The flavour of Kolkata

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

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Review: Bastushaap

A large section of the audience defines a movie in the ‘thriller’ genre as one that thrills by showing visual thrill, like it is in a crime thriller. Such a movie entertains them. But a good psychological thriller has the same ability to engage the viewer with the development of the story and entertain as well. Sadly we do not get to see well-made psychological thrillers on Bengali screen. Bastushaap arrives in this void.

The posters drew curiosity in the beginning of the new year- Five main characters played by capable actors (including popular faces) facing the camera in the backdrop of a room in some old, rich home pairing with the logo of the film which implies a curse in relation to the way the house is built, making a pun of the old Bengali word ‘Bastusaap’ (Meaning a snake who lives in old, often abandoned homes guarding valuable property).

Kaushik Ganguly’s Bastushaap tells the story of ex-army man Arjun Dasgupta (Abir Chatterjee) who appoints Bastu Shastra and feng shui experts and partners Kushal Mukherjee (Parambrata Chatterjee) and Timir (Kaushik Ganguly) to set the bastu of his bungalow in a hill town in Bengal right. His small family comprising his wife Bonya aka Bonny (Raima Sen) and elder sister Antara (Churni Ganguly) is at disharmony deep within. It has gone through unfortunate incidents and many have advised Arjun to look into the ‘Bastu’ of the house to set things in order. How far Kushal and Timir are able to do so and whether ‘Bastu’ is the main problem leading to the disharmony of the family is what the film is about and are best viewed on screen.

The film was touted to be a romantic thriller which is s less explored genre. The story is short and well-written and the screenplay and storytelling make the film a compelling watch. The dialogue is a high point and I loved a rare quality in it- brevity. There are some crisp lines that stay with one (Like “Pahare bonya-o toh surprise”). What I especially liked is Kaushik’s ability to bring out the psychological aspect of the story competently, delving deep into the mindscape of his characters touching upon the unsaid tension and well-guarded feelings. It is essentially a chamber drama and the setting in the hill town is perfect. Without giving out the details, the romantic track was the best I have seen in Bangla cinema recent years. The story also sets the audience thinking on introspection for the ‘Bastu’ of the mind and dealing with the inner demons to expect a positive outcome from life.

The film draws heavily on the performances of the five characters all of which are well etched out both in writing and execution by the director. It helps the audience relate to the psyche of the characters.

Parambrata has come up with a nuanced and well-measured portrayal of Kushal and it is definitely part of his best work to date. It is well known that he is articulate as a person and this trait is often used by directors by getting him speak a lot. In this film, he was required to talk less and speak a lot through his eyes and finer facial expressions. Kushal is attractive in an intellectual way which is rarely found on Bengali screen, something that aptly finds an expression in the term ‘Thinking woman’s sex symbol’. Param also has a great chemistry with Kaushik and the duo offers some nice comic moments.

(Source: Parambrata Chattopadhyay's Facebook page)

Abir was a pleasant surprise for me. Conceptually his name may not crop up if we think of who would fit the bill of a former but young army major. But his portrayal of the arrogant and adamant Arjun Dasgupta has beaten any such apprehension. Apart from the dialogue delivery (he has some of the good lines) it’s the physical acting that makis it a flawless performance hitherto unseen. Due credit goes to Kaushik as well for achieving it. He looks dashing, helped by the mustache, and should score big with the female audience of all ages.


Raima is excellent as the silent and lovable Bonya aka Bonny who is not happy the way life and her husband have treated her. The sorrow and her urge for love come out brilliantly through her face, especially those expressive eyes.


Antara was not an easy character to play.  She is disturbed (for the life-shattering incident), finicky (wants the home perfectly in order), brutally straightforward, yet talented. The English song sung by her on her lips is one of the precious moments of the film. I can’t remember anyone other than Churni to have done complete justice to such a character.


That Kaushik never fails to deliver as an actor is given now. We know he can shine in even a five-minute role (Recall Chotushkone). He would have overshadowed Param and Abir if they had not excelled in their roles. He is that good as Timir, who is unimpressive and foolish at times but knows his job really well! His saying “Ami jawkhon bolechhi bonduk thik achhe, toh thik achhe.” is clap-worthy. This is also one of the memorable lines from the film.

The music by Indradip Dasgupta doesn’t have a lasting impact but helps to carry the scenes. Bonny Chakraborty has sung a nice title track. Being a chamber drama, the cinematography had little scope, yet Gopi Bhagat’s camera provides the essential support in the development of the story and the characters.

Like the last year, this year starts well in Bangla cinema with this film. Hope the treat continues in the months to come. Keenly looking forward to Kaushik’s Cinemawalla, among other films.

(All pictures except the first are sourced from the Facebook page of  GreenTouch Entertainment)

#Bastushaap #BanglaCinema #BengaliCinema2016


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