Is there any Bengali out there who hasn’t had a food item made with posto (poppy seeds) in his/her life? Aloo posto is one self-proclaimed favourite dish of every Bengali. We, who now love to call ourselves bongs, also have copyright over other posto items like posto bora, begun posto, sojane data posto, knacha posto bata, pyaj posto, jhinge posto, posto chicken etc. The list is never-ending.
Here’s a dish which gives tough competition to monkey tupi (monkey cap), another Bengali item, which has earned a global reputation and is synonymous with anything Bengali.
Now, you might wonder why I am suddenly writing about Bengali dishes when we are supposed to discuss films here. Well, this is where a set of Bengali directors have scored again. Before I introduce this director duo and talk about their film, which released a month ago, let me take a moment and tell you that these two filmmakers know exactly what the Bengali audience wants. To put it simply, they understand the pulse of the Bengali audience. And while some members of the Bengali film fraternity might think I am being biased, here’s a clarification.
That they know the demands of the Bengali audiences is reinstated by their films’ box office report. Again! We are talking about Shiboprosad Mukhopadhyay and Nandita Roy’s Bengali film Posto. The film depicts the journey of a school-going kid Posto, who lives with his grandparents. Both his parents, who are busy with their professional lives, visit him occasionally. After seven years of living with his grandparents, one fine day, Posto’s father decides to take the kid with him. But the grandfather refuses to let his grandson go. The child gets in the middle of a custody battle.
The dynamic director duo has been consistently delivering box office hits in the last few years for Bengali film industry. Last year, their film Praktan, which brought together Bengali superstars Prosenjit Chatterjee and Rituparna Sengupta after 14 years, was one of the biggest hits. In 2015, their family drama Bela Seshe starring Soumitra Chatterjee and Swatilekha Sengupta, broke all box office records.
This year, too, the duo didn’t disappoint. I strongly feel Bela Seshe was a much better product than Praktan and Posto. However, the success of Posto cannot be denied. The film boasts a strong cast with Soumitra Chatterjee, Jisshu U Sengupta, Mimi Chakraborty, Lily Chakraborty, Paran Badopadhayay and child actor Argha Basu Roy.
It completed its 50-day run at the box office recently. In this article, I will highlight a few factors which I believe might have done the trick and made the film click in Bengal.
Tagore and Visva Bharati
It’s a universal truth. Bengalis (I too belong to the clan) are obsessed with Rabindranath Tagore. Every Bengali middle-class mother, at one point or the other, has dreamt of getting her child admitted to Visva Bharati University. Well, at least my mother did. This isn’t the first time Shiboprosad Mukhopadhyay and Nandita Roy were shooting in Bolpur. But for the first time, a portion of a film was shot in Nobel laureate’s prayer hall at Visva Bharati University. The director duo hit sixer in the very opening scene.
The aerial shot of students of Patha Bhavana, dressed in pure white clothes, gathering at the Kaach Mandir, the glass temple inside Visva Bharati campus, depicted Bangaliana to the core. The students sang Rabindra Sangeet “Sokatore Oi” as part of the morning prayer with Soumitra Chatterjee and Lily Chakraborty, who play Posto’s grandparents in the film, sitting outside the Kaach Mandir. I could see mothers and grandmothers in the audience nodding their heads when Soumitra proudly looks at his grandson sing.
All is not well between the father and son
Little boy Posto calls his grandmother ‘maa’ and his grandfather “guruji’, because he doubles up as his singing master too. Together, they are a happy family. However, problem starts every time Jisshu (Posto’s dad) visits Bolpur. Let’s admit. Father and son relationships are tricky. As a daughter, though I don’t know where the actual problem lies, however, I too have witnessed that not every grown-up male enjoys a healthy relationship with his father. Here too, the director duo has touched upon this ‘sentimental’ issue. There is a seething tension between Soumitra, the onscreen father, and his son Jisshu. The strained relationship forms an important crux of the film.
Drinking is injurious to health
Intellectual, opinionated and innate lovers of bhaat (rice) – these are some of the things that define a true blue Bengali. Also, did you think that Bengali’s favourite drink is aam pora shorbot? It can be vodka or whiskey too. Oh, did I say it loud? Well, here’s the catch again. In a Bengali household, it is not a crime if you are without work, sit at Nandan (government-run theatre) and discuss Kurosawa films all day through. But if your family comes to know you’ve come home drunk, your next day’s bhaat is at stake. Yes, we love being secretive about our children’s drinking habits.
And this is where the director has scored again. Both of them have played on this ‘modh’ (drink) sentiment of Bengalis and managed to evoke the right kind of emotion from the audience. Here, Jisshu is shown as a parent who drinks like a fish and hence is ‘incapable’ of taking proper care of his own kid. The aunty sitting next to me in the theatre told her husband, “amader barir teo ek jinish hoy dekhecho’ (the same thing happens in our house too).
Soumitra Chatterjee steals the show in Posto
The less said the better. One of India’s greatest actors, Soumitra has acted in Satyajit Ray’s 14 films. He might not always get good roles today but whenever he comes on screen, the audience loves him. From Bela Seshe and Praktan (in a brief role) to Posto, Shiboprosad and Nandita are writing ‘good roles’ for this legendary actor. Watch out for Soumitra (France will confer its highest civilian award ‘Legion of Honor’ to the actor) in the scene where he breaks down in the court. Or the scene where he forces his son to stop the car on the highway. You don’t get to watch actors like Soumitra Chatterjee so often.
By Anindita Acharya