The Story of a Timid Man - Naamte Naamte (2013) Bengali Movie Review

Bengali Actress Sucheta with Bhaswar Chatterjee and Gautam Kundu
Newcomer Bengali Film Actress Sucheta with Bhaswar Chatterjee and Gautam Kundu

Kolkata, Feb 10, 2013 (Washington Bangla Radio): Rana Basu's debut Indian Bangla movie ‘Naamte Naamte’ attempts to portray social problems of Bengal, how insipid some people can be and what those people face as consequences.

The film opens showing Ananda Babu’s (Rajatava Dutta) family living as tenants in a locality where local goons make the calls on almost everything. They run a club and keep on organizing Pujas, camps and other events. They demand hefty amounts as donations, and if someone fails to pay that amount, the person gets harassed in some way or the other. The goons are also engaged in different anti-social activities but maintain a facade of social welfare. Tota alias Ganesh Halder (Saswata Chatterjee) is their leader.

Anada Babu’s family consists of his wife Seema (Roopa Ganguly), their daughter Dolon (Sanchita) and son Suman. Ananda Babu is a timid man, and a thousand rupees is demanded of him as donation for a ‘Saraswati Puja’. The amount is too hefty for a middle class family man like Ananda's, he tries to negotiate, but the attempt results in humiliation and physical abuse for Ananda Babu. He pays the amount at last. Slowly his relationship with Tota improves. All this happens despite stern opposition from Ananda’s wife.

Ananda's landlord cuts off their water supply in an attempt to evict them as he does not want them as tenants any more. The flow of donations to Tota’s fund takes care of that problem. Tota also recommends Sudeb (Bhaswar Chatterjee) for the position of the private tutor for Ananda's young college-going daughter Dolon. Tota also arranges a much needed recommendation for Ananda Babu for the purchase of a flat.

In the meantime Sudeb and Dolon end up having sex without realizing Dolon's mother Seema is watching. Sudeb is immediately sacked, but Sudeb does not leave before threatening dire consequences. Fearing Sudeb, Ananda approaches Tota. Tota asks for Dolon to be sent alone to him but Seema opposes and sends Dolon away to a safehouse. Ananda fears backlash from Tota and is unable to sleep. What happens next forms the shocking climax of the story.

Given that the film is directed by a  newcomer, it does well in presentation. The director successfully takes a dig at the tolerant and submissive attitude of a section of Bengali people. However, the imagery he uses in the film does not go along with the facts he wants to focus on. For example, when he is trying to portray the sex scene with Sudeb and Dolon as driven by lust and a grave mistake, he should not have used romantic and platonic imagery. The ‘lassi’ getting a crimson topping and the soft romantic number that follows is thus a wrong choice for the occasion. Apart from a few such patches,  direction is quite decent. The climax is the high point of the film - the closing scene alone can make up for every other oversight of the director.

The film has the advantage of powerhouse actors delivering vibrant performances. The versatile Rajatava Dutta sheds his antagonist image from other films and portrays the role of a frightened coward Bengali with flourish. Roopa, who plays his wife, amply demonstrates why she is still among the top actresses of Bengal. Saswata Chatterjee delivers a remarkable acting performance as well. Bhaswar does not have enough screen time and thus his role remains just a cameo. His discomfort with the bed scene is clearly visible. Newcomer Bengali actress Sanchita’s efforts to emote are sincere but she seemed to be too camera conscious at some points.

The editor could have opted to carry the sub-plot and the main plot in parallel to heighten the tension, but it was thought otherwise. The film was shot in a conditioned environment making the job much easier for the cinematographer. But some shots deserved more appropriate lighting.

The background music goes very well with the theme. The suppressed growling of a dog has been used effectively  at crucial moments. The songs are touchy and pleasant.

Despite a few technical gotchas, There are many reasons to watch Namte Namte.  The penetrating storyline, the numbing climax and some unforgettable performances by the lead actors are some of them. The film is likely to remain with the audience for a long time.

- By Jyoti Prakash Mandal (jpmandal@washingtonbanglaradio.com)