Monami Ghosh (l) and Swastika Mukherjee at the premiere
Kolkata March 17, 2012 (Washington Bangla Radio / Penning Creations) A well-made supernatural Bengali movie is a relative rarity. While there has been a ‘Patalghar’ (2003) here and a ‘Mantra’ (2005) there, Tollywood filmmakers have, by and large, tended to stay away from this genre. The general (and probably justified!) belief that fantastic visual effects (which naturally push up the total production budgets manifold!) are simply necessary in a supernatural film had been, perhaps, one of the major causes behind the unwillingness of directors to explore this theme.
Trailer: Bhooter Bhabishot (Bengali, 2012)
Only recently, the beautifully made ‘Gosaibaganer Bhoot’ made viewers (and movie-makers!) realize that, what Tollywood might still lack in terms of technique and style (compared to its big Bolly brother!), could easily be compensated by a simple, engaging narrative and a tightly bound script. Debutant feature-film director Anik Dutta showcases considerable film-making finesse and style in his very first film, ‘Bhuter Bhabishyat’. With its ensemble cast (featuring some of the most familiar names in the Tollywood industry!) and unique, promising storyline, the movie was one of the most eagerly-anticipated Bengali flicks of the year. How does the movie actually shape up? It can be stated with conviction that, ‘Bhuter Bhabishyat’ scores big time! Anik Dutta has indeed managed to conjure up sheer cinematic magic with his debut venture!
‘Bhuter Bhabishyat’ tells the story of young and promising ad director ‘Ayan Sengupta’ (Parambrata Chatterjee), who comes to an old, dilapidated mansion to shoot his next commercial. The house is said to be haunted, with noted actress ‘Madhumita Sanyal’ (Sreelekha Mitra) reportedly having seen a ghost there some years ago. ‘Ayan’ is accompanied by his production manager and his assistant (played by Anindita Bose). However, the cameraman of ‘Ayan’s team is held back by unforeseen transportation problems, forcing the former to wait for his arrival. ‘Ayan’s companions also need to go out for some time. An intrepid man himself, ‘Ayan’ agrees to stay alone in the lonely (and suspiciously creaking!) house, until they return and his cameraman also arrives. With nothing else to do, ‘Ayan’ starts to work on his movie script on his laptop (for he wishes to be a successful film director someday!). Tiredness, however, soon gets the better of him and ‘Ayan’ falls asleep in his chair. That’s precisely when all the action starts!
Mumtaz Sorcar plays Koel in the film
‘Ayan’s slumber is broken by the sudden arrival of an unknown, punjabi-clad man (Sabyasachi Chakrabarty). The former (mistakenly!) thinks that the newcomer is a relative of the main owners of the house. The two of them start to chat, and, on learning that ‘Ayan’ is a wannabe movie director, the other person offers to tell a story that would be ideal as the theme of any film. Intrigued by this proposition from the unknown man, ‘Ayan’ agrees to listen to his movie-plot. The mysterious person (who has not yet shared his name, or any other personal details with ‘Ayan’) seems slightly out of sync with the modern day happenings in the society (sample this: he thinks that the concept of a ‘bangla band’ is an oxymoron!). Nevertheless, he starts telling a story to ‘Ayan’ – a story that would shock the latter beyond belief!
The new man’s story is about (yes, you guessed it right!) a motley team of ghosts, who take up abode at the house of the late landlord ‘Dorponarayan Chaudhury’ (Paran Bandopadhyay). The team of supernatural beings (!) comprise of a popular yesteryear actress, ‘Kodolibala’ (Swastika Mukherjee), a refugee (Sumit Samaddar), an Indian army martyr (Biswajit Chakrabarty), a die-hard romantic young girl Koel (Mumtaz Sorcar), an aspiring Bengali rock musician (Samadarshi Dutt), an Englishman (George Baker), a chef from the Mughal era, and a poor rickshaw-puller (who, incidentally, had been run over by a drunken driver while sleeping on a footpath!). Another man, called ‘Biplab’, is repeatedly mentioned in the story, although the narrator does not give any details about that ‘being’. The ghosts were living a contented, joyful life when the eyes of greedy promoter ‘Ganesh Bhutoria’ (Mir) fall on the house. The latter plans to bring down the place and build a shopping mall there (rendering the ghosts homeless in the process!). The rest of the mysterious person’s story is about how the people from ‘the other side of the veil’ manage to protect their beloved house and drive away ‘Bhutoria’. However, even when the story ends, ‘Ayan’ (who likes it immensely!) gets only a sly smile from his companion when he asks about the only missing piece in the plot – ‘Biplab’. So, who (and where?!) exactly is this man, who features so prominently in the story? Also, what is the actual identity of the bespectacled, punjabi-clad person, who so graciously provides ‘Ayan’ with such a fantastic movie plot? Find that out at the theatres and feel the chill!
