Natobar Not Out (2010) Bengali Film Review: A Full-Fledged Rip-Roaring Bangla Comedy Movie After Long Time

By Anirban Halder

Actress RAIMA SEN and Hero Mustafa Prakash - Natobar Not Out Kolkata Bengali Movie Poster-WallpaperCalcutta, Nov 22, 2010 (Washington Bangla Radio) [Directed by Amit Sen (WBRi Exclusive Interview), Natobar Not Out has a star cast of Raima Sen (Interview), Mustafa Prakash (WBRi exclusive Interview), Ananya Dutta (WBRi exclusive Interview), Ramaprasad Banik, Biswajit Chakrabarty, Mousumi Saha, Sudeepa Bose, Kharaj Mukherjee (WBRi exclusive Interview), Chandan Sen, Kaushik Ganguly (WBRi exclusive Interview), Kamalika Banerjee and others. Music is directed by Debojyoti Mishra (WBRi exclusive Interview) and the lyrics are by Kamaleswar Mukherjee (WBRi exclusive Interview). The film is produced by Bunch of Buddies who are trying to bring in the next generation of crisp and smart Bengali film to Kolkata. Their first film PA MA GA RE SA (2009) is remembered by all Bengali film-lovers fondly.]

In the past three years we have seen Bangla cinema in diverse genres: relationship film (Anuranan), love story based on celebrated literary piece (Kalbela), urbane love story (Antaheen), band film (Madly Bangalee, 033), romantic comedy (Cross Connection), romantic thriller (Ekti Tarar Khonje), a sensitive and unconventional love story (The Japanese Wife) among others . We have also got a Brake Fail and a Hangover, which were dismal attempts at comedy. And we have surely missed a full-fledged, rip-roaring comedy for a long, long time. While we fondly recall the Bangla cinema of the golden age, some brilliant comedies dot our thought, like Sare Chuattar, Bhranti Bilas to Mouchak, Paras Pathar and Dhonyi Meye among many others.

Audio Song Promo: Megher Palok Chander Nolok Kagojer Kheya Bhashche - Natobar Not Out (Bengali, 2010)

Natobor Not Out makes an honest attempt to address this vacuum. It has a genuine old world milieu, set in contrast with the materialistic contemporary society. It has a protagonist (Mustafa Prakash from Bangladesh as Natobar) who is a failed poet – a clearly out-of-fashion vocation in Bangla cinema these days (Yes, one remembers Ritwik’s character from Cross Connection as the other worthwhile instance). The only person impressed with him is his love interest – the next-door neighbour Mishtu (Raima Sen). His literary struggle at midnight irks his father (Ramaprasad Banik) who runs a small workshop at his residence and wants his son to give up all this crap and join him. Natobor almost gives up after a spat with his father …….and then the magic happens one night. He gets a blessing from his idol Rabindranath Tagore on his birth anniversary that will transform his poetic prowess overnight. But it has a rider – the effect will last only till 22 Shraban, his death anniversary. Natobor becomes a poet overnight, as noticed by everybody who had discarded his work in the past. But he hits a deadlock again as nobody is interested to publish an unknown poet’s work into a book. The only one publisher (Biplab Chatterjee) who agreed, offered him to let his work come out in a known poet’s name, as only that makes some business sense. He decines and breaks down. Then one day he is sent to an ad agency by his wellwisher Bappa da (Saswata Chatterjee), And he strikes gold right there by coming up with one jingle after another at the interview table and lands a junior copywriter’s job. Life takes a 180o turn thereafter. The innocent Natobar is drawn to the vortex of high life. Friends notice a changed Natobar, who does occasional ‘favour’ to the ‘para’ function by single-handedly organising sponsorship thanks to his agency contacts. Mishtu is hurt and spots the sudden change in their own world too, with the shrinking together time (now spent at plush cafes) and Natobar paying more-than-necessary attention to the agency hottie Ujala (Debutante Ananya Dutta). He also runs up huge debt on his credit card and avoids reminder calls to pay up. Can he come back in life?

