By Jyoti Prakash Mandal / WBRINN
Aparajita, Manasi, Saswata, Aparna Sen, Shrabanti at a press meet in Kolkata
Kolkata, April 16, 2013 (Washington Bangla Radio): Viewers coming out of the movie theater after watching an Aparna Sen film are known to execute the mental equivalent of burping after a refreshing cinematic feast with little commercial spice. The story-telling skill of the internationally acclaimed film-maker is on full display in Goynar Baksho.
Watch Aparna Sen Reading Goynar Baksho in July 2012
Sirshendu Mukhopadhaya's story traverses three generations of women. The film starts in the backdrop of post-partition communal riots of Bengal. Somlata (Konkona Sen Sharma) weds Chandan (Saswata Chatterjee), the younger son of a Zamindar (Paran Bandopadhaya). Pijush Ganguly and Gargi Roy play Chandan’s elder brother and sister-in-law. In the the joint family lives Chandan’s paternal aunt Rashmoni (Moushumi Chatterjee) also lives with the family. Rashmoni was married off at just 11 to an elderly man and soon became a widow and returned to her parents. Now ‘Buri Pishima’ to everyone, Rashmoni is feared by all due to her fiery temperament and venomous tongue. She possesses a treasure in the form of a goynar baksho - jewelry box - from her short marriage which she preserves with utmost care. After a brief bitter-sweet encounter with Somlata, Rashmoni begins to like her. Soon, Rashmoni passes away.
The goynar baksho passes to the next generation with Somlata's supernatural encounter with Rashmoni's spirit who orders Somlata to hide it before others find it as everyone in the family has been eying it for years. Somlata does so and is monitored by the apparition. When Somlata sells some of the jewelry to open a saree shop, the spirit is infuriated, but is soon appeased when she realizes the shop has been named ‘Rashmoni Saree Stores’ after her. Actually liking Somlata more, Rashmoni's spirit starts sharing secrets of her sex life.
Years later, the third generation arrives in the form of a daughter born to Somalata and Chandan. The girl has a striking similarity with Rashmoni, so much so that family members assume Rashmoni is reborn. Somlata also stops seeing the spirit of Rashmoni. But it is the child Chaitali who now grows up in the company of Rashmoni’s spirit. Chaitali’s (Srabanti) lover is Bangladesh independence movement fighter. Seeing the immense need of the Muktibahini, Rashmoni advises Chaitali to donate the box of jewelry to their cause.
Aparna Sen has given a larger than life treatment to the short story. Her portrayal of the characters are brilliant, especially that of Buri Pishima aka Rashmoni. The director has successfully extracted a remarkable performance from Mousumi Chatterjee, once a superstar in both Bollywood and Tollywood industries, to portray a type of character never seen before. This character is essentially the soul of the film.
Another performance to watch out for is of Konkona Sen Sharma. Her character needed immense control as a slight deviation from the path could make the performance look either overacted or underacted. The stammering habit or the timid and nervous nature of Somlata is portrayed perfectly by Konkona. Saswata is impressive as usual and does justice to his fame as one of the finest actors of today's industry. Pijush Ganguly and Paran Bandhopadhayaay also play their part well. Koushik Sen and Sudipta Chakrabarty are seen in two interesting cameos.
Another good aspect of the film is the script. Hilarious dialogues keep the audience thoroughly entertained. The occasional English words thrown in the dialogues enhance the humour.
One should also not miss the minute detailing Aparna Sen has paid attention to. The market ambience of the 1950’s or the trains of that era speak of the research the director has done for this film. However, a young Chaitali riding a scooty in the year 1971 can raise some eyebrows.
Overall ‘Goyanr Baksho’ is a jewel in itself and one of the most entertaining films from one of the finest contemporary Indian film-makers.