The flavour of Kolkata

The flavour of Kolkata
The bridge, the river and kids' play. Brilliantly captured by Sujay Kumar Das.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Review: Maach, Mishti & More

Cast: Soumitra Chatterjee, Parambrata Chattopadhyay, Raima Sen, Swastika Mukherjee, Parno Mittra, Shauvik Kundagrami, Rachita Chauhan, Anubrata Basu, Pamela Singh Bhutoria, Neha Panda, Pradip Mukhopadhyay and Anuradha Roy
Director: Mainak Bhaumik

The opening credits unfold with sketches of Kolkata, setting the mood for a light-hearted, enjoyable two hours with your popcorn. Maach, Mishti & More is a mint fresh urban romantic comedy set in the cosmopolitan Kolkata. Mainak’s third film tells the tale of the trials and tribulations in the relationships of three brothers in a joint family in an old house.

The eldest, Rahul (Shauvik), is an NRI based in US who chucks his high-paying corporate career to come back to his city with the dream to start his own restaurant (‘To cook for others’ in his mother’s words). Rony, the middle one (Parambrata), is doing well in a corporate job, earns handsomely, and struggles to meet expectations of his Marwari girlfriend (Rachita) from a rich family. Raju, or Raj, the third one (Anubrata), is a struggling actor who dreams of his big break in Bollywood. All of them love to spend time with their ‘Dadu’ (Soumitra), who believes in living life on his own terms and is at ease dealing with gen Y (He goes to his morning walk in cool roundneck tees). While Rahul and Raj are sorted out in their personal lives - Rahul has a settled and routine life with Rina, his wife of three years (Swastika), and Raj doesn’t date a girl for long - Rony is the confused soul. He is in love with Swati but not sure of committing to marriage. Each of them happens to meet a new girl and life takes a turn from that point. Rahul comes across June (Pamela), his friend’s colleague, who helps him in setting up his business. Rony bumps into Ishani (Raima), his college mate, now a yoga & reiki teacher and Raj meets Neha (Neha), with who his past two encounters were unpalatable, in a meeting set up by his mother to help her son in his career. Meanwhile Dadu meets Sunny, a college-going tomboy (Parno) in the local tea shop and helps him sort out her love life.

What is refreshing to see is that the women in Mainak’s film are , in varying degrees, confident, liberated, unapologetic for the right reasons and take their own decisions, yet are true to their feminine selves. The men are overshadowed by these stronger women, which reflects the changing equation of modern urban society.  Mainak takes a look at the idiosyncrasies of the Bengali and never stops short of having a hearty laugh at it. In the same spirit the film shows a young girl lighting up in the middle of the conversation with someone her grandfather’s age or a homemaker sharing a fag with her much younger brother-in-law. Going ahead, it treats the death after a life well lived with a song, rather than the familiar background score. Some moments of the film did remind me of Aamra – Mainak’s debut film.

The performances elevate the film, helped by apt casting, and taut script and dialogue by Mainak (with additional writing by Pratim D. Gupta, the maker of the last Puja release Paanch Adhyay. Everyone fits the bill for his / her part. Soumitra is superb as the old man of the family rediscovering life in his city of love. I have always wondered why none offered an actor of his calibre a role like this, breaking out of the stereotype he has been forced in. Neha (also one of the stylists in this film) is impressive as the kickass Neha driving bike with Raj riding pillion. Swastika is good as the bored wife thanks to an ever busy husband, and disgusted by the middle class practices in her in-law’s family on return from abroad, yet making an effort to win over her husband from the other woman. Though Anubrata is the natural choice for his role, he is just rocking as Raj representing gen Y. His telephonic conversation with a prospective landlord in a coffee shop is uproariously funny. The three leading men show fabulous comic timing. Ajopa Mukhpadhyay, the other stylist of the film, also shone in the small role as sister to her real life sister Swastika. Neha and Ajopa have done an equally good job in styling. Shauvik’s accent sounded a little too heavy though. And I wish Anuradha Roy (the mother) was given a better wig.

The sepia frames lovingly embrace the different parts of the old and the new Kolkata. They are perfectly complimented by the well-worded songs (by Srijit, Rituparno and others) put to hummable tunes by Neel Dutt and sung by Rupankar, Somlata and Timir among others. The title track, the one with Param-Raima and one with Anubrata-Neha are particularly good. Supriyo Datta has done a good job behind the camera. The editing job could be better though, the cuts in some scenes look a bit rushed.

There are minor glitches, like Sunny’s character could have been fleshed out a bit more to lend it a credibility that it lacks or the mother’s shock at her son’s return from abroad to pursue that silly dream being too mild. Rony’s frequently walking into Ishani’s ongoing classes and starting a very personal conversation also looks odd. But one is still able to set aside all this once out of the theatre thanks to the overall feel good factor.

Mainak said in his Calcutta Times pre-release interview that he sincerely believes he is a mediocre director who has a shitload of interesting stories to tell. Well, Maach, Mishti & More is indeed an interesting story, but it’s no mediocre work either. In fact, this is the best from Mainak. Go for it!