ZAMEEN (2012) - Dolon Roy is a Revelation in Unconventional Socially Relevant Bangla Movie | WBRi Film Review

Bengali Actress DOLON ROY and Supriya Devi in Jamin / Jomin / Zameen 2012 Bangla movie

Kolkata March, 3, 2012 (Washington Bangla Radio / Penning Creations) Tollywood has grown up a lot over the past decade or so. While mainstream commercial flicks have become more glossy and stylized, filmmakers have also started to showcase their versatility and flair by making movies which attempted to address contemporary societal issues with greater regularity. Thus, we had Mainak Bhaumik displaying the intricacies of urbane relationships in ‘Bedroom’, while Suman Ghosh highlighted the lost values and respect for age-old traditions in the present-day society through his (quite fantastic!) ‘Nobel Chor’. Such films have (with different degrees of success, of course!) managed to establish a connection with the general viewers, who have been able to identify themselves with the characters of these movies. Director Sourav Mukhopadhyay (interview) tries to maintain this healthy trend of making films off the beaten track with ‘Zameen’, a movie that portrays the problems and issues related to land and property in the state.

JAMIN / ZAMEEN (2012) Bengali Movie Poster

The promotions for the movie were distinctly low key, but, given the topical nature of its central theme, one expected ‘Zameen’ to be an engrossing film indeed. In spite of being made with a limited budget, the film does not disappoint either!

‘Zameen’ starts off with the tale of ‘Shiben’ (Amit Bhattacharya), a common, moderately well-to-do villager, who lives in Palashpur. He has a small, but happy family, comprising of his mother ‘Shovarani’ (Supriya Devi), his wife ‘Basanti’ (Dolon Roy - interview) and his young son ‘Amar’. The only source of income for ‘Shiben’s family is the grocery shop that he runs in the village. An extremely good-natured man, ‘Shiben’ is highly popular in the village and his family is loved by one and all. His is a life of simple pleasures, indulging his beloved son at times and playing little pranks on his wife on other occasions. ‘Shiben’s family is not the wealthiest in the world, but they are content with their earthly possessions. Little ‘Amar’ is a brilliant student and his parents dream of the day when he would bag a lucrative job and become truly successful in life.

Oindrila Chakraborty
Actress Aindrila Chakraborty at the premiere

Fate, however (as is its wont in practically all movies!), throws a spanner in all the plans and the quiet, peaceful livelihood of ‘Shiben’ and his family. On one of his visits to Kolkata, from where he used to source materials for his shop, ‘Shiben’ meets with a fatal road accident and dies on the spot. This shocking information is conveyed to ‘Shiben’s family the next morning (by the police, who else?!). ‘Shovarani’, ‘Basanti’ and ‘Amar’ are, understandably, devastated by the sudden demise of the head of their family. However, they realize that life simply had to go on and try to recoup from their loss in the best manner possible. ‘Basanti’ takes over the shopkeeping duties and she receives ample support from fellow-villagers, who, as one, used to love ‘Shiben’ a lot. However, the young widow does not escape the lecherous glances (and advances!) of people. To her credit, ‘Basanti’ stands strong in the face of all adversities and puts all such immoral characters in their proper place (accompanied with nice, tight slaps!).

The action then shifts forward by 30 years and we find that ‘Amar’ has grown into a fine young man, who holds a high-paying corporate position and is married to a nice, educated and working girl, ‘Madhumita’ (Aindrilla Chakrabarty). ‘Basanti’, an elderly lady now, lives with ‘Amar’ and ‘Madhumita’ and the family is expecting a new member too (since ‘Madhumita’ is pregnant). However, problems start to develop, as evil promoter ‘Promod Samanta’ (Dulal Lahiri) sets his eyes on the lucrative piece of land that ‘Basanti’ owns (which she had inherited from her husband, ‘Shiben’). The thoroughly wicked ‘Promod’ first tries to lure ‘Basanti’ into selling off her land, by making lucrative offers and sweet promises. However, when the latter refuses all his propositions, ‘Promod’ decides to play dirty in order to get his hands on the property. He employs his goons to bump off the already-ill ‘Basanti’ and her dead body is discovered on the rail tracks later. ‘Amar’ immediately suspects ‘Promod’ of murdering his mother and even lodges a FIR to that effect with the police. Sensing danger, the crooked promoter now threatens ‘Amar’ (clearly indicating that, if the complaint was not withdrawn, he would murder ‘Amar’ too). While ‘Amar’, at first, is incensed at ‘Promod’s audacity and vows to take him to court, considerations about his family (and, in particular, his child, who had not even seen the light of day yet!) weigh him down. Forced by circumstances, ‘Amar’ and ‘Madhumita’ take back all complaints against ‘Promod’. They are also compelled to sell off ‘Basanti’s land to the treacherous promoter, just as he had wanted. In a straight fight between good and evil, the latter simply proves to be too strong for the former.

