Movie Review: Moner Manush (Bengali, 2010) A Goutam Ghose film: Prosenjit in a magnum opus, Paoli strives to deliver

By Nilanjan Nandy

Moner Manush: Theatrical Trailer

Calcutta, Dec 4, 2010 (Washington Bangla Radio) [Image: Tollywood Hero PROSENJIT CHATTERJEE as LALON FAKIR in MONER MANUSH (Bengali, 2010)]Who was Lalon (aka Lalon Fakir)? A mere village 'baul-singer' or someone more than that.

From the archieval records we could know very little about this wanderer...but however, Lalon's "dehototwo" songs are sung right from the heart; untainted and unblemished!!!

However, the singer. Latif that Goutam Ghose has used in this movie to sing the songs of Lalon, is a wrong selection as Latif's voice lacks balance and the primary needs to be a professional vocalist! All in all,  it does not suit the leading man's image and his voice quality.

Apart from this mishap, other things like Camera and Editing are simply superb. The wide shots, especially taken around rivers or seas are heavenly! This backdrop of nature, gels quite smoothly with this new film by Goutam Ghose where Lalon is played by Prosenjit Chatterjee (WBRi Exclusive Interview) along with Shantilal Mukherjee, Priyangshu Chatterji and others.

Sunil Gangopadhyay's novel - "Moner Manush", based on the life of Lalon Fakir in the times of the Raj, hits quite low under the belt, with it's superb and unique style of storytelling.

Moner Manush is a book, it has it's own magic I guess!  However, the cine-goers by the dozens hardly have time for reading, and will end up at an auditorium without doing their proper homework!

The story goes like this: the film opens with Jyotirindranath Tagore sketching sequence where we find Lalon, nearly 85 now,  hardly has any strength left to walk straight without the aid of a lathi (stick).

The story now goes back to his days when he was suspected dead from Small Pox in Murshidabad, and was afloat on the Ganges for days on end, eventually falling into the hands of a motherly woman in a small village now in Bangladesh, who nursed him back to health. This woman was a Muslim and when Lalon returns home to his mother and wife, he is not allowed to enter the house and touch them since he has lost his most precious possession; religion in the hands of an unknown Muslim woman. Lalon, frustrated and irritated from this kind of wrong beliefs, leaves home for good, and becomes a fervent traveler. Lalon then a 30 something, was staying with other Bauls, young widows, farmers, artisans and people for whom there was no meaning for caste system, as they themselves were thrown out of the society by orthodoxed fundamentalists. in this ashram 'free sex' was encouraged, as this can bring a person to complete concentration, it was believed. An undercurrent of pure Eroticism is very much there in the film, though certain things could be shown a bit more subtly. The scene between Prasenjit and Paoli in the former's tent at night is simply crass!

Apart from this snag, it seemed that Lalon's Ashram was from a another world where Hindus and Muslims co-existed like never before. Lalon, a great philosopher though illiterate, created unforgettable folk songs which came out of his system quite naturally among which "Lalon boley jaater ki roop" and "Khanchar bhitor ocheen pakhi" top the lists even today. Apart from Prasenjit and Priyangshu Chatterjee, there's Paoli Dam, Asaad, and Champa in major roles. However, Prosenjit has tried quite hard to get into the psyche and character of the 'bard', but Paoli Dam  has not meted justice to her role and happens to be one of the the weakest point in the film too.

However, Lalon Fakir- as a subject I think happens to be a very relevant topic as there is disturbance all over in the name of religion, caste what not!! In an interview the director of this film, Goutam Ghose said that he had this particular subject in mind since the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December, 1992, but somehow it got shoved to the back of his bureau of ideas and projects, but the publication of Moner Manush, the novel by Sunil Gangopadhyay in 2008, rekindled the whole thing, Prasenjit getting interested to do the role and getting Goutam Kundu of Rose Valley to produce this Indo-Bangladesh joint venture. A magnum opus film, which shows the Quest, the journey into oneself!!