Kolkata May 12, 2012 (Washington Bangla Radio / Penning Creations) Acclaimed director Bappaditya Bandopadhyay follows up Kagojer Bou (2011) with Paoli Dham again in his cinematographic adaptation of Tagore's last novel Elar Char Adhyay (2012). Paoli returns as the heroine in Elar Char Adhyay.
Trailer: Elar Char Adhyay (Bengali, 2012)
Elar Char Adhyay is the story of a young lady Ela (Paoli Dam) in the backdrop of pre-independent India. Against established norms for women, the independent and strong-willed Ela aspires for higher education, much to the chagrin of her mother. Ela finds a silent ally in her father, Naresh (Dipankar De). Thoroughly fed up with her mothers incessant sermons about how Ela should seriously give up studies and get married soon, the latter implores her father to send her off to a boarding school. Naresh, however, has a better idea. He sends Ela to his brother Suresh (Barun Chanda) from whose home Ela would pursue her academic ambitions.
Ela, however, receives a mixed welcome at her uncle's household. While Suresh himself is bowled over by the spirit and strength of character of his niece, his wife disapproves Ela's still being single, and fears the beauty and grace of Ela might hamper the marriage of her own daughter. Sensing that she is causing quite a bit of disquiet in his uncle's family, Ela decides to move out. She also asks Suresh to introduce her to renowned freedom fighter Indranath (Indraneil Sengupta) who happened to be in town at the time.
Suresh sets up the meeting and Ela requests Indranath to induct her in his motley group of revolutionaries. Indranath appoints Ela as the headmistress of a girls' school in the city and life goes on smoothly for some time.
Things become turbulent again with the arrival of Ela's former sweetheart - the poet Atin (Vikram Chatterjee). Lead on by his devoted love for Ela, Atin too joins Indranath's team of rebels. This, however, makes Botu (Rudranil Ghosh), one of Ela's comrade-in-arms, extremely jealous, for he too nurses a secret desire for Ela. As time goes by, both Atin and Ela find Indranath's stringent (and often, rather cruel) method of leading his men in the pursuit of freedom to be rather oppressive. Atin moves away from the group and is followed by the now-disillusioned Ela. The evil Botu, however, informs the police about the whereabouts of the duo and the love story of the young couple meets with a tragic ending.
Elar Char Adhyay makes a conscious effort to stay true to Rabindranath Tagore's novel. There are certain sequences in the movie that are nothing short of extraordinary (the climax, where Ela lies immobile as the room around her gradually burns down is a fine example), but the dialog-heavy film could have had a faster pace with tighter editing.
Paoli Dam, starring in the title role of Ela, is absolutely mesmerizing in the film. Paoli's fantastic portrayal of Madhabilata in the wonderful Kalbela is still etched in the memory of the viewers, and in a somewhat similar get-up, the young actress excels once again. Paoli displays a keen sense of where to pause and what expressions to put on while mouthing her lines, which makes her character lively and easy to relate to. The fierce free spirit of Ela, as she raises her voice against whatever she considers to be wrong - be it her own mother's continuous bickering about marriage or Indranath's dictatorial way of leading his group of freedom fighters - is presented in a beautiful and sensitive manner by Paoli. Paoli may very well be on course to grow into one of the all-time great actresses from Bengal.
The other actors come up with decent performances in the film. Indraneil Sengupta as Indranath certainly looks the part as a strict and sincere but somewhat detached freedom fighter. However, his method of dialog delivery may leave a bit to be desired, occasionally sounding too well-rehearsed and robbin the spontaneity from his acting.
Vikram Chatterjee, as Atin, does a fairly good job, leveraging his rare ability to emote through his dreamy eyes. His earnest efforts to do full justice to his role are evident in the movie. He shares electrifying onscreen chemistry with Paoli Dam but is challenged here and there by the slow pace of narration.
Rudranil Ghosh as the conspiring Botu is excellent as expected from this powerful actor, albeit in an understated way.
Dipankar De in the brief role of Naresh is entirely believable. It is always a pleasure to hear Barun Chanda's voice onscreen and his act as Suresh carries an air of conviction as well.
Arunima Ghosh appears in a guest appearance (as Uma) and looks stunningly beautiful.
The manner in which director Bappaditya Bandopadhyay has stayed away from deviating from the plot of the novel is praiseworthy enough. But, Bappaditya takes a chance with viewers who are not familiar with the story of Char Adhyay finding it a tad too slow - a bit disappointing from editor Dipak Mandal.
Visual splendor is something Elar Char Adhyay boasts of in ample quantities. Rana Dasgupta does a grand job of capturing the minute details of the sets of an earlier generation through his lenses. The old and slightly dilapidated houses of that time appear quite enchanting in the movie as well. Art direction, by Gautam Basu, is of the highest quality. Elar Char Adhyay definitely comes across as a beautifully presented movie.
The musical score is yet another high point of this flick. Music director Gaurab Chatterjee makes good use of Rabindrasangeet and folk tunes to capture the overall ambience of the movie. The placement of the melodious Sukhey Amay Rakhbey Keno is worth a special mention, as is the choice of songs.