Few Bengali films in recent times have featured individual performances that even come close to being compared with the top-notch acts that all the cast members of ‘Bhuter Bhabishyat’ come up with. Parambrata Chatterjee, as filmmaker ‘Ayan’ is well-cast and looks sincere in his role. The actor does not have too much to do in the film (understandably, for the movie is about ghosts and not ordinary humans!). Swastika Mukherjee, as ‘Kodolibala’, is pure magic in the movie. She manages to muster just the right kind of dialog delivery, walking style and even facial expressions that her character requires and the actress mouths some of the most hilarious lines in the movie with elan. One also has to simply hand it to director Anik Dutta for presenting Swastika in a manner that beautifully befits an actress from a past generation (who also appears distinctly ghostly in certain scenes!). The camera angles and the close-ups are just perfect.
The promising Samadarshi Dutt does a good job of portraying the character of ‘Pablo’, the ambitious and young (and deceased!) rock musician in ‘Bhuter Bhabishyat’. Mir, as the evil promoter ‘Ganesh Bhutoria’ is an absolute riot in the movie. Mir’s nonchalant style of mouthing even the most outrageously funny lines is exemplary and his role (although brief) is pivotal to the storyline in the movie. Saswata Chatterjee, in a small cameo as the recently murdered ‘Hatkata Kartik’ (!), proves to be a scene-stealer. His comic timing is as impeccable as ever and his performance indeed adds a lot to the mood of fun and amusement that ‘Bhuter Bhabishyat’ boasts of. Sabyasachi Chakrabarty is, as always, proficient in his role. Monami Ghosh looks fab in a ‘supernatural item number’. Sreelekha Mitra and the late Bibhu Bhattacharya have guest appearances in the movie.
Director Anik Dutta
Director Anik Dutta pays his tribute to Satyajit Ray via ‘Bhuter Bhabishyat’, which has references to the legendary filmmaker at various points. The protagonist of the film, ‘Ayan’, is a self-confessed admirer of ‘Manik-da’ (as Satyajit Ray was fondly referred to), while he also has the theme of ‘bhooter raja dilo bor’ as his ringtone on his mobile! It is also a stroke of genius on the part of Anik Dutta (who had also penned the dialogs for the film) to make the characters talk in rhymed lines (a la ‘Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne’!) during many sequences of ‘Bhuter Bhabishyat’. The sense of humor of the first-time director is also showcased via other, subtler, points in the movie. For example, ‘Ayan’s movie script is titled ‘Badly Bangali’ (get the hint?!). The movie also takes potshots at many other relevant societal issues (the growing force of consumerism, for starters!), but everything is done in the backdrop of a distinctly humorous canvas, which the director manages to maintain right though the entire length of ‘Bhuter Bhabishyat’.
The screenplay of ‘Bhuter Bhabishyat’ is at par with that of the best Bengali films of all time. Every scene appears to be funnier than its preceding sequence and Anik Dutta’s narration style keeps the audience glued to the screen at all times. Editing is sharp and adds to the smartness of the movie. Cinematographer Abhik Mukhopadhyay’s camerawork brings the much-needed surrealistic feel to the frames. The special effects (there are not many of them though!) are rather ordinary, but then, the other merits of ‘Bhuter Bhabishyat’ easily overshadow this trivial glitch. The climax is yet another high point of the movie.
For all its fun and laughter, ‘Bhuter Bhabishyat’ packs in a fair few underlying messages for viewers to. In particular, the movie (quite beautifully!) talks about the greed of building promoters and the way in which helpless people (in this case, ghosts!) are currently being forced to give up their land. Another sequence, where ‘Kodolibala’, quite poignantly, remarks that in the world of showbiz, one is adored only as long as (s)he is young, is also quite striking.
The music director of ‘Bhuter Bhabishyat’, Raja Narayan Deb, also does a stellar job. The iconic rabindrasangeet ‘Ami jabona jabona ghorey’ is modified innovatively in the film (the movie also has a disclaimer during the opening credits about the use of this particular tune). The song during the party sequence of the ghosts is memorable too. The beautiful lyrics (by Anik Dutta again!) add to the beauty of the songs and are contextual too (particularly in the nicely choreographed item song). The background score mixes the right dose of suspense and humor as well.
‘Bhuter Bhabishyat’ marks the grand entry of director Anik Dutta in the world of Tollywood filmmaking. Dutta is more than adequately helped by the remarkably fine performances from all members of his ensemble cast, stylish editing, a gripping narrative and a memorable musical score. The brand of classy, situational humor that the director brings to the movie works in its favour too. ‘Bhuter Bhabishyat’ surely guarantees that you will keep laughing right through the movie and have a smile on your face even after the end credits have finished rolling. A lovely film indeed!
The sheer style and charms of ‘Bhuter Bhabishyat’ make sure of one thing. The film definitely has a bright ‘bhabishyat’ (future) at the box-office!