Saturday, December 09, 2006

Review: Shikar

I once read Abhik Mukhopadhyay, the talented, national award-winning cinematographer, in a newspaper interview that one just needs a decent camera, and not an ultra-modern, expensive one to do great cinematography. What he meant is that the other tools are the cinematographer's imaginativeness and innovation that pair up with the camera to create magic on screen.

The same way a what a director needs to make a good mainstream film are not a line-up of big stars, expensive locations, fashionable costumes, and a lavish budget to mount the film. What he needs is a fresh story, good script and dialogues, good actors who are not necessarily stars, the right casting and yes, imagination. Shikar has most of that. It is indeed heartening to see a young director attempting something that breaks out of the painfully monotonous run-of-the-mill fare in Bengali cinema.

After a misfired horror flick Raat Barota Paanch last year, Saron Dutta gets better with Shikar. He has a neat, small and simple story to tell. The value-additions are good actors, right casting, properly defined and fleshed-out characters and treatment. The format this time is a thriller, a time-tested genre.

It tells the story of a contract killer Saaheb (Amitava Bhattacharya) and Baburam Panja (Shantilal Mukherjee), an astrologer who he works for. The story is familiar. Contract killer turns his gun to his assignor as he has rubbed him the wrong way. Adding flesh to the story are Kyapa (Kanchan Mullick) and Hero (Sagnik), his partners in crime, a police officer on the trail of the three criminals, Seema (Koel Mullick), the girl in distress, a prostitute (June Maliah) etc. The climax is interesting and fully justifies the name of the film. A trap is set by police to nab the gang of three just like the way a hunter lays a trap for a tiger.

Shot entirely in Kolkata (One song in South Bengal) and on a shoestring budget, the audience never misses the so-called gloss that is necessary to hook the audience. The city has so many interesting locations to show that a hundred films can be shot in it without looking repetitive. The city as a character has been blended well into the story. The song Ekti meyer, shot at the riverbanks, looks beautiful.

The costumes and look of the characters have been handled very well. Only I wish Koel realised her brand-new perm is not making her look better. Honest speaking, it sucked!

Shikar is certainly not for the audience of MLA Fatakesto, the blockbuster of this year. It is for pure Bengali film audience who is fed up with Haranath Chakrabortys, Swapan Sahas and Prabhat Roys and look for well-made Bengali films that are realistic, stylish, performance-oriented. On that count Shikar delivers.

The casting is brilliant. All the actors fit their parts like a tee (Except Tapas Pal with his awful wig as the Police chief). And they have done their job well. Special mention goes to Shantilal as Baburam. Kanchan as Khyapa, cast in an entirely unusual role vis-a-vis his image, is impressive. Rajesh Sharma is brilliant as the psychic, trigger-happy police officer with a disturbed past. Amitava portrays the restrained Saheb well and this is a role tailormade for him (After his similar portrayal in Bengali debut Raasta).

The film is yet another instance that there is in fact no shortage of character actors in Bengali cinema, a point often frustratingly raised by some of our successful mainstream film directors. TV is clearly a goldmine for casting the character roles. What is actually missing in those directors is a sincere casting effort. Saron has cast familiar faces of telly such as Sagnik, Kanchan, Kharaj and Shantilal to put to good use.

The film has an item number too but fits the story just perfectly. The song sung by Kharaj Mukherjee in it and another one (Ekti meyer aaj khushir din/ Aar ekta swapner jal rongin) stay with the viewer after leaving the theatre. Ashok Bhadra showed he is capable of good work when there is a demanding director. Saron also doubles up as the lyricist.

Shamik Halder (Also the assistant director) does a good job at cinematography as usual. He gives the film the right look and feel for a thriller.

Not that the script is flawless. For instance I didn't understand why Saheb managed to have a conversation with Seema standing in the dark over and over again and Seema never got curious enough to check out his face. Koel's laughter has been overused to the point of being painful. Her restlessness in the absence of her husband who was arrested by the police and no update was available has not come out well. Saron should have taken care of such nuances. The twist of the story, i.e. Amitava's second role (He plays a double role) as Seema's husband looks too naive to stand. The end dialogues of the climax should have been mature.

But a good film must be excused of such flaws that don't necessarily bring the film down. Saron deserves a pat on the back. Finally we have a young director in the mainstream arena who is capable of making films that suits the long-neglected educated urban audience. While watching the film at Bharati, where the premiere took place too, I saw a middle-aged couple saying they didn't remember when last they saw the last Bengali film in a theatre, and an old, middle-class lady who had probably come with her grand-child. Such faces are rare in the contemporary Bengali mainstream film audience.


Anindo Sen said...


Arnab Sengupta said...

(Ekti meyer aaj khushir din/ Aar ekta swapner jal ... Can u give the link of this song.

Arnab Sengupta said...

(Ekti meyer aaj khushir din/ Aar ekta swapner jal ... Can u give the link of this song.