What We Liked
What We Disliked
A director should teach himself two things - focus and restraint. Ritobrata Bhattacharya lacks both. Basanta Utsav gets plus marks only on negative values – no item numbers, no graphic violence and no negative characters. The theme music of mamo chittey niti nritte lends itself smoothly into the film. There are four stories woven into the spring festival at Santiniketan that creates a colourful setting. Bright primary colours of red, yellow, blue and green dot the screen investing it with a festive mood of cheer and happiness.
Bhattacharya structures his three-day film span as a flashback. It begins with a limping young man in a colourful shirt walking down towards Bolpur. A truck chases him till the camera freezes and the script moves back. This man’s story could have been a solid anchor but director Ritobrata had different ideas. Television journalist Ritobrata intrudes into the narrative with his microphone and his camera thrust at passers by barraging them with stupid questions and silly comments in his clipped Bengali accent. He has even included a shot of a pretty young girl admiring his anchoring! The narcissism is complete because he appears as Ritobrato Bhattacharjee. How can a director be so much in love with himself? This is a classic example of a director who does not the meaning of ‘restraint’. This also demonstrates his lack of focus.
Is he out to make a touristic film commissioned by the West Bengal Department of Tourism? Or is he intent on making a feature film that brings in different sub-texts of love, adultery, death and murder? It is not clear. The Laboni-Pradip Mukherjee segment is the only one that jells but is dragged to melodrama when the old lady dies in the middle of the festival and the crowd keeps watching voyeuristically. The two-timing husband is an over-worn cliché spoiled by Pijush’s discomfort while the escort service girl shows Arunima at her sugar-and-syrupy worst. Women join escort services out of choice and not out of compulsion so what is the sadness all about?
Laboni and Pradip Mukherjee are moving. Subrata Dutta is outstanding. Mahua is convincing too. But one cannot accept an Abirlal referring to Tagore as “that bearded old man whose picture is stuck on calendars” in a film that is celebrating Basanta Utsav! The German girl in a sari talking in German makes no sense. Are we catering to a white audience?
What documents is he carrying as ‘proof’? The television anchor does not elaborate or even bother. Why is such a small man killed for investigating into the death of his married lover who is also ‘small’? Why are the police and the rest so keen on hushing up an insigificant case? Before he makes his next film which he most certainly will, Ritobrata must decide on his focus and learn the meaning ‘restraint.’
Edit out the footage where Ritobrato appears with his microphone and his cameraman that have no links with the main film at all, and Basanta Utsav will become a feel-good, audience-friendly film. But it is the director-as-actor who destroys his own film.