The Light (2013): A Bio-Pic on Swami Vivekananda (WBRi Bengali Movie Review)

The Light (2013) Indian Bangla Movie Poster

Kolkata, Feb 3, 2013 (Washington Bangla Radio) On the occasion of the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, Director Utpal Sinha, popularly known as Tutu Sinha, presents a tribute to the patriotic saint. His new Bangla movie "The Light" is a biographical film depicting the life and achievements of Swami Vivekananda.

‘The light’ is a celluloid journey of Vivekananda’s life where one finds many well known episodes of his life as well as some untold stories about him. The biopic film opens in the time period of Vivekananda’s childhood. The young ‘Biley’ or Naren is shown as the little kid with a giant’s heart who does not mind giving away precious clothes and other things to the poor and needy. In the very first scene Bile is confined to a room to prevent him from indulging in his usual mischievous activities. But Bile starts throwing out clothes of his family members through the window to beggars. While this is perceived as another mischief by Bile’s mother, his father recognizes it as greatness and kindness of his little son. He predicts Bile will become a great person someday.

The sequence where Bile tries the different ‘Hookah pots’ meant for different religions and casts in order to find out how one loses his religion by taking puffs from Hookah pots provisioned for other casts and religions is a delight to watch.

The teenage Bile, Naren to family and friends, is shown as a brave youngster who does not mind stopping a couple of crazy horses which were taking a coach haywire and thus save the lives of a child and a woman.

The film then moves on to portray Vivekananda’s acquaintance with Shree Ramkrishna Paramhamsa and changes Ramkrishna brought in the thoughts of young Naren which molded him into one of the greatest saints of India.

The Kolkata Bangla movie travels in a linear motion telling the story of Vivekananda’s transformation to a ‘Sanyasi’ and his quest for knowledge about his own nation which takes him on a long journey across India. He discards all notions of divisions based on cast and religion and treats everyone the same.

The Indian Bangla movie also shows in detail Vivekanada’s friendship with the ‘Maharaja’ of the princely state of Alwar and Vivekanada’s journey to Chicago where he delivered his historic speech at the World Religion Conference. A few minutes are also spared for a conversation between Vivekanada and Jamshedji Tata with the former inspiring the latter to start a business with the vast resources of India.

The film covers the entire life of Vivekananda, till his death - his ‘Mahasamadhi’.

Watch a scene from the shooting of the "The Light" (via You Tube):

The direction of the film and decent performances by Deep Bhattacharya and Premankur Chakrabarty in the roles of Vivekananda and Ramkrishna respectively make the film a bright venture. Premankur and Deep have proven in the film that theatrical experience can be a great asset for actors. Deep faced the movie camera for the first time in this film and as a newcomer he has done a great job. He is one of  actors critics are going to look out for.

Some may express concern that the towering personality of Vivekananda is not reflected by Deep and he seems a lot more emotional at parts, but it must be remembered that someone like Vivekanada is unique and so is his personality. One should not expect that from any actor, not even from him who has rehearsed Vivekanada’s role a million times.

Gargi Roy Chowdhury as Sarada Devi is also a pleasure to watch, though a star of her status has very little screen time - but that is all for the film’s sake and does not hurt the movie. Courtney Stephens as Sister Nivedita could also have been given more prominence in the film.

The songs of the film are good and music by Nachiketa and Dr. Haricharan Verma deserves special mention. The songs echoe the spiritual messages in the film and have an effect of elevation.

The extensive research by the filmmakers is evident from the minute details in the narrative. The film has some memorable shots, especially when Vivekananda swims braving rough weather and turbulent waves to the rock in Kanyakumari where his temple is now located. The detailing of the film is good, but despite long journeys made on foot over rough and dusty terrain , Vivekananda always wears a remarkably clean and tidy dress just out from the laundry. And of course the grand subject, i.e. the life of Vivekanada, deserved a grander treatment.

But if judged by the standard of Tollywood Bengali films, ‘The Light’ gives hope and should be watched, if not for anything else, regard for Vivekananda.

- Jyoti Prakash Mandal (