Bengali Movie Le Chakka (Ley Chakka), 2010 - An original Bengali Film Review by Anirban Halder

Film Review

Le Chhakka

Bengali, 2010, Color

By Anirban Halder, Kolkata

Le Chakka Dev Payel Bengali Movie 2010 Poster Washington Bangla Radio

There used to be a time when mainstream Bengali cinema had the feel of quintessential Bangaliana (Bengaliness).  It would reflect in the storyline, especially certain elements of it (incl. the everlasting ghoti vs bangal, football, food, joint family and adda), characterization and music.  The genuine lovers of good old Bengali cinema misses it like never before and laps up an odd Antanheen that comes its way. Today’s mainstream cinema has largely lost touch with this character-defining trait and with it a large chunk of audience as well.

Le Chhakka promised to bring back the Bangaliana and how! It has ghoti vs bangal fight, north Kolkata vs south Kolkata cultural divide and cricket (the para cricket version) in its premise spiced up with politics, another important staple of Bengali life.

The film unfolds with the disastrous (but not that unexpected) loss of North Kolkata’s Darjipara 11 Bullets to a south Kolkata locality team whose bowling attack was led by the deadly Abir (Dev). The drama begins as Abir’s ghoti  father (Biswajit Chakraborty) fulfils his long-cherished dream of shifting to North Kolkata, the place of his maternal uncles, full of childhood memories, with a much-unwilling Abir and his bangal mother (Laboni) in tow. They come to stay as tenants in ‘Mitra bari’- an old residence of a well-known family in Darjipara, comprising of the elder brother (Dipankar De), the younger brother (Supriyo Dutta), his daughter Rani (Payel), Rajat (Rtiwik)- Dipankar’s son and the ageing, unmarried niece of Dipankar (Debjani). A one-sided ghoti vs bangal exchange marks the first the day of the tenant’s family in the house where Biswajit takes side of the ghoti landlord in the jibes directed at the bangals and south Kolkatans- represented by Abir and his mother. Abir lands up in a daily verbal duel with Rani, gets teased by the youth of the locality- the proud members of the 11 Bullets and gets irritated with the north Kolkata culture (The morning cacophony of the conversation of the brothers of the landlord family over shopping list, Rani’s music practice peppered with other noises typical of this part of Kolkata). Cajoled by his mom, Abir soon tries to mends his fences with the local gang and eventually vibes well with them. And with time the differences with Rani transform into a budding romance. The film goes on to show how Abir takes charge in crisis of the locality to teach a lesson to the locals in protesting against the injustice posed by the local political leader with evil intentions to grab the vote bank.

A much promising and fresh premise, which finally brought Kolkata’s cricketing side under limelight, ended up in mediocrity despite good performances by the lead players and the solid supporting cast.

The first jerk comes with the unnecessarily loud acting by Biswajit Chakraborty and Dipankar De  in one of the initial scenes depicting the ghoti vs bangal fight. Biswajit’s (a north Kolkatan-at- heart) love for tele bhaja is well-placed, where it becomes over-the-top is that it is shown as no short of an obsession and is overplayed in back-to-back scenes. The music by Indradip Dasgupta is decent, with a soothing, beautifully written ‘Ali maula’, the melodious  ‘Ooa ooa oo’  and the perfect narrative track ‘Ekta bindaas para’. But ‘Shabba rabba’ (picturised on the fascinating Sri Lanka seaside) sounds like a Tamil number translated into Bengali with a ‘matching’ choreography. The choreography in the romantic ‘Ooa ooa oo’ is a bit too fast paced and the placement of ‘Ali maula’ odd. The characterization of the landlord’s elder niece is also a bit too much to digest. Can the libido of a woman dying to marry be so strong that she seduces any young male at the drop of a hat, right from the weak-hearted local chap to the politician’s goon?

The story becomes engaging in the second half with infusion of the political elements and the crisis point: whether the landlord will bow down to the pressures of the political leader-cum-land shark and sell his ancestral house to make way for a supermarket while his son and brother are not on his side, also whether the spirited 11 Bullets will be dismantled by the political elements in order to gain control of the locality? The momentum steps up with a rival not-so-secular party joining the imbroglio and challenging the former. The solution to all this? Hold your breath: A 20-20 cricket match between the politician’s team (assembled with handpicked professional ‘khep’ players) and 11 Bullets. If 11 Bullets wins the political leader will not show his face in the locality again, but if they lose the senior Mitra will ‘willingly’ give away his property to the former. Can you beat this?

It would still save the climax had the cricket match been well-shot, bringing in nail-biting excitement. But surprisingly, with an ace cinematographer Somak Mukherjee in the crew, Raj can’t make the match hook the audience. No unfair comparison with Chak De India or Lagaan here (Though today’s Bangla mainstream cinema aspires to look like its Hindi counterpart and manages the do that pretty often too), but frontal close-ups of bowling, batting and fielding action become tiring after some time. The flow of the match also offers little new and gets illogical at a point. After the ‘Champions’  scores 240+ with fours and sixes pouring in abundance, something that seems impossible to defend by the Bullets, their wickets also fall in quick succession leading to yet another potentially disastrous loss, the only hope being the stellar batting by Abir who holds one side since the opening. His fighting partnership with Afroz who comes down the order raises hope, but isn’t made to look credible enough to take the score from 60 to 7 less the winning total. 

Padmanabha’s script, partly based on two of Raj’s telefilms- Nagar Basanta and the acclaimed Nader Chand, falters in taking the interesting premise forward and Abhimanyu’s dialogue, though funny at times, lacks the punch. Raj Chakraborty has admitted in the past that he can’t write a film and has to depend on a good storyline and script. In Le Chhakka his attempt to gift the Bengali audience an original, smart, pure Bengla film basically suffers for want of quality writing. The dialogue had to be smart and credible at the stage where Abir is motivating the 11 Bullets members to rise from the ashes and put up a good fight. And it disappoints big time here (Can’t help but wish that the Lagaan hangover as evident in the cricket match in the climax were complemented by inspiration of the smart lines from Chak De India). Maybe Raj was convinced by the thought that packing in certain tried and tested elements from his telefilms, adding some chosen others to spice up and developing a para-centric storyline with them would do the trick. But elements merely sewn together don’t make an engaging story.

Dev, as has been claimed in the media before the release, looks pretty different and pulls off the charming and upright Abir. Payel, with a perrenial running nose (Overdone again) and a geeky look complete with unfashionable spectacles and salwar kameez, is also good. Wish Dev were given a little less lines and his limitation in diction would be kept in mind while writing. His pronunciation is messy towards the end, thanks to the wrong lines assigned to him.  The supporting cast of Dipankar De, Supriyo Dutta, Kharaj Mukherjee, Partha, Ritwaik, Biswanath, Debjani and others has done a stellar job. Anindya Banerjee as the evil political leader is decent, but not as menacing as the role demanded.  Save the climax Somak’s cinematography is first rate. It shows North Kolkata life in a light like never before. The camera angles are fresh and aid the storytelling. So does Rabi Ranjan’s smart editing (The title track is a swell job).

Overall, an honest, sincere attempt to break out of the current ‘remake-based’ assembly line that could have been a much finer job. It does deserve appreciation for what it brings to the table. The film does have its moments and shows promise for us to look forward to more such work from Raj.