MAYA BAZAR (2012) Bengali Film - WBRi Movie Review

Outdoor Poster of Bangla Movie Maya Bazaar at Priya Cinema Kolkata

Kolkata, June 2, 2012 (Washington Bangla Radio / Penning Creations) Joydeep Ghosh, who had earlier been at the helm of a few well-made documentaries, tries to join the bandwagon of successful first-timer Bengali film-makers with his debut  Kolkata Bangla movie Maya Bazaar (2012). The movie has an eclectic mix of actors, ranging from established performers like Roopa Ganguli and Dhritiman Chatterjee, to youngsters Badshah Moitra and Payel Dey (in her first big-screen appearance).

The movie itself is based on short stories by writers Sharadindu Bandopadhyay and Rajsekhar Basu. Given the fact that the release of the movie had been delayed by almost three years, the anticipation about it was understandable. Mayabazaar.

Trailer: Maya Bazaar: Memories

Mayabazar is a film that comprises of three separate short stories, belonging to the mystic supernatural genre. The first of the stories, Smriti (based on Sharadindu Bandopadhyay's Dehantar), relates the tale of a lonely widow Kuhu (Roopa Ganguli), who takes to heavy drinking (and a bevy of male companions!) to get over the shock and grief of losing her husband Major Bijon Singha Roy (Badshah Moitra). On one such drinking binge of Kuhu at a bar, she is spotted by an old friend Nishith (Krishnakishore Mukherjee). He tells a strange tale about Kuhu to his companion, about how each of latter's (much younger!) male friends tended to totally disappear from the face of earth after some point in time. Much to the surprise of Nishith, he had finally realized that Kuhu's boyfriends (including the latest one, Ronit Dutta) have all gradually transformed into Major Bijon Singha Roy. The story ends with a further twist, when Nishith finds out that his companion's fiancé also resembles the deceased Major.

Sotta, the second story in Mayabazar, is adapted from Shardindu Bandopadhyay's story Shunno Shudhu Shunno Noy. Here, we meet the young and promising artist Dhritin (Dipanjan Bhattacharjee), who is driven on by a mental image of a pretty girl on the side of a river (Payel Dey). While having a drink with one of his friends, Dhritin finds out that the picture of the girl that he has in his mind bears an uncanny resemblance to the former's sister Banalata. Intrigued by this development (even more so by his friend's non-committal answers regarding the current whereabouts of Banalata), Dhritin makes a trip to the girl's ancestral home at Nijhumpur. During his stay over there, he learns how Banalata had actually drowned in the local river at a tender age. However, the spirit of the unfortunate girl had refused to leave the house and Dhritin conjures up an image of actually conversing with the long-dead Banalata.

The third and final story of Mayabazar (Bhabishyat) is taken from Rajsekhar Basu's story Mahesher Mahajatra. This is the tale of Mahesh (Dhritiman Chatterjee), a professor, and his colleague-cum-friend, played by Pradip Mukherjee. The former, a teacher of science, is a staunch non-believer in ghosts and spirits, while his friend (who is a professor of philosophy) is convinced about the existence of life on the other side. The two share many petty squabbles over their differences of opinions in this regard (oblivious to the strange-looking, goggles-adorned, suited men strutting around them!). On a fateful night, the two friends get drunk and return to their respective homes late. Next morning, the news of Mahesh's death reaches his friend and he rushes to the residence of the former. While taking the body of the deceased to the funeral pyres, the same mysterious (and dress-coded!) men appear again, offering unsolicited help to carry the body. As the men (who are meant to be the agents of Death) literally rush off with the body, the dead Mahesh rises on his cot and proclaims Shob achhey (It all exists).

Director Joydeep Ghosh deserves praise for the way he has tried to adapt the three stories in Mayabazar, by making slight changes to the original texts. There is no undercurrent of comedy in any of the episodes (which was present in the actual stories) and the maker does not make any attempt to scare the living daylights off the viewers either. Rather, Ghosh tries to explore the existence and mysteries of life after death. The stories definitely have a common supernatural theme but Joydeep Ghosh deliberately steers clear of cheap, spine-chilling gimmicks in the movie.

Not all the stories of Mayabazar are equally captivating, however. The first story (Smriti) is probably the pick of the lot and Roopa Ganguli's portrayal of a painfully lonely widow is stunning. The way in which Kuhu retains her undying love and loyalty for her deceased husband speaks volumes about Ganguli's maturity and quality as an actress. The second story (Sotta) follows a somewhat languid pace and relies more on surreal romanticism between Dhritin and Bonolota. Payel Dey, as the latter, looks beautiful but has limited scope to showcase her acting skills (she does not have a single dialog in the movie). Dipanjan Bhattacharjee, as the dreamy-eyed Dhritin, does a fair job. The wig that he sports in the film is, however, rather unnecessary and comes across as artificial.

Bhabishyat, the third story in Mayabazar, is easily the weakest of the lot. The story is replete with heavy dialogs, while actual incidents are few and far between. It is also extremely incomprehensible how Mahesh and his friend fail to note the weird (and obviously from some other world!) individuals that are increasingly crowding their worlds. Also, the idea of the two friends actually getting into a taxi with a driver sporting a cool sunglass (during the night too!) is rather hard to believe. The climax of Bhabishyat does have a nice little twist though. Dhritiman Chatterjee, as expected, acts well, but, unfortunately has some of the most uninspiring lines in the entire movie.

Cinematographer Premendu Bikash Chaki does a fine job in Mayabazar, particularly in the first two stories. In particular, the grandeur of the dilapidated building in Sotta is captured quite masterfully through the lenses of the ace cameraman. However, much like the quality of the stories themselves, the cinematography becomes rather routine and dull in Bhabishyat, where the focus remains on the two friends. Dialogs are, once again, nice and contextual, except for the final story in Mayabazar.

The movie scores well on the musical front though. Composer Anupam Mullick comes up with situational numbers in Mayabazar and Sotta would take most of the credits on this count. The use of a Lalon Fakir song during a train sequence is a masterstroke, while the instrumental Je Raatey Mor Duarguli that plays in the background as Dhritin gets drenched in the rain (while a pained Bonolota looks on) is well-conceived too. Background score is pretty impressive as well.
Mayabazar benefits from director Joydeep Ghosh's vision and directorial expertise, that enables him to bring to life three classic short stories on the big-screen. The performances too do not leave much source of complaint. However, the inconsistencies in the narrative and sheer drudgery of the final act of the movie (Bhabishyat) make Mayabazar fall somewhat short of expectations.

Director Joydeep Ghosh shows impressive directorial skills in Mayabazar. We can definitely look forward for even better films from this promising filmmaker.