Saturday, February 22, 2014

Jaatishwar (Reincarnate): Review of a film by Srijit Mukherjee

It was a remarkable coincidence catching Srijit Mukherjee’s new Bengali flick Jaatishwar (which the director calls it “ A Musical memory”) on a day Bengalis worldwide commemorated the day in memory of martyrs who laid down their lives for their language.
Jaatiswar depicts, among many things, a musical history of Bengali songs in the late 18th century at a time when Kabial Gaan ( troubadours’ songs) was patronized by the feudal landlords through public contests.  Not much history of these songs is either archived or documented , as  elaborated by the Director in various interviews. And whatever little material did Srijit claim to have discovered through his research weren’t exactly  good enough to satisfy a music lover looking back & beyond the asphyxiating genres of Rabindra-sangeet (Tagore’s songs), Shyama-sangeet (devotional songs) , Bangla Bands and others.   

Jaatishwar literally means a person who can remember the details of his past life. Incredulous as it may sound , parapsychological paradigms such as that of reincarnation have tried to redeem its credibility through various attempts at glorification  of fraudulent scientific research. It has its niche followers but has never been popularly accepted. Satyajit Ray , the Oscar winner, popularized the concept through his fictional character Mukul in his super-duper film , Sonar Kella. Srijit has attempted to do the same although he has taken the actual  character of Hensman Anthony (a 18th century  Portuguese, popularly known as Anthony Firingi, who learnt & excelled in Bengali Kabial gaan) reincarnating himself in the life of a fictional character, Kushal Hazra,  in the present days.

At the end of 150 minutes, Jaatishwar comes about as an attempt of a dilettante who shifts from one theme to another almost akin to a couch-potato passing away his bored time by surfing channels on the television. It travels disjointedly from reincarnation to sketches of Anthony’s life to  a cross-cultural love story to a semi-period film to a musical with glimpses of  half-witted village idiots blowing volumes of ganja  smoked in hot chillums. One is at a loss when one is trying to analyze as to why this movie is named Jaatishwar. As a friend commented it should have been titled , “Ekti Mishti Premer Golpo,” (A sweet love story).

What lifts the movie is Kabir Suman’s musical directorship where he gives tunes to dozens  of  Kheurs , Lahars  ( sub-genres of Kabiaal gaans) although the two best song in Jaatiswar , in my opinion , is one of Suman’s  own song  “Shudhu Tomakei Chai” & other sung by Anupam Roy called “Faka Frame.”  As far as  acting is concerned, Swastika is hardly convincing as a turnaround recipient of unrequited love although Jishu Sengupta does a remarkable job  as a sensitive Gujarati boy in love with Bengal & Bengali culture. Prosenjit as Anthony is fantastic but his portrayal of a reincarnated character lacks conviction & is melodramatic (or insincerely-schizophrenic as one may alternatively perceive) to say the least. Among others, Kharaj Mukherjee appears more like a  sweet-maker than a powerful troubadour when he plays the role of Bhola Moira and Neil Mukherjee looks like a groom waiting for a shy bride to appear. Only Bishwajit Chakrabarti does a sincere  job  as a renderer of this subaltern Bengali music of the late 18th century.  Finally Srijit should stop acting in his own movie or any movie whatsoever & leave the roles to professional thespians.

Jaatishwar will remain  an unmemorable milestone in this great director’s journey and the songs too will fade into oblivion although  what will remain in my memory is the nickname of the Gujarati protagonist , “Virubhai Amdani,” if only as a courageous spoof of the  family name of the producer.

JAS rating : 6 out of 10

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