Directed by Amitabha Bhattacharya | Review by Panchali KarWhen I write about a film I usually look into an element that stands out. For Raktakarabi by Amitabha Bhattacharya, the outstanding factor is in its relevance. Not all movies need to be technically excellent, some movies need to be made, seen, and appreciated because of its contribution to the thought process because it says things that have long gone unsaid. Raktakarabi opens up the discourses of thoughts and discussions. It does not dig deep into the nitty-gritty of socialism or communism or power hierarchy. I from my understanding of politics and cinema think that there was room for in-depth analysis and feel that the script demanded the same. However, it is absolutely the choice of the filmmakers and their preference of the audience that becomes the deciding factor of the film’s content. Irrespective of my personal differences I feel that it is a very important film because it is a necessary film.
Based on the backdrop of Tagore’s play Raktakarabi, the film opens with the premises where the play Raktakarabi is being staged. Directed by thespian turned politician, Raja Sengupta, the actors also have their own political orientation, which is almost aligned with their character in the play. The play itself forms a parallel story to the main plot in the film, and the tension between the positions in a power hierarchy is translated directly from the play into the main narrative of the film. Raja, who sits at the topmost position of the power hierarchy, is Raja Sengupta in real life, a powerful minister and holds the strongest position amongst the fellow characters in the main plot. Adwitiya plays the part of Nandini, her school of politics is revolutionary, and coincidentally her mentor turned lover is named Ranjon. Raja, the bearer of the topmost position of the power pyramid is portrayed as an unreachable demon by the ones occupying the middle zone: Professor and Sardar, the names or identities again coined from the main text. The story builds up with the depth of exchange of thoughts between Adwitiya and the other characters in the play.
Since we are talking about films, we can’t totally ignore the technical and aesthetic nuances associated with the creation. There is a lot of room for improvement in both the departments; however, what we see in screen deserves appreciation. The actors were more believable as the characters of the main plot than the play. Mumtaz as Adwitiya was refreshing, however, her performance as Nandini did not bring out the depth, tension, determination required for the character. Shantilal Mukherjee as Raja Sengupta the politician stood out, his dilemma between art for politics or politics for art is well depicted. However, as Raja of Raktakarabi, his dialogue delivery was very monotonic and tailed-up. Debdut Ghosh as Professor and Rahul as Ranjon were good. Rajesh Sharma and Anindya Banerjee did justice to the negative shades. Ushasie Bhattacharya, Amitabha Bhattacharya, and Sagnik did not have much scope to act out of the box; the character portrayal did not help them much. Kaushik Sen was in his usual self. The cinematography is decent, the sound designing and the stagecraft for the play sequences are interesting. The editing could have been a little tighter; some of the well-shot sequences did not add value to the movie and added baggage to the pace instead. The Music was largely based on the original songs of Raktakarabi, the BGM, however, was very subtle.
Overall a welcome change to see the filmmakers trying to explore the classic texts from the modern political point of view, that’s what an art should be all about. We live in a troubled time, and a highly time powerful medium of entertainment like cinema should come forward to make people think, question, and raise their voices.
Panchali Kar is a Dancer, Choreographer, Actor and Filmmaker. In addition, Panchali is a devout advocate for egalitarian social change, is affiliated with the NGO, Responsible Charity and currently working on a photo documentary on LGBT rights. She is an avid scholar and veteran of the performing arts and a seasoned instructor. Panchali maintains several degrees in the Arts including a M.Mus degree.