Kamaleshwar Mukherjee, who’s written the story and script (including the numerous poems used in the movie), has created an urban fantasy with handpicked quintessential Bengali elements - the weekly poets’ meet Robibarer Chithi at Bhatpara – Natobar’s north Kolkata locality, the local boys’ club Tasher Desh, the local girls’ hostel Mouchak, the innocent rivalry between the club and the hostel, the tableau made by the girls on 25 Baisakh, the go-as-you-like in the boys’ para function spontaneously participated by the girls (and their hostel super) and local Romeos, the typical para characters: The football fanatic and club football team coach Ghulit (Chandan Sen) talking in chaste Bangal, Mishtu’s father Corbett (Biswajit Chakraborty) obsessed with hunting stories, Natobar’s opium-addicted Tuni Masi (Mausumi Saha), the drunkard (Kharaj Mukherjee) with a penchant for a painfully long speech that goes haywire on every possible occasion, the bespectacled organiser dada, the club boys whose lives revolve around the evening carom games, blood donation camp and cultural function, the hostel superintendent (Sudipa Basu). All this creates a nostalgia that is rarely seen in today’s Bangla cinema. Perhaps a small problem lies here as well: The elements are so neatly recreated and compiled by Amit Sen & co. that in totality it looks a wee bit unrealistic. A dash of crisis perhaps could have made the concoction more meaningful. Nevertheless star marks go to Kamlaleshwar for the idea. The depiction of the professional world is much more realistic, thanks to the advertising background of Kamaleshwar and Amit. At a time where good writing is at an all time low in Tollygunge, it’s wonderful to see a new talent like Kamaleshwar making debut. One is all the more curious now to check out his directorial debut Uro Chithi, a gritty urban tale written by him.

The brand of witty humour is fresh, the kind rarely seen these days. One fondly remembers Rituparno’s Shubho Maharat that had a moderate dose of this kind coming from the protagonist Ranga Pishima played by Rakhee. The humour is served by the Kamaleshwar-Amit partnership right from first few frames that capture the way the signboard of Tasher Desh is written to the Kabuliwala who strikingly resembles Chhobi Biswas in Tapan Sinha’s Kabuliwala, to the numerous one liners that kept the audience in the evening show in Jaya Cineplex in splits throughout the length of the movie. It’s spontaneous, subtle, smart, outrageous and at times wicked too.

The performances of the ensemble supporting cast form one of the main strengths of the film. Kharaj, Ramaprasad, Mausumi Saha, Chandan and Kaushik Ganguly (The ad agency boss) are at the top of their game, helped by their well-written characters. They are ably supported by others. Kharaj’s drunken act stands particularly high on the laughter meter. Ananya Dutta makes a good debut. Saswata has performed as required, but his character looked sketchy. Biswajit his good too, though his obsession with hunting, the core of his intended comic appeal, is clearly over-the-top. The lead pair unfortunately gets overshadowed by the supporting cast. Raima makes an adorable Mishtu, but acting-wise this was elementary job for a fine pro like her. Here again, her sophistication doesn’t gel with the simplicity and earthiness of her character in a few scenes. Mustafa Prakash as Natobor struggles throughout even to score pass marks as an actor. His comic timing leaves a lot to be desired.

After Autograph, Debajyoti Mishra is back with his brand of music that is pleasing to the ears, with an apt background score. Among the few songs Megher palok chander nolok and the title song Ekdin kobi hobe Natobor Gupta are impressive. Editing by Sumit Ghosh is smart, particularly good piece of work being the title song. The art direction by Mridul Baidya is also a job well done.

Amit has played a couple of bad shots in though. Moon Moon Sen’s forgettable item number and Kharaj’s repetitive drunken act top the mention. Moon Moon, back after a long hiatus, looks old, unflatteringly photographed and devoid of her trademark oomph. And making a star of Jeet’s stature (Playing himself in a small cameo) endorse such a downmarket product is ridiculous. The ad agency, l0oking quite plush and well-located, surprisingly seems to work mostly for small clients. Mishtu is also a little too sweet for comfort in her act of forgiveness despite several loose acts on the part of Natobar.

In totality Natobar Not Out makes an enjoyable viewing experience for its pluses. It is also a refreshingly different tribute to the bard on his 150th birth anniversary year. Go check it out, for a prolonged good laugh you missed for so long.