The flavour of Kolkata

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

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Review: Eagoler Chokh

Language- Bengali
Cast- Saswata Chatterjee, Payel Sarkar, Anirban Bhattacharya, Jaya Ahsan, Subhrajit Dutta, Ushoshi Sengupta, June Maliah, Arunima Ghosh, Arjun Chakraborty
Director- Arindam Sil

I remember having read only two stories in Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay’s Shabor series and Eagoler Chokh was one of them. So far I recall, the style was conversational, and not narrative-based. Such a piece of literary work is difficult to translate on screen. So I was eager to see how Arindam had taken up the challenge to adapt his second Shabor story for cinema.

Shabor (Saswata) with his assistant Nando (Subhrajit) picks up a case where young and successful businessman Bishan Ray (Anirban) returns home in the morning and finds his wife’s friend-cum-business-partner (Payel), who lived with his family, murdered and his wife Shibangi (Jaya) fatally injured. Shabor’s intervention is earnestly sought by the third officer of the local police station (Arjun). The investigation leads Shabor to study Bishan who has a fatal attraction for women of all ages. The cues are strewn around various women in Bishan’s life in different times. It becomes an interesting study of sexual attraction from the women’s point of view. How Shabor picks up the cues and reaches the culprit forms the crux.

The first thing to mention is the discovery of this film- Anirban Bhattacharya. The confidence (both in vocal and physical acting) with which this gifted and well-known stage actor has portrayed a character as unique as Bishan Ray deserves kudos and elevates the film. We have seen him in a character role in Aparna Sen’s Arshinagar (2015) and a bit role in Khawto (2016) among other screen outings. Thanks to Arindam for offering him a role worth his acumen. He can easily be considered in the same bracket as the Fab Five of Tollygunge- Parambrata-Jisshu-Abir-Saswata-Ritwik and has a bright future if the right opportunities come his way.

Anirban Bhattacharya in Eagoler Chokh. Picture source: Shree Venkatesh Films YouTube account.

The suspense-building in the film is competent, like the last Shabor film (Ebar Shabor. You can read the review on this blog here). Till near the end one keeps guessing who contracted the killers and the motive. The director shows Shabor’s detection like an open book, unlike other screen detectives where it mostly happens in their mind. As a result, the audience feels involved in the detection. The audience has a fair idea of Shabor now, so the story demanded a bit of novelty in his characterization, like new facets of Shabor’s persona or life. Shabor is not your average larger-than life fictional detective possessing flawless persona. He can be vulnerable and it comes out effectively in his consulting a psychologist (June) for the hallucination of seeing himself in the criminal.

Saswata has internalized Shabor and he becomes the character with élan. It is difficult to think of anyone else in his shoes. Good to see that the director had noted the feedback that poured in after Ebar Shabor including that from some senior police officers of Lalbazar. So, Shabor mostly travels in his official car (unlike public transport in the first film). There is a scene where he is travelling in an AC bus but.

Saswata in Eagoler Chokh. Picture source: Shree Venkatesh Films Facebook page

What I particularly like about Shabor is that the director has built his detective, who, despite being an Asst Commissioner, is much like a common man with down-to-earth tastes. He prefers speaking in Bengali and avoids unnecessary sprinkle of English. Shabor seems to be in his forties, is a bachelor, lives in a modest accommodation and relishes an odd meal of rice and fish in a ‘pice hotel’ (Eatery in Bengal serving rice meals) with his assistant. His dig at ‘Basa’ fish in comparison with beckti (Bhetki) will be particularly appealing to the fish-loving Bengali.

Jaya Ahsan is shown mostly in the hospital and she excels in bringing out Shibangi who is far from the average wife who has fallen out with her husband. She excels in the last few scenes where Shibangi’s deepest emotions and desires come forth upon the probe of Shabor. She is here to stay and hopefully suitable opportunities will come her way. It’s again to Arindam’s credit for introducing this talent from Bangladesh in his directorial debut Aborto.

Arindam has a keen eye for casting as his filmography shows and this is no exception. Payel, Arunima (the prostitute who slept with Bishan), June and the other actors including débutante Riya Banik (who assists Shibangi and drives the car) fit their roles perfectly. Ushoshi is a well-known model in the city but the director has used her intelligently in Shibangi’s NRI sister’s character. The scenes of recreating the crime scenario help the audience getting involved with the detection.

Shot mostly indoors, Soumik’s camera gives the film the right degree and mix of sleekness and realistic look (The ‘pice hotel’ scene, for instance). The film doesn’t show much of Kolkata unlike Ebar Shabor, but the scenes of Belur were a visual relief.

Sujoy Datta Ray’s editing holds a uniform pace throughout the film, which is neither fast nor slow. The shots of crime scenario-building that goes in Shabor’s mind are weaved seamlessly into the sequences.

Bickram Ghosh’s background score is fresh and helps build the mood. Between the two songs, Dil mehfil (shot on Arunima Ghosh in a nightclub scene) doesn’t impress but Bickram is in his elements in Armeen Musa’s sensuous rendition of Raater majhar, the theme song.

One weak link is the comic angles, though that’s not an essential part of a thriller. It’s mostly around Nando’s faulty English and not funny at all. It looked repetitive after the first Shabor film and the lines called for witty writing. Shabor has a sharp sense of humour and I wonder why it was left unexplored compared to the first film.

The long opening chase sequence, a repeat of what we saw in Ebar Shabor, looked redundant to me. It’s not kick ass enough to impress and other than rolling out the opening credits, which is stylish alright, does little. It’s a style carried over from Ebar Shabor and I had mentioned this in the said film’s review and expected a better job in the next film in the franchise. I sincerely wish, in the next Shabor film, the chase is replaced by something some other sequence to show the detective at work.

There are gaps in detailing which must be avoided to make a first-rate thriller. How did the other policemen emerge in the background as soon as the criminals were cornered in the opening chase while we saw only Shabor and Nando running after them? The husband-cum-pimp is shown drunk too soon. And the gaping hole in the narrative is- How was Shibangi so confident that she could gun down the contract killers? Was she a shooting champ? If this was in the story, it needed re-working before filming.

However, despite the flaws, Eagoler Chokh is an engaging watch and makes one to look forward to the next film in this new franchise.


#EagolerChokh #Shabor #Detective #BanglaCinema #BengaliThriller #BengaliCinema



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