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'Bhorer Alo' disappoints and dents Bengali cinema's progress (Bengali Movie Review)

By Kathakali Jana, Film: "Bhorer Alo"; Cast: Rituparna Sengupta, Priyanshu Chatterjee, Anusmriti Sarkar, Rohit Roy' Director: Prabhat Roy; Producer: Vaishali Dalmiya; Rating: *

Niceties be damned. It is films like "Bhorer Alo" that have turned audiences away from Bengali cinema in the last few decades. Let's get it straight; it is not just about a contrived plot, a ridiculous screenplay, some awful acting and a spot of pathetic music. It is all of that and a bit more.

It is about the aesthetics of making a film like this in the context of the much-talked-about 'resurgence' of the Bengal film industry that has notably won back admirers in the last couple of years. It is about churning out a film in 2011 that might have been made 25 years back and still earned brickbats for predictability. It is about the embarrassment of having to watch such a film.

"Bhorer Alo" opens with a song and dance sequence (it is another matter that the girls in bikini who vociferously espouse the cause of freedom in the song obviously have enough of it to romp around in itsy-bitsy clothes when they are supposed to be in college) and soon launches into a 25-year-old flashback, with rank disregard for the passage of years in between.

Yes, of course, there are Ambassadors on the streets, but why are the cabs yellow and not yellow-and-black as most of them used to be back then? Why do the women 25 years back wear the kind of clothes that could only have been produced by dressmakers today? But for a few Masaba Gupta saris worn by Rituparna Sengupta, the film's costumes remain, well, much like 'film costumes' used to be, long before stars started sporting designer wear in films.

But we set out by damning all niceties, didn't we? In so doing, we lost the right to discuss the over-the-top make-up, the string of coincidences that constitute the many - and wholly predictable - twists and turns in the plot, the outrageous lyrics of the ill-composed songs, and even the crass and totally-uncalled-for promotion of mustard oil brands in kitchens and pain relieving balms that are not known to have existed 25 years back.

We even forfeit the claim to complain about the fact that two of the four protagonists - Arunabha (Priyangshu Chatterjee in a forgettable role) and Subhobroto (Rohit Roy in an even more forgettable one) - have little Bangla even though they play characters who are bona fide Bengalis. This begs the question, is Bengal film industry so totally devoid of actors who can speak the language as though it were their mother tongue?

In the end, it must be said that Rituparna Sengupta, a fine actress who has proved her mettle in many a film, turns out a mortifying performance in "Bhorer Alo". It is sad that she should have to do so. It is sadder that the film industry should have to keep taking these giant backward strides every time it has taken a couple of baby steps in the right direction. (IANS)

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