2009.
In Prem by Chance Sudeshna-Abhijit go unabashedly mainstream, packing in the common ingredients like song and dances, fights, villain and family drama. The story is about hot-tempered Raju (Abir Chatterjee), who picks up a fight with the local politician’s son Sanu (Suman Banerjee) at the latter’s place and gets chased by he police. On the way he bumps into Sanu’s girlfriend Purna (Koel Mullick), who’s visiting her village home and has a crisis at hand. She was supposed to be accompanied by Sanu to show to him to her family, especially her super strict father, and get her approved as the would-be son-in-law in place of her father’s choice- his friend’s brother. But Sanu ditched Purna on the day. Now as Raju needs a place to hide, and Purna a boyfriend to show, they agree to help each other. The action shifts to Purna’s village home and her big joint family complete with her grandfather (Manoj Mitra after a long time). How in due course Raju is able to win the heart of the family, and most importantly Purna’s resistive father’s forms the rest. He almost loses her in the immediate run-up to the climax.
A full-on masala offering like this requires the backing of a decent script peppered with well-spun drama, good, hummable music among other ingredients. But the drama in Prem by Chance falls flat and the songs, some of which are forced or short of being perfectly timed, except Choi choi choi and a situational Lotke debo, sotke debo, don’t live in memory after the end. The villain, Bijoy (Arijit Dutta), eyeing his brother Ajoy’s (Dipankar De), friend Biswanath’s (Biswajit Chakraborty) daughter Purna for marrying, is also a weak link in the story.
The storyline throws up too many questions and inconsistencies. Is Purna so immature that she promised to give away half her mother’s ornaments to Raju to help him fight his family’s financial woes, and actually does that in due course? Showing Biswanath as so hot-tempered that he beats up Raju on his entry to his house (albeit in a comic garb) is stretching it a bit too far. The police gives a chase to Raju as soon as he is out of Subhas Dutta’s home, Raju learns driving a tractor in paddy fields too easily, Purna’s cousin doesn’t tell his uncle till the day of wedding with Bijoy that he had identified Bijoy the other night as part of the attacking gang….it goes on and on.
In performances, Abir is spot on. It shows he has improved after Cross Connection. The cropped haircut, the cut mark on his face and the body language help create a credible Raju. And he does look charming enough in the songs, though the dancing bit can do with some help. Koel brings in the star value, delivers on glamour quotient and makes a charming Purna. Suman is good as the arrogant Sanu, Arijit Guha is balanced as Subhas Dutta, the politician and Manoj Mitra makes a loving and indulgent grandpa. Others including Dwijen Banerjee (Raju’s maternal uncle), Biswajit Chakraborty, Locket Chatterjee and others do their job well too. But what the supporting cast gets to do is precious little for their calibre as the script lacks meat. Arijit Dutta doesn’t impress as the villain, though his scope wasn’t as narrow as the others.
The songs shot in picturesque Kerala do provide a visual relief. But the annual tractor race of the village, where Raju (replacing the regular contender Biswanath nursing a hurt leg) is pitted against Bijoy, which could provide a high, is marred by flat and unimaginative shot-taking. Parts of Horse Babu’s action choreography (flying kicks etc) also doesn’t gel with the simple storyline.
One wishes Sudeshna-Abhijit go back to the movies that match their sensibilities, movies with an urban appeal. That’s the way they can win hearts of audience and make them yearn for more. And Abir should be noticed as a mainstream hero. He shows an edge over the recent newcomers.