WBRi Movie Review: Tenida (2011) - Praiseworthy Attempt to Adapt a Timeless Bengali Classic to 21st Century

Calcutta, Dec 31, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio / Penning Creations) Famous literary fictional characters have always had a strong role to play in films churned out by the Bengali movie industry. While Sandip Ray has taken up the mantle of bringing the timeless sleuth Feluda to life on the silver screen, Anjan Dutt has already started shooting for his second Byomkesh Bakshi flick. Only recently Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay's Gosai Baganer Bhoot (WBRi Review) had a successful run at the theaters too. The adventures of Tenida - that pompous yet endearing young man and his three friends have also been already portrayed onscreen in the genuinely funny and immensely successful 1978 classic Charmurti  (Buy Bengali Film DVD in USA). Veteran actor Chinmoy Roy dons the director's hat for bringing back Tenida on the big screen.

Tenida relates the tale of four friends – Habul Sen, Pyalaram, Kyabla and, of course, Tenida himself. The story kicks off with the latter finally clearing his final school examinations after numerous attempts (albeit in third division, but hey, even that is no mean feat for our mercurial protagonist!). In order to celebrate the occasion, Tenida and his buddies are invited by the former's uncle Kutty Mama for a visit to the jungles of Dooars. All seem set for a memorable and exciting vacation before Tenida finally joins college (a prospect that seemed improbable, nay, impossible, at one point of time!).

It, however, does not take long for the keenly observant Tenida that all is not well in the forests of Dooars. His suspicions are vindicated when sufficient evidence, regarding the presence of criminals cutting down trees in an illegal manner in the region, becomes available. Whats more, these antisocial elements seem to be working for some terrorist group, who are hell-bent on bringing upon problems and unrest in the state. With the police and the forest authorities at their wits end, it seems that Tenida and his motley group of friends are the only hope of saving the valuable forest resources and bring the notorious criminals to justice. Can Tenida succeed in accomplishing this evidently tricky mission? Yes, you guessed it right!

Chinmoy Roy does a good job of lending the character of Tenida a sophisticated and modern day feel. The main protagonists of the movie are, in most parts, vastly different (in a good, progressive way!) from the characters that had been penned by Narayan Gangopadhyay. The movie also highlights the contemporary issues and problems that currently face Bengal (illegal deforestation activities, for starters). Roy draws upon his rich cinematic experience to make his characters believable and indeed, to an extent, enjoyable. Of course it helps if the audience is already familiar with the central characters, but sufficient care has been taken by the director to ensure that the leading men in the movie do not appear alien to those who have not read the Tenida stories.

The film, however, is let down by inconsistent performances from the members of its cast. Comparisons with the virtuoso performances delivered by acting stalwarts like Satya Bandopadhyay, Santosh Dutta and Robi Ghosh (who starred in Charmurti) would, of course, be an exercise in futility, but, left on their own, the actors in the latest Tenida movie are still disappointing. Shubhashish Mukherjee, as Tenida, is by far the best thing about the film, although his performance borders on becoming over-the-top at times. Gaurav Dasgupta impresses, but only in bits. Ritam Bose and Moinak Dutta are plain functional. Sreemonti Majumdar, in a small role, is wasted.

Tenida is also held back from being a really enjoyable entertainer that it could have been by a weak and jerky screenplay. The film moves on at a slow pace, almost lulling the viewers (not that there were very many of them in the theater!) into a slumber. The gags, which were so hilarious in the stories, appear distinctly unfunny onscreen. The rather cringe-worthy dialogs, mouthed by the lead actors, do not help the cause of the movie either. The typical wisecracks of Tenida, in fact, are the sole high points of the film.

The weak musical score of the movie adds to the list of negative points of this mundane flick. While the directorial expertise of Chinmoy Roy is beyond all scopes of skepticism, his turn as the music director (along with Durbadal Chattopadhyay) leaves a lot to be desired. The background score often jars and certainly does not add to the feelings of suspense and drama that the director wishes to incorporate in the film. The low-key promotions for the movie (produced by Tower Group) do not help in generating that pre-release buzz and anticipation that every big movie so relies upon for box-office success.

Tenida is a sincere attempt to portray the antics of one of the most popular fictional characters of Bengali literature onscreen. The attempts to adapt the characters to a modern, 21st century setup are praiseworthy too. Sadly, the disinterested performances, the sluggish screenplay, the weak musical score and the general lack of curiosity among cinegoers, never allow this flick to become anything but a bland, boring fare. The de la grande Mephistopheles man surely deserved better.

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