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Pupa – Neat Depiction of a Morbid Tale

While in Facebook chat yesterday with another talented film director Amitabha Mukherjee Bhattacharya who made a noteworthy film ‘Raktokorobi’, I was discussing why I refrain from watching as well as writing a review of Bengali movies. The reason is obvious. With the degradation of its standard and encroachment by ‘cultural jokers’, its more or less a gimmick of a dying industry. When you are almost on the verge of despair, films like Raktokorobi and Pupa spell a breath of fresh air amid the dying industry. If I pick up the computer to write a review of a Bengali film, it is definitely worth the standard.

After the chat, I started watching Pupa by Indrasis Acharya in Amazon Prime. Indrasis is a is an Associate Director of one of the reputed companies Price, Waterhouse, Coopers and qualified in Applied Physics, Instrumentation and Engineering from Jadavpur University. It is obvious film making is not his source of income, rather his passion. The best creations are out of passion, not compulsion for survival. It is obvious, the director’s prime aim was perfection, not just commercial success. Unlike the previous days separating ‘Art Film’ from ‘Commercial Film’ the nomenclature has changed to ‘Good Film’ and ‘Bad Film’.

Indrasis’ debut was with a film named ‘Bilu Rakkhosh’ which I was fortunate to see and write a review. Please check my website for the review. Needless to delve into details in that article, there were some drawbacks in the film ‘Bilu Rakkhosh’. This movie is a giant leap from his previous one.

The story starts off with the death of a of an elderly lady in a North Calcutta residence. Before I forget, the art direction by Tapan Seth of inside of the residence was excellent portraying its realistic ambience deftly.

The close-knit family assembles at the onset, mourning the loss of the old lady, her husband duly portrayed by Pradip Mukherjee (who debuted in Satyajit Ray’s ‘Jana Aranya’) who portrayed the character with utmost precision. The old man has a son Subhro (Rahul Banerjee), working in States, who has come to attend his mother’s last rites and his fiancée, living in Kolkata, aspiring to move to States with a job to join him. Both did justice to their respective roles.  Subhro has an elder sister, Mou (Sudipta Chakraborty) attending her dad’s needs, often leaving her doctor husband to cope alone. Both depicted their diversity of character in their limited scope. The old man has a brother Rajat Chatterjee (Kamaleshwar Mukherjee), whose role I would later enumerate. The old man has a stroke, goes into coma, hospitalised and finally discharged in that state for long-term domestic care with dubious outcome. The normal activities, aspirations of the family come to a halt at dad’s long-term prolonged care. What happens next, I would leave it to the viewers to watch.

One thing which struct me is the modulation of the sound by Anirban Sengupta and Uttam Sarkar from where it is heard. This is technical perfection which was in Ray’s ‘Nayak’ where the Nayak throws an empty bottle from a running train. These minor technicalities give the film, sound director and the director Indrasis a technical edge to perfection. The cinematography by Santanu De is par excellence. Background music by Joy Sarkar with the use of Rabindrasangeet with minimal musical gimmicks added to the mood as the story rolled.

Kamaleshwar Mukherjee, the younger brother fulfilled his role with precision and appropriate emotions, where necessary. This story gives a glimpse of his diversified facets. It would have been worthwhile enumerating some of them either through dialogue or through short snippets in his diverse roles to depict his psychological make-up to the build of his conviction. That’s the only part of the script that fell short in this marvellous movie

Finally, coming to the director Indrasis Acharya himself. It is difficult to keep the pace with interest of the viewer in a morbid cult movie. By crisp editing, he and editor Malay Laha manage to keep the viewer’s interest till the end. Pace is a must, be it of a quality film or an ordinary one, which most of the Bengali directors have forgotten now. A slow pace indicates lack of compactness and editing capabilities of the script. Here the script is compact, often each dialogue carrying a two-fold meaning. He handled this movie throughout with immaculate precision and perfection.

I believe the compact depiction of this morbid mature theme in a subtle way has fetched him numerous awards for this film:

  • Best Film (Bengali) - All India Critic Choice Award, Mumbai, 2018
  • Best Film All Lights International Film Festival, India, 2018
  • Best Film- Boston Indian Film Festival, 2018
  • Best Film- Bengal Film Journalist Association, 2018
  • Best Director, Best Actor, Best Sound Design in Aurangabad International Film festival
  • Best Director- Hyderabad Film Festival,2018
  • Best promising Director 2019 from NABC
  • Special Jury Mention in Dada Saheb Film Festival

In fact, when I wrote this review, I didn’t read what awards the movie had won. On completing it, I saw the awards were for the categories I already mentioned.

This and few other outstanding movies point to the fact, there is no dearth of talents in Bengal than the past eminent directors. Only urge the cliché producers to come out of their well and experiment with these talented directors. Not all might be a box-office failure. It would also mark the cultural resurgence of nearly dead culture of Bengal for a brighter tomorrow. I must congratulate Indrasis from coming out of the shackles of cliché storylines and attempting to venture on a new pathway. These attempts would hopefully break the devolution of Bengali cinema and carve the pathway to a new era, where Bengali cinema would soar like a phoenix from the ashes of the present.