You need nerves of steel to release a film alongside Baahubali. The epic drama was touted as the biggest Indian film of the year (read: the decade). And the release of the film held the answer to the ‘biggest question of the year,’ which the entire nation wanted to know! ‘Kattappa ne Baahubali ko kyu mara?’ (Why Kattappa Killed Baahubali?) Within a week, it has done the unthinkable. Rs. 1,000 crore worldwide. What a proud moment for all of us that a home-bred product has received so much warmth and appreciation worldwide. Amid the hullabaloo, there also released a film, which might not have the grandiose setting, stupendous CGI effect, OTT stunts or a mammoth budget. But it definitely has ‘heart’. We are talking about Arindam Sil’s recent Bengali release Durga Sohay. This Bengali film, which released alongside Baahubali: The Conclusion in a few theatres in Kolkata, has none of the charisma that SS Rajamouli’s magnum opus has. But it has the potential to win your heart with its simple narrative and basic emotions.
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In fact, it’s the minimalistic approach that works in Durga Sohay’s favour.
The story is basic. A daughter-in-law of an elite family (they are in the jewellery business) shows compassion when she catches a nurse (who has been hired to look after the father-in-law) stealing jewellery from the house.
The daughter-in-law Manashi (played by actress Tanushree Chakraborty) forgives her and gives the nurse a second chance. Manashi is opposed by the other members of her family, especially her sister-in-law Smita but she somehow believes Durga, the nurse (played by Sohini Sarkar).
The director has intelligently set the film during Durga Puja. Goddess Durga is the epitome of women power and strength and throughout this film, Sil pays tribute to women empowerment. He depicts all female characters, be it Durga, Manashi or Smita, as strong women with a voice of their own. So, even if Smita (played by Debjani) is projected as the envious, insecure member of the family, she’s somebody who shares her thoughts aloud. She is someone whom we see almost every day in life. In fact, almost all the characters in the Basak household are relatable.
Now let’s get the obvious out of the way. Whenever we, Bengalis, watch any film set during Durga Puja, we are inevitably reminded of Rituparno Ghosh’s Utsab (2000). A personal favourite, Sil again plays his cards well and in the very beginning of the title card pays tribute to the late Bengali filmmaker and his film.
While Ghosh’s Utsab produced a host of complex emotions, Sil, as mentioned above, keeps it simple.
Durga Sohay basically deals with the emotions, drama, and comedy of a North Kolkata elite household during Durga Puja. It’s that time of the year when people forget all worries and emerge in happiness and worship of the Goddess. Keeping the festival as the backdrop, the director has revisited the strong cultural links that bind all Bengalis be it Kola Bou snan, Sandhi Puja, Ashtami anjali and Bijoya Dashami. Sil has given Bengalis a chance to relive Durga Puja in the summers. Every Bong near and far will be able to relate to the emotions, which surround the festival, in the film.
Sil is a keen observer of life and this comes across in his ability to weave ‘known traits’ into his characters. He’s tapped the characteristics of a typical North Kolkata resident in the form of actor Kaushik Sen (Dibyendu Basak, the eldest son of the house). Also, Durga, who comes from the lowest strata of the society, not only has a different body language, but her lingo too is different. And Sohini deserves credit for the role. She did her homework well. And it shows in the scene where she sits cross-legged on the floor, opens her dabba and eats voraciously.
However, too much of in-film branding disturbs the narrative. Also, how can someone (read Durga), who speaks in a totally different Bengali accent pronounce shlokas in such distinctive, clear Bengali accent?
Apart from the basic story line, what works mainly for the film are the performances. Tanushree must thank the director for giving her a new lease of life in films. The actress, who stole the limelight in Bedroom (2012), got a chance to showcase her acting caliber to the fullest. And, she looked her best in this film. Debjani fared well and Kaushik had little to do.
Rwitobroto Mukherjee (Bhrigu), the teenage son of Dibyendu and Smita, keeps the humour alive in the film. Though, at times he seems over-enthusiastic. But Sil has ‘saved the best for last’. It is actor Anirban Bhattacharya (who plays a rogue) walks away with all the accolades for his 10-minute appearance.
Like in all his previous films (Eagoler Chokh, Byomkesh Pawrbo, Aborto and Har Har Byomkesh), Sil has Bickram Ghosh in the music department, who comes up with a brilliant background score. Look out for the background composition in the chase sequence and the folk medley. It’s riveting.
Actor-turned-filmmaker Arindam Sil has earned his name for directing detective films, be it Byomkesh Bakshi or Ebar Shabor. Just when everyone thought he could only churn out hit thrillers, Sil comes up with Durga Sohay, a family drama. But here too, Sil plays his trump card. He adds thriller element in this family drama too, which keeps the audience hooked till the end.
If you can, watch Durga Sohay with family. You will leave the theatre smiling.
Where to watch: Hotstar
By Anindita Acharya
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