Debutant director Sourav Mukhopadhyay deserves a hearty round of applause for being bold enough to select an unconventional, and highly relevant, topic as the central theme of his film. Land ownership and illegal takeover-related problems, which indeed plague the state of Bengal, are portrayed in a realistic manner in ‘Zameen’. The young moviemaker never allows the film to become overtly melodramatic and does not take the shortcut (and more common route!) of showing a forced happy ending either. Common, poor people are indeed being repeatedly (and unjustly!) swindled by wealthy promoters and property developers, rendering the former totally helpless (and often, homeless!). This is precisely what Sourav Mukhopadyay tries to showcase in ‘Zameen’.

A societal drama like ‘Zameen’ requires each member of its cast to pitch in with solid performances. The movie, however, falls a tad short of the mark on that count. Supriya Devi, as ‘Shovarani’, is, as usual, wonderful. The veteran actress brings a quaint, old-world charm to her character in the film and her act as an old and sentimental village lady is indeed impeccable. Dolon Roy, as the strong-willed ‘Basanti’ is a revelation in ‘Zameen’. She portrays the journey of ‘Basanti’ through life (and its many adverse situations!) in a totally believable manner. In particular, her performance as an elderly woman who refuses to let go of the only thing in her life that belonged to her husband (the piece of land) is praiseworthy indeed. The actress also gets her village accent spot on in her dialogs and her emoting skills are fine too. Aindrilla Chakrabarty, as ‘Madhumita’ is pretty good in a relatively brief role. However, one felt that Aindrilla could have been a little more expressive while delivering her lines. As it were, the performance of this young actress came across as slightly contrived in patches.

While the female characters of ‘Zameen’ (who, admittedly, have the meatier roles!) do a decent job, the same cannot, unfortunately be said for the male actors in the movie. Only Dulal Lahiri, as badman ‘Promod Samanta’ manages to bring the requisite credibility in his role. In fact, with his smirk and an evil glint in his eye, Lahiri actually manages to look rather frightening (as villains should!) during a couple of scenes in the film. Amit Bhattacharya, as ‘Shiben’, appears ill at ease in front of the camera. To be fair to the man, Bhattacharya does not get too much of a scope to display his acting skills, with his character getting bumped off quite early on in the piece. ‘Amar’ looks stiff and his dialog delivery style totally lacks conviction. Making matters worse, he does not look as young as his character is supposed to be in ‘Zameen’ either. In fact, the character of ‘Amar’ stands out as a sore thumb in this otherwise well-enacted movie. The child actor, who essays the role of the young ‘Amar’, does not display any great acting potential. Sunil Mukherjee, in a small role, is endearing.

The production values of ‘Zameen’ are not of the highest order and that goes against the film too (particularly during a time when viewers are regularly being served with sleek and smartly packaged, big-budget films!). B. Mondal’s cinematography is rather ordinary too. The movie features too many close-up shots of the actors (not necessarily a good thing!) while several important scenes are, rather unnecessarily, shown in slow-motion. While ‘Zameen’ focuses (successfully, one must say!) more on content than on style, the film could easily have been provided with a more sophisticated look and feel. Dialogs are routine and pretty much unremarkable as well.

Sourav Mukhopadhyay manages to showcase the soundness of his filmmaking concepts and his directorial expertise in several sequences of ‘Zameen’. In the opening hour, the director creates little magical moments between the father-son duo of ‘Shiben’ and ‘Amar’, which are bound to bring a smile on the face of every viewer. The idea of utilizing Satinath Mukhopadhyay’s fantastic voice during the opening and the closing narratives of the film is also a nice touch. Each of the characters in ‘Zameen’ is provided with a suitable back-story, that helps the audience to connect with the movie in a better manner. Kudos to Sourav Mukhopadhyay for his efforts!

‘Zameen’ scores heavily as far as its musical score is concerned. While there is no scope for expressing any doubt regarding the quality of the songs (the movie has seven rabindrasangeets and one folk number), their picturization in the movie is quite beautiful and apt too. In particular, the idyllic settings in which ‘Amar Bela Je Jaay’ is placed seem to take the song to an altogether different plane. ‘Dinguli Mor’ is rendered quite nicely too. Background music, by Raj Singh Sidhu, is nothing spectacular, but fits well with the narrative of the film.

‘Zameen’ represents a highly creditable attempt on the part of director Sourav Mukhopadhyay to make a serious film with a pertinent social message (that too, while working with an apparently limited budget!). The film is also helped along by sincere performances from its leading female characters (in particular, Dolon Roy!). However, the movie suffers from distinctly tacky camerawork, mundane dialogs, poor production values and a general air of predictability in its entire narrative. The movie definitely has its heart in the right place, but these grave shortcomings tend to overshadow the underlying message that the film wishes to convey.

‘Zameen’ is a pretty nice movie that runs the risk of falling behind in the race for box-office glory, primarily due to the lack of adequate promotional campaigns about the movie. If only the film had been marketed in a better manner, the scenario could have been totally different indeed!

Having had a taste of what the director can achieve, we eagerly look forward to Sourav Mukhopadhyay's next film ANURADHA EKA